Let's recap a bit....at 2 1/2 Janan asked that dreaded parenting question (not sure WHY we dread it really but being that I'm now on the other side of it, it's no longer such a scary thing, I guess) of, "How does a baby get inside the Mama?" which I was able to deflect briefly until it reappeared just about a year later. When the question came back around, the book entitled A Child is Born deflected the question for me by having such amazing pictures of babies actually still inside the Mama that she seemed to forget the "how" question!
I KNEW it would only be a matter of time before I had to answer - and it happened, again, about a year later. Janan was six and had just found out the mother of one of her school friends was expecting. Now, as is typical in our lives, this question was made even MORE challenging by the fact that this Mama was in a life partnership with another Mama.
So, as I was blissfully tucking her into bed one night, the question came out like this...."Mama, I understand that an egg needs a sperm to make a baby and I even get how the baby grows inside the Mama and then is born, but what I STILL don't understand is how the sperm gets IN there in the first place! And, how could Suzie's (not real name) Mama be pregnant since her wife doesn't HAVE sperm?"
Now, I've ALWAYS been of the belief that if she straight out asks the question than she's ready to hear the answer (or answers, in this case), so I told her it was a little late to go into all the details that night but that I would explain everything the next day after school.
Immediately, I ran to the computer and started looking for age appropriate books on the subject. I knew NOTHING short of the full truth would satisfy her (or be the right thing to tell her), but I also was still struggling with the "Should I tell a six-year-old THAT?"
I was excited to see the number of children's books available on the subject, but quickly started finding most of them fell back on the "When a husband and wife love each other very much..." *SIGH* Yes, that's ONE story, but there are many, many other versions of this story and I wanted her to know them all.
A few seemed promising, so I wrote them down and made plans to take my lunch hour the next day at a wonderful bookstore near Janan's old school in Michigan called The Self Esteem Shop. Not only do they carry some of the greatest books on a wide range of subjects, their staff was always knowledgeable and helpful. I ended up with the book It's So Amazing!: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies and Families.
This book made the final cut for MANY reasons:
- It, literally, starts from the beginning - with an explanation of male and female anatomy, how boys' bodies and girls' bodies develop and explains the developmental aspects of sexual maturity.
- It covers ALL aspects of how families come to be - male & female, in vitro fertilization, adoption, etc. And shows no bias for one over another!
- It explains things clearly while keeping it all age appropriate.
- It's written in easy language, so I knew Janan could go back and re-read anything she wanted.
On my way back to school with the book (I worked at Janan's school), I was both excited and scared out of my wits. This is one of those parenting moments I KNEW would lay the groundwork for how we approached not only sexuality, but challenging topics many parents and their children never discuss. I wanted her to know - without a shadow of a doubt - that these types of conversations would always be open and honest. I also wanted her to have a HEALTHY perspective on sexuality. To know it's natural and, when shared with someone you love, a beautiful aspect of a healthy relationship.
Sadly, my husband (now ex) was totally against this discussion. He even advocated for the stork story! He felt she was "too young" and "doesn't need to know that, yet." I reiterated my point that if she's old enough to flat out ask the question, she's old enough to hear the answer.
So, without my husband's support (something I had actually hoped for, because I felt the male perspective on the topic would be helpful) Janan and I headed to her room a bit earlier than normal. I told her I was going to answer the question she had asked me the night before, but that it would actually take a FEW nights for the whole story. I showed her the book I had found and said we would read this one together, one chapter per night.
My philosophy here was that there was a lot of information she would need to process and it would take her time to form questions. I promised that each consecutive night we'd have time for Q & A on the previous night's chapter and that we would re-read anything she wanted. And, bonus for me, it wasn't until chapter 10 that the actual "how" was explained! That meant I had over a week to mentally and emotionally prepare myself.
I won't bore you with the first 9 chapters. Suffice it to say, we had some great conversation and quite a few laughs (the book is written in comic book form).
On the 10th night, as with every previous night, we headed back to bed a bit early, answered questions from the previous chapter, Mama took a VERY deep breath and we began reading. Here, finally, came the answer to her question. She was so excited I had to chuckle to myself. As soon as I read the explanation, she placed her hand on the book, pushed it down to see my face, looked me straight in the eyes and said, "You mean to tell me he puts his penis INSIDE her vagina?!" I don't know how I didn't fall off the bed laughing, but her question was so honest I responded, "Yep!"
A normal six-year-old reaction followed, "EWWW!!! That's GROSS!!!" Quickly followed by an LGR response, "Wait, do you and Dad do that?" (Yes.) "So you're trying to have a baby?" (Uh, no.) Thankfully, this book reinforced my response to that question, which was "not all sex leads to babies". It's another way couples show they love each other, like hugging or kissing.
After the chapter, I did say that some parents don't talk to their children about this and it wasn't really something she should share with her friends. I told her I had shared with her because she asked and that everyone should learn about this when they're ready with people they love.
Still fearing an angry mob of parents the next day after school, though, I pulled her teacher aside to tell her what I'd done. She laughed and reassured me that even telling her not to talk to her friends wouldn't keep this out of the conversations, but that if it came up she could handle it.
Even Janan's teacher was shocked when it DIDN'T come up that day, the next or any time that year! What we found was that simply knowing the answer had put the question out of her head and she, in typical LGR fashion, moved on to the next!