At age three, Lily sat with a book my mid-wife had provided, mesmerized by the illustration of a baby being born. The mother was standing, leaning on the father, supported in her pushing. “The baby is coming out of her butt, Mama!” Lily finally exclaimed.
I clarified about the holes.
A week later, Lily was in Target with my mother-in-law, buying something for the impending baby sister. The check-out woman questioned the item and Lily shouted enthusiastically, “My Mama is having a baby. And she is going to PUSH it out of her VAGINA!”
Thankfully, I have an amazing mother-in-law who thoroughly appreciates the humor in these kinds of situations.
At age five, Lily pointed to my stomach after I stepped out of the shower and said matter of factly, “THAT is where a baby grows. Girls have eggs, and boys have these squiggly little things.”
“Sperm,” I said, “And yes, that is correct.”
“And the sperm travels up a very dark tunnel and a lot of them get lost but they race to find the egg. And when one finds the egg, it turns hard and the other sperms are sad because they can’t get in. And THAT is how a baby is made. I watched a video with grandma. What I still don’t know, Mama, is HOW the sperm gets in that tunnel.”
I paused, turning on the water to brush my teeth and gather my age appropriate and honest response, and a second later, she asked, “Where does our water come from? “
I clarified about pipes.
Lily’s six year old questions about sex are much more poignant. Since preschool, the same little boy has been in her class every year. Now that the little boy lives a house away, love letters are often passed back and forth; declarations of I LOVE YOU scribbled in red crayon, paper folded in a very special and deliberate way. Lily often speaks of marrying this little boy.
“Why do you want to get married, honey?” I asked one night over dinner.
“Because I want babies,” she replied instantly, “When can I have a baby?”
“Your body has to be ready to have a baby; remember us talking about getting your period? But it’s better to wait until your mind, your body and your life are all ready before you decide to have a baby,” I explained.
“Why can’t I have a baby when my body is ready?”
I clarified about teenage pregnancy.
“Hmm,” she thought for a moment, “Age 28 is probably good.”
The other night, over bowls of ice-cream and chocolate sauce, Lily asked, “You know those things that boys have, Mama? Squirms?”
“Oh, right. Sperm. Well, if the sperm comes out of the penis, and the egg is inside the girl’s body, how do they find each other? HOW?”
I clarified about vaginas and penises fitting together. The somewhat horrified look on her face made me assure her we’d check that book out at the library again.
Suddenly, Vivienne leaped out of her chair, started running around the living room and chimed in with, “Vagina! Vagina! Sexy! Vagina!”
“What is sexy, Mama?” Lily asked.
I mentally screamed. Why do they even know the word “sexy,” really, at age three and six?
“Sexy means a lot of different things, honey,” I said, “It is a grown up kind of thing, and there isn’t just one example I can tell you to explain what it means. It can be about your body, or your clothes, or your attitude.”
“Is ‘sexy’ inappropriate for kids?” she inquired.
“Yes. Kids don’t need to think about being sexy. It is tricky though, because some clothes that are made for kids could be considered ‘sexy’ if a grown-up wore the same thing. That is confusing because then it seems like maybe kids should think about being sexy.”
“Oh right, like a little tiny bikini swimsuit? That is inappropriate.”
As we scooped out our last bites of melting ice-cream, Vivienne’s shouts ceased and we decided to have a dance party. The Go-Go’s, Ramones, Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson filled the living room.
Bedtime followed and questions were put to rest for the day.
I relish these conversations, even when the topics of their inquisitions floor me. I delight in their unabashed queries and fascination with the world around them.
As my girls grow older, I hope they keep a tight grip on the ability to question, challenge, and push. I want them to be insistent in finding answers, not stopping until they hear the entire story. I expect them to be greedy for knowledge as they seek out their own truths.
Curiosity is fabulous.