Talking About Making Babies (or How To Avoid Emotionally Scarring Your Children With Awkwardness)

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So there I am on a lazy Saturday morning, sipping on some decaf with my daughter, Phoebe. Aside from being 11, Phoebe is sweet, creative, insightful, and compassionate. She is also very innocent. On this particular morning, Phoebe looked at me mid-sip and said suddenly, “Wait, I don’t get it, how does the baby actually get into the mom’s belly?”

I looked back at her and oh-so-casually said, “Well, I’m gonna need a refill for this.” I can’t say I was surprised. I mean, she was 11, why hadn’t she asked me yet? Biding my time pouring the coffee, I realized I had not really in the traditional sense equipped myself for this moment at all. I had no plan, no bullet points, no book conveniently stashed away, I had nothing but the Lord. I walked back over and settled in on the love seat next to Phoebe and we had a really good chat. It wasn’t until it was all over that I realized that I had, in fact, done my homework, but not in the way you might think.

After the fact, here’s my list of what to do when my daughter asks me how babies are made:

1. Drop the Drama. I wasn’t about to relate to Phoebe that this talk was a huge deal, that it was a rite of passage for both of us, that she would remember it for the rest of her life. Why infuse more drama into an already heavy situation? No, we just refilled our coffees (she loves decaf), stayed right where we were, and talked. Let’s be honest, making babies, while being a gorgeous picture of God’s amazing creation and plan, is pretty weird. It involves boys, and body parts. It’s emotional enough without adding unnecessary pre-conceived drama into it as well. Making it more dramatic than it needs to be will simply stress everybody out.

2. Don’t Prepare. No joke. Not only did I not really pray about this moment (yet God was faithful, Amen and Amen), I didn’t read a pile of books about it to figure out what to say, or how to say it, or what pictures to show her, or really anything. Not that I don’t think those books have value, I just think it’s more important to know my daughter. What I did do was pay attention to Phoebe. I know what she knows, and I know what she doesn’t. Over the years she had asked some questions. They were more roundabout, more obtuse, and when she asked obtuse questions, I would give her obtuse answers. I never gave her more information than she asked for, because sometimes a kid needs a little bit of time to let information sink in before taking it to the next level. I would just answer the question and then wait for the next one, keeping my radar on for how much she could handle. Because I had faith that the Spirit of the Living God would give me the right words to say when I needed them, I didn’t study what to say, but I did study my daughter.

3. Cultivate Closeness. Not only do I know Phoebe really well, but she knows me. I call her my shadow. Yes, she’s homeschooled so we spend more time together than traditionally schooled kids might with their parents, but I would never say to a mom whose kids go to school 5 days a week that I’m closer to my kids than she is—no way. It isn’t about the amount of time; it’s what you do with the time you have, right? When Phoebe and I hang out we do normal stuff like make food, get crafty, watch a movie, listen to Elvis records, do school, and whatever else, but our predominant activity is talking. We talk all the time and we talk about everything. We really KNOW each other. So when she did ask the question about where babies come from, not only did I know she was going to ask it at some point soon, but with the Lord leading my every word, I knew what to say. Almost as importantly, I knew how to say it. A few weeks after the talk, I asked Phoebe if she had any thoughts about talking to me about that stuff. She said, “It would have been super-awkward and weird if it weren’t YOU telling me, but because it was YOU, it was fine. I mean, it's US, you know?” Yeah, I know.

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4. Simple is simpler. Of course I had to explain how it all happens. The actual sex part. Without using too many words, I gave it to her plain and simple, didn’t attempt to soften the blow, and I just stopped talking when I was done. I let her sit with it, let her process. After a quick and brutal explanation of which part goes where, the look on her face was pure shock and terror. I mean, she was totally freaked out. So much so that she actually began screaming and laughing into a pillow, which got me screaming and laughing too, so here we are screaming and laughing about how strange and funny sex actually is when you really think about it. That was my favorite part. It was so fun to let her have her reaction, to not attempt to name it or control it, to take the ride with her. I didn’t try to make it fancy, or belabor the explanation with diagrams, or use words that she wouldn’t understand—I just told her and let her have her moment with it. Simple.

5. Some Things Can Wait. Once we were nearing the finish line and wrapping it up, Phoebe was a little more curious. She wanted to know logistics, like how people do the things they do. I thought about it for a second and then finally said, “You know what, Feebs, you don’t really need to be thinking about that yet. You’ve got the facts, let’s leave it at that for awhile.” And we did. I want her to stay a child for as long as she can, because once that’s over you can’t really get it back. She’ll know all that and more soon enough, but for now I think it’s pretty okay that we can scream into a pillow about the weirdness of life once in awhile.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
 Psalm 139:1-6 NIV

Posted on May 11, 2016 and filed under Building Your Family.