Today I had the first of what will be many conversations about sex, with my five-year-old daughter. Yes, the birds and the bees. More specifically, how babies are made. I had been trying so hard to avoid this conversation with her. You see, I am pregnant with her baby brother and she really wanted to know how on earth that happened!
My daughter, Noemi, is a bright little girl. She is a critical thinker. She wants real answers, and she wants to know “how” and “why” for everything; including how babies are made. The first time she asked me the question, “THE Question”, my heart jumped into my throat. She’s just a little preschooler! Surely I must avoid actually explaining this to her! I refuse to lie to my children, so I settled on a vague but essentially true explanation. It went something like this;
“Well, sweetheart…a man has a..a seed. Yes, a seed.
And, well, you see…uhhh…this seed goes into the mommy’s belly and..
Uhhh…it meets the egg from the mommy and…well..a baby is made
And grows inside the mommy’s tummy.”
There. I said it. I stared into her big brown eyes and hoped my explanation would satisfy her. My mother gave me basically the same story around her age and I remember being really confused. A seed? I imagined that when a boy reached a certain age, his father would solemnly hand the boy a box, and inside that box laid the baby seed. The boy would give the seed to his wife, who would of course swallow it because that’s how anything gets into your tummy, and a baby would grow. This is obviously wildly incorrect, and hilarious, yet I chose the same story for my own child. I am my mother now. That’s another story.
Noemi was not satisfied with this crazy answer. She wanted to know “but how does the seed get into the mommy?” At that point I realized I was totally unprepared for these questions and so I deflected them. I told her “well, you know…lets buy a book and discuss another time. Ok sweetheart?”
Except, I didn’t buy the book. I did research some, but I never purchased any, and I hoped deep inside that she would forget and never ask me again until sometime close to her wedding day.
As my belly swelled, and the presence of this baby brother became more pronounced, the questions from my daughter continued. She did not forget. She was not satisfied with my “men and women fit together like a puzzle and that’s how we make a baby” explanation. Which is too bad because I thought it was pretty clever.
Then, tonight she asked me questions about her baby brother and she wanted to know if he had a seed, like daddy, to make a baby one day. I told her that no, he didn’t yet, but one day when he was older his body would make a seed to create his own baby. This lead into “THE Questions” again. But this time, I knew I could no longer ignore her.
She asked me with sincerity, with genuine curiosity, and she really wanted to understand. I came to realize that I was making this an issue. I would cause her to feel that this was some mystery that she dare not discover, or even worse, something to be scared of or ashamed to hear about. I decided on the spot that today I would not distract her. I would not lie. I would give her the answers to her questions the best I could.
So, I began with where we started. The seed. The puzzle. Her questions continued, direct questions I could no longer avoid. She is only five years old! I felt that somehow this was a point of no return that I wasn’t ready to cross yet. I didn’t want her to know. But why? If she was old enough to have the question, then I ought to answer it. So, I did.
I allowed her to lead the questions, offering no more information than she herself requested to know. I clarified which body parts exactly-a penis and a vagina- were involved. I told her that yes, they fit together, and that is how the seed enters the mothers body. She thought the penis would detach, and I had to stifle a big laugh, until I explained that the penis stays on the man’s body. She said some other funny things, but other than her eyes widening in surprise for a moment (at which we both laughed at how “crazy” this sounds!) she was not greatly affected.
She didn’t fall apart from the most basic knowledge of sexual intercourse and procreation. She did not morph into a teenager before my eyes. She is still innocent. She is still my baby girl. But now, I hope with everything in me, she will trust me to answer her questions about her body and sex and babies. I realized tonight that this was not the end of our conversation, it was only the very beginning. I am grateful to have gotten over my own hang-ups and insecurities and fears, in order to offer to what she deserves; honest answers to her questions.
I am sure her idea of what sex looks like is still pretty far off from what it actually is. That’s OK. She is finally satisfied, for now. As she gets older, it is my prayer that she will come to me with more questions. It is my prayer that she will trust me not to shrink away from the truth. It is my prayer that she will come to see her sexuality as a gift from her Creator, to be used within the parameters he has given to us in the Scriptures. There is nothing perverted or dirty or bad about sex and making new life. I hope she honors and respects this great gift. I pray that one day, long from now, she will come into her marriage bed feeling open and beautiful and free. I pray she has the knowledge necessary and the confidence to begin her sexual life in a healthy (physically, emotionally, spiritually) way; and that I can feel blessed to have been a part of that learning.
May we ALL be granted the wisdom to speak with our children about their bodies and sex in a godly and truthful manner. May we ALL see it from our Creator’s point of view, and not shame our children for asking sincere questions. May we show them the gift this is, and explain the importance of respecting it and ourselves.
May it be so. Amen.