Critical parenting moments always happen when you least expect them. Not when you planned on them. Not when you are prepared. They happen when you are still stuffing the change back in your wallet after exiting the Target Snack Stand area while struggling to get the baby’s legs into the holes at the front of the basket in the cart.
“Mom?” starts my adorable and innocent seven-year-old. “Do you lay an egg inside your tummy and it grows into a baby and then it hatches out?”
I am speechless, not sure how much I should say on the topic, at this moment, among the hustle and bustle of the Target Cart dispensary. Maybe I could pretend I didn’t hear him? Yes, go with that.
“What’s that?” digging through my purse looking for anything that will keep me from looking him in the eye where he will see both my chagrin at fibbing and the growing horror of the imminent conversation looming in front of us.
“I said,” and then he asked me again with more confidence this time, like he had it all figured out and was just looking for a confirmation. Part of me, the lazy part, wanted to agree with him and call it day. But the mommy part of me just couldn’t bear the thought of the look on his wife’s face when he told her that he was ready for her to lay her baby egg.
I mustered up my courage and recalled my improvisation training that told me to say yes to the first thing that popped into my head.
“Well, almost…I mean, you’re close. “
Improvisation isn’t always profound.
“Oh….well then how does it work?”
In spite of my training, I am not saying yes to any of my thoughts. Instead, my mind is swimming with answers to give him. I am frantically sorting through explanations that are half- truths, and some that are bold-faced lies. I am still considering launching into a beautiful story about the stork when he interrupts my panic attack.
“The baby, mom…. Is it in the egg?”
“Uhh…kind of…” Not now. Not now. Where’s your father? I looked him in the eye. “Listen, I do want to talk about this,” (I didn’t.) “But not right now. Can we talk about this later?”
“Why not now?”
Why not now? His last question has a lot of answers. Because I don’t want to tell you in front of your sister. Because this is your father’s job. Because I don’t want to freak you out or gross you out or tell you more than you want to know. Because you are still my little baby and I don’t want you to know where you come from. But what I said was:
“Because I’m distracted right now with all the stuff I need to get at Target and I need to focus right now.”
“Oh. Okay.” And starts eating his popcorn.
What?! That worked. I can’t believe I am dodging this bullet again. That’s right -- again. This isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to avoiding a conversation on the birds and the beez.
When I was pregnant with my youngest, I was driving home, humming along with the music with my kids strapped into their car seats in the back when my then 5-year-old son asked, “Mom? How did that baby get in your tummy?”
My eyes flew wide open as words failed me the first time on this topic. I scrambled through options looking for an age appropriate response. The baby is there because….when mommies and daddies love each other…no, too gross. Because I should have never pulled the goalie until your father had his vasectomy tested...no, too much backstory…because mommy had one too many Chardonnays…no, too much truth.
So what I actually said was. “God put it there.”
Did I mention I was driving home from Target? It must have something to do with their logo, like a big red egg just waiting to hatch a baby that keeps my son guessing about sex and babies around our visits to my favorite store.
Unfortunately, we weren’t done yet. “How is the baby going to get out?” was the next, albeit logical, bomb he dropped on me.
But lucky for me, I have C-sections so this one was even easier for me. “ The doctor gets it out.” So in my case, this is technically not a lie. Yep. This head isn’t just for holding hats, is it?
But here we are, just two scant years later, on the threshold of “the talk” whether we are ready for it or not. In fact, when I told his father that he needed to get ready to have the talk he disagreed. He said we shouldn’t, that he’s too young. But then again, he shops at Wal-Mart, so he doesn’t get the cross examined on his shopping trips the way I do.
I agree with his dad though. I really would like my son to have a couple more years thinking that God puts babies in mommies’ tummies. It seems unfair that at seven he should have to know all the details.
I already see him punching holes in Santa and the Tooth Fairy stories too. Some of his friends have told him that they aren’t real. And while I think he still believes, he’s definitely skeptical. I suppose that learning that mom and dad have been deceiving him because they love him and want him to have wonder in his life isn’t exactly the end of innocence. But I’m sad because it’s a fun little period in our lives that we will never get back once it passes.
