Yesterday my 4-year-old asked me how babies are made.
I FROZE. Then I started giggling as I found myself incredibly nervous. Later in the evening, I read about a friend’s son who asked his parents what dying was and when was he going to die.
As parents, we are thrown into many instances where the exact right words will likely fail us. Our children are going to ask us about sex, drugs, death, God and many other subjects that make us uncomfortable. In fact, kids don’t discriminate. They’ll ask whomever is around – babysitters, grandparents, the woman behind you in line at the grocery store. The trick is to stay calm and not let them see you sweat.
Easier said than done.
I’ve read several articles and been told by many people that you answer the question they ask in the most simplistic manner possible. What a four year old needs to know about how babies are made is vastly different than a ten or twelve year old. In fact, BabyCenter reminds us that preschoolers can ask abstract questions, but they can’t understand abstract answers. They’re still literal, concrete thinkers for the most part.
It’s important to make sure you understand exactly what they are asking. It’ll save you from spending time on an embarrassing subject that may or may not be what they want to know about. A friend’s son asked where gas came from. She went into a long explanation about the digestive system, only to realize her son was asking about the fuel pumps at the gas station. Ooops. Once you’ve answered, it can be good idea to ask them why they wanted to know. Did a friend mention it? Did they read about it somewhere? What sparked their curiosity?
Another thing keep in mind is that you don’t know how they’ll handle or interpret the information. You might think you do, but I would wager that 99 percent of the time, they’ll come back with something random and completely off-topic. My preschool-age next-door neighbor growing up asked me where my father was (he died when I was young). I looked at the mother unsure of how to answer. The mom told her that he was in heaven with Jesus. She sat there a long time and both the mom and I were worried what she was thinking. The next words out of her mouth?
Does Jesus bite?
We both stifled back giggles and told her we honestly didn’t know, but we thought that he probably did not, in fact, bite.
Moving forward, I’m going to do my best to answer honestly and simply. The next time my son asks about a baby’s origin (and I know there will be a next time) I hope I can remember that my husband and I decided to respond with the egg and seed answer. With my luck, in all my nerves, I’ll spit out penis and vagina and open myself up to a whole world of questions I wasn’t ready to answer.
Let’s hope I can stick to the game plan.
*This post was originally posted on the BabyCenter Blog.