The tale of a funny yet simultaneously horrifying evening.
Its a subject that has been lurking in the background for a while, like the slowly creeping damp patch in the corner of the bathroom that catches your eye every once in a while and you think ‘hmm really must get round to doing something about that at some point’ and then swiftly forget till the next time you happen to be sitting on the edge of the bath in the exact same position, (clipping my toenails in case you were curious), and it enters your field of vision once more.
It’s not a subject that I have avoided completely. When questioned directly I have given as much information as was required at the time, but volunteered no more than was strictly necessary. On the other hand it’s not an issue I have sought to bring to the fore always relying on the old adage of ‘when the time is right’, and always hoping that ‘the right time’ would be in a far distant future and with some Hubby shaped back-up in case I folded under the interrogation that I would be forced to endure. I don’t do well under pressure.
But ‘the right time’ was suddenly thrust upon me one otherwise uneventful Friday evening.
I hadn’t really taken too much notice of the library book that Moo had in her bag when she came home from school, but I did notice that during the evening while I was pottering about getting tea ready , that she seemed unusually engrossed and unnervingly quiet.
It wasn’t till we were sitting after tea watching a film that I noticed the title: ‘Le graine d’amour’ – and the alarm bells began to softly chime . I picked it up and discovered that it is a book all about where babies come from, and it pulled very few punches. By now the alarm bells must have been clearly audible to every parent within a 5 km radius.
She looked up at me browsing her book and rather hesitantly asked if I could explain some things to her that she didn’t quite understand. My mouth was suddenly filled with the bitter metallic tang of the bullet I was about to bite.
“Of course you can darling”.
5 little words. The beginning of the end of childhood innocence.
There is something a little unsettling, for me anyway, about using the word sperm when talking to a 6 year old. It’s not a rude word per-say, its a bodily fluid after all. Like mucous or phlegm or sweat and yet, not like them at all.
After I’d hopped over my little sperm hurdle, so to speak, the pages of the book progressed as swiftly as the ‘grains du papa’ themselves and we were soon in a womb with a view. We had a little chat about how the sperm and the egg join together and that’s what makes the baby, then it grows inside mummy’s tummy.
I was mentally prepared to expand further on the miracle of conception and birth, but at that precise moment Moo decided that she had heard enough and the subject was mercifully closed.
It proved to be a temporary respite. It became clear at bed time that while she had been watching the end of Tinkerbell she had been using the time to mull things over and prepare a few questions. And it has to be said they were pretty good, and raised the parental discomfort level once more to ‘high’.
“Do different colour sperm make different coloured babies?”
This one caught me a little off guard it has to be said, until I refreshed my memory of the picture book.
I explained that because it was a cartoon they had drawn them in different colours so you could see what they looked like, but really they were all the same colour.
“When does a lady get the eggs put inside of her?”
I carefully explained that when a girl is born they are already inside her and when her body is old enough the eggs are then ready to make babies.
She was fascinated when I told her they were about the size of a dot on a page, and that sperm were even smaller.
“When a baby gets really big inside…..where does it come out of?”
The look of wide-eyed horror on her face when I told her had to be seen to be believed, but I softened the blow by telling her that when a baby comes out, your lady bits are brilliant and stretchy and they go back to the right size after. I’m not sure she entirely believed me.
We had discussions about the umbilical cord and how a baby gets fed, and how a baby grows in ‘water’ inside and only breathes properly when it comes out.
“So its a bit like a scuba diver then” she commented. I hadn’t thought of it like that.
And just when I thought it was safe to say goodnight, just when I thought I had avoided the million dollar question, just when I thought I had made it through relatively unscathed the parental discomfort level hit the roof and the only stage of the process that wasn’t covered, (thankfully), by interestingly coloured cartoons was called into question.
“So, how does the man’s sperm get inside a lady anyway?”
with the utmost gratitude to the lighting state in the bedroom at that particular moment in time, (dim), I explained as well as I was able that a man puts his ‘man bits’ inside a lady’s ‘lady bits’ and the sperm comes out and goes inside the lady.
I was gratified to be on the receiving end of a resounding “EEEEEWWW”.
I felt this would be a good time to make sure that she understood that this is only something that you can do when you are an adult and she informed that you should “really only be doing that sort of thing when you get married” – (small pause for an parental imaginary high-five) – we live in hope!
She also understands that it’s a very grown up subject but it is really interesting, and in her own words “a bit gross”, to find out properly how babies are made. And if she has any more questions she can ask us anything she likes without feeling embarrassed ( at least one of us won’t be). Its desperately hard not to be embarrassed for some reason, but I think its important that she isn’t afraid to ask questions and that we are honest with her, well up to a point anyway – she is only 6! I also tried really hard to use the terminology that was in the book to avoid any unnecessary confusion, but I still can’t quite bring myself to call ‘man bits’ a penis in front of her yet. There will definitely be a ‘right time’ for that I’m sure.
Hopefully when Hubby is home and I’m out.