And it does seem like it went really fast. It doesn’t seem possible that we could have a kid that wants to know the facts of life already.
Of course, he does go to public school so how long do I really have before some one tells him what’s what in the whole birds and beez game? Chances are, not as long as I think.
Public school was my source of information. But we were in the fifth grade when we officially learned about puberty and our period from the grainy filmstrip with the unidentified and rather suspect hair that got stuck on the film, jiggling around in the corner of the screen. Then, I read some Judy Blume books that filled in the rest of the details for me.
This is not to say that I didn’t have some half-baked notions swirling around in my head before then from snippets of conversations I overheard that were not for my ears and pictures drawn on playground equipment. At one point early in my discovery process I was a proponent of the theory that the boys pees on the girl “down there” and that’s how you make a baby.
I got that one from the girl up the street that I thought was really cool because she wore tight black satin pants and knew how to French kiss a boy. She’s the one that gave me the Judy Blume books. My mom didn’t like this girl though. I suspect that’s because she wore tight black satin pants and knew how to French kiss boys.
Ms. Blume thoroughly covered the puberty topic from all angles, as I recall, although some of her references were a little out of date. After reading Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, I remember looking through my Mom’s bathroom drawers for her “feminine belt” (she didn’t have one…). I remembered how my little girlfriends and I were all giggling about the book And Then Again Maybe I Won’t , which covered puberty from the boy’s point of view. This book taught me two new words: nocturnal and emissions.
But Blume really sheds light on the birds and beez issue with the book Forever. I am sure my mom saw me reading it. She probably figured that was as good a way as any for me to learn what I needed to know. That or she had no clue what the subject matter of Forever was. Come to think of it, that seems more likely.
My mom and I never had “the talk.” If we did, I have blocked out the memory. And forget about Dad. We would have both spontaneously combusted from sheer embarrassment if the topic had even been broached.
So I really don’t have any experience or even an example of dealing with this topic in an instructor’s sense. I was hoping that I could delegate this conversation to his dad. But based on his stated reluctance and rigorous travel schedule--and my love of shopping at Target--I think I am going to have to face the music on this one.
So instead of stressing and improvising, I just need to have a plan. I plan to keep it simple. I plan to tell him biological facts only, meaning restricted to the sperm and egg interaction only. I am planning to avoid covering how the biological parts get to each other if at all possible (as in, no penis and vagina talk). I also plan to drink heavily as soon as it is over, even if it comes up again on the way to school at 8 in the morning. Most importantly, I plan to pretend he never asked until it he brings it up.
Unfortunately, I have to get a birthday present soon for a birthday party this weekend, which means we will probably make a Target run, home of the Big-Red-Egg-Hatching-a-Baby Logo sign.
Maybe I can buy some time if I go to Wal-Mart? Or maybe I could send his father? Or I could see if I can Facebook the girl who used to live up the street to come shed some light on this topic for my boy?
If only Judy Blume wrote books for grown ups…
I have abandoned my strategy of letting it go until he brings it up again. Instead I am adopting Mark Twain’s “if you have to eat a frog, best not to look at it too long” strategy instead. And as a slightly less profound poet Rod Stewart said, “Tonight’s the Night.”
He was already reading. So I tucked my little innocent boy’s covers down around him and brushed back from his eyes the brown bangs that were badly in need of a haircut. I leaned down to kiss his little forehead right before I launched into the “talk” that he seemed keen to have the other day.
“Honey,” I began, “Do you remember the question you asked me when we were at Target?”
Blue eyes glanced up at me over the top of his Harry Potter book, then blinked once, and then twice. “What question?”
“Oh…” I said, incredulous that I was getting a pass once again. “Nothing, honey. Good night.”
“Good night, Mom.”
Zooooooooom (sound of bullet whooshing past my Matrix-like back bend maneuver.) Dodged it again. For now.
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