My daughter learned how babies are made when she was six.
And it was all my fault.
When the Amazon package came, she knew it contained something for her. She ripped it open. “Is this mine?” she asked, wide-eyed.
I put on my happy voice. “Yes! Want to read it tonight?”
“Yeah!” She turned the book over in her hands.
The book was the New York Times bestseller It’s Not the Stork.
On the front was a multi-racial family featuring a pregnant mother with a fetus waving from inside her tummy.
My daughter is precocious. But not THAT precocious.
She wanted to read the book because it had pictures of babies in it. She loves babies. She even likes pretending to be a baby sometimes.
I felt terrible springing this book on her. It looked like a lovely book about babies. It was actually a book about how babies were MADE.
And it contained age-appropriate illustrations of boys’ and girls’ bodies, each body part neatly labeled.
To understand why this book arrived in my home, we have to go back even further…
To a time when my sweet little girl was just a baby kicking her legs on the changing table.
As I cleaned her up and put a new diaper on, I asked my partner, “What shall we call her personal parts?”
“Her privates. The bit I just cleaned. We need to call it something. ‘Hold still, sweetie, while I wipe your ….?’”
“Front bottom?” he suggested.
“No.” I frowned. “Aren’t we supposed to use the proper scientific names?”
“Then call it something else while she’s little and teach her the correct term when she’s older.”
“Okay.” I looked at my gurgling girl. “Girly bits. That’s what we’ll call them.”
Fast forward to the present, when a fellow mother recommended an article about protecting children from sexual abuse.
The article emphasized teaching children the proper names for their genitals. Words have power. Knowing the correct terms not only helps your child if something happens and they need to tell an adult, but saying those words out loud can deter a predator.
My heart sank. It was time to have the talk.
But how was I going to bring up the subject in a nonchalant, this-COMPLETELY-doesn’t-faze-me style?
Several times over the following week, I looked for an opening during bath time. “Could you clean your girly bits? Did you know that part of your body is actually called a vulva?”
But my anatomical correctness routine fell flat.
I remembered that the article had mentioned a book suitable for kids, so I ordered it and crossed my fingers.
The night it arrived, my daughter was raring to go. She grabbed the book as we settled into bed. “Do you want me to read it, honey?” I asked her.
“No, I’ll read it.”
I reminded myself to breathe slowly and deeply as my daughter confidently read about penises and vaginas, urethras and anuses.
She was completely unfazed. She’d done the reproductive system at school, after all.
It took us four nights to finish the book. My daughter read the entire thing out loud, stumbling only occasionally over words like Cesarean.
She liked the parts about babies the best. She knew she’d grown in my tummy. She even knew babies were made from an egg and a sperm.
What she didn’t know was the sperm delivery system.
Her teacher had told me they’d skipped that part in their review of the reproductive system. They’d been heading outside after class when one of the older girls asked, “But how does the sperm get to the egg?”
Look!” the teacher said, pointing up into the sky. “A bird!”
Saved in the nick of time.
I wasn’t so lucky. It’s Not the Stork covers the sperm delivery system. It depicts a man embracing a woman on a bed. They’re completely covered by the bedspread, in case you were wondering.
As my daughter read the section out loud, she stopped. Her jaw dropped. “Is THAT how it happens?”
“Yep,” I said cheerfully.
And that was that.
A friend warned me, “You’re going to have to tell her teacher. What if she goes to school saying scrotum? They’ll call social services.”
I hadn’t thought of that.
So I posted a message on social media, warning one and all that my daughter was now a ticking time-bomb of inappropriate knowledge. I included a link to the offending book. Just in case any other parents wanted to join me in the walk of shame.
I’d done my duty. My daughter was duly informed.
But that wasn’t the end of the proverbial stork.
My parents asked us to feed their dogs while they were away. We drove into the yard to see that one of the dogs had gotten loose.
My daughter got out of the car. “We’re going to have to get Ida away from Tykie,” she said. Then she stopped. “What are they doing?”
Ida and Tykie looked at us. They didn’t stop what they were doing.
“They’re having sex!” I said.
“That’s what sex looks like?”
“In dogs,” I replied. “Guess we’d better tell Grandma she’s going to have puppies again.”
After we got the lovers separated and fed, we walked over to the house so we could wash up and get a snack. “I don’t understand something,” my daughter said. “How do you know there are going to be puppies?”
Ah, I thought to myself. Here goes.
“Because sex is how the sperm gets to the egg.”
“Oh. So sex is how babies are made.”
“Is that how I was made?”
“Look, chocolates! Want one?” My daughter spotted a box of chocolates on the counter.
Saved by a snack.