“Mommy, how will the baby get out?”
Last week, I got this question from my four-and-a-half year old little boy. And I was so ready. The next minute was as chill as any typical conversation/interaction with Jack might be. Let me share what I said, and why I was feeling so calm.
I recently took part in a small-group study of the Simple Truths program at my church. Simple Truths is a presentation created by Mary Flo Ridley and delivered in-person or via DVD to parents all around the country. A group of parents at my church watched and discussed the study together over the course of a few weeks. We all have kids ranging from 2 to 9 years old. The program boils down to a few key principles.
Know your message
What do you and your partner believe about sex? You need to be clear on what values you want to communicate to your children ideally before they get to the age of asking you questions. Your answer might be that “sex is a gift from God intended for committed, life-long relationships,” or you might believe that “sex is a part of loving, adult relationships where both individuals fully respect and care for their partner.” Whatever it is, it should be in the back of your mind guiding your answers. For example, if you believe sex is intended for marriage, you might always refer to marriage when you mention sex; if you believe sex is for adults only, then the word “adults” should be one that comes up when you are talking about sex.
Be your child’s source on the topic of sex
Most of us might want this as parents, but how do you achieve it? The program’s answer is that you have to be comfortable talking to your kids about their bodies and answering any of their many questions from a very early age. If you use real words for body parts and functions (think bath time), then those words are a part of your family vocabulary. This then sets you up to naturally answer the questions that come from surprisingly young ages. “Where’s her penis?” (says your son pointing to his sister next to him in the tub) and “How do babies get out?” You’ve already been saying “vagina” and “penis,” and so you have the words you need to answer their questions.
When the questions come, act happy! “I’m so glad you asked!” is a good way of buying a few seconds to think and also establishing that they are in the right place with their question. You, their parent, know the answer and are happy to share what you know. Most parents in my group agreed that when first asked questions about body parts or the origin of babies, our kids only needed a quick and honest answer before their attention immediately diverted back to other more pressing matters (i.e. “Can I have more bubbles?” or “What’s for dinner?”).
If you’ve been confidently talking about the topic of sex as it’s arisen, then theoretically, you are still the natural source for answers when kids are at an age where they have lots of possible sources to choose from. It also avoids having you deliver “the talk” when your child is 12 or 13. If you’ve never discussed sex before, it will inevitably be an awkward conversation, and you’ve chosen a more awkward age at which to deliver the big news, perhaps setting your child up to never want to say those words with you again.
Practice your answers
Here are some common questions you are likely to get in the pre-school and early elementary years:
- Why does Sally not have a penis like me?
- How do babies get out of the mommy?
- How are babies made or how do babies get in a mommy’s tummy?
So, with your message in mind and using real words, script out answers that work for you. Then say them aloud several times so you figure out which words trip you up. Conquer those words, so you can talk as confidently about this subject as you do about why it’s important to eat healthy foods.
The answer many couples in my class came up with for BIG QUESTION #3 (guided by our own big picture message) was: “Well, I’m really glad you asked, it’s quite miraculous. When a mommy and daddy are married, a part that is deep inside Daddy, his sperm, meet up with a part that is deep inside of Mommy, her eggs. When those two parts come together, they make a baby. That is why you are a little like Daddy and a little like Mommy.”
This answers your child’s question while also allowing him or her to decide whether they have more curiosity at their particular age. If they do follow up with “Well, how do those parts come together?,” our response would be “The daddy puts his penis inside the mommy’s vagina and that’s how the sperm meet up with the egg.”
That’s, of course, not how all babies are made and there are, of course, other follow-up questions you might hear. I highly suggest the Simple Truths study as it covers much more than these basic questions. There are also a good number of illustrated books on the market designed to help parents walk through these conversations with their kids. One I’ve read and like is “It’s NOT the stork!”
So I was actually excited when my son asked me his first baby-related question: “Mommy, how will the baby get out?” Without any hesitation or change in tone, I said “The baby will come out of Mommy’s vagina.” (It’s amazing how much easier it is to say “mommy’s” rather than “my!”)
“What’s a vagina?” he asks.
“Remember how Cora doesn’t have a penis like you? She has a vagina, like Mommy, because we are girls. You and Daddy have penises, because you are boys.”
“So you pee out of your vagina like I pee out of my penis?”
“Yes, but the vagina has two holes. One is for pee and the other is the hole that the baby will come out of. It’s normally really small, like this (hand motion), but it will stretch to be bigger when it’s time for the baby to come out.”
“So it’s small now, but it will get bigger.”
“What’s for dinner, Mommy?”
This philosophy is one I’m excited to put into practice. I believe that between now and pre-puberty, my children need a basic understanding of biology, but more importantly, comfortable conversations with their parents about things that are of minor interest now, but major importance one day.