Tuesday, March 12, 2013

how babies are born: a conversation with my daughter

The worried look, caught on camera

Welcome to the March 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Tough Conversations
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have spoken up about how they discuss complex topics with their children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
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Update (10/22/13): We've added a new favorite book to the library of sex education called It's Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends. It has illustrations of a bird and bee talking to each other on each page, which were cute and provided some comic relief for the material to keep the conversation light.

I was planning to write about preschool gender roles today. In fact, I had the post all ready to go on the submission deadline. That morning, my almost-five-year-old daughter actually began our first tough conversation. How's that for timing? Apropos to nothing, Genevieve turned to me with a furrowed brow at the breakfast table and said "I don't want to grow up! I want to stay a kid forever because William said that Mommies have their tummies cut open for the baby to come out. Is that how babies come out, Mommy?"

Before I get to my response, let's break down her announcement. My first reaction is "Oh, sad!" because at that time of the day, I hope for my child to ponder the best way to get more cereal on her spoon, not worry about the fate of her uterus in a few decades. My second reaction is "Thank goodness!" because I'm so happy she feels comfortable to bring up these subjects to me.

Without even a sip of coffee, I managed somehow to keep head firmly attached to shoulders. I calmly explained that first of all, having babies was not something she needed to worry about now because only grown-ups have babies. Then I told her that although some babies are cut out of their mother's womb (as I've discussed in the past, we use anatomically correct language), it's not how most babies are born. I told her that babies are usually born from a mother's vagina, and it's usually a wonderful and happy day when it happens.

She looked a tiny bit less frightened. Then I asked her if she had any more questions. Boy, did she ever.

"Yes," she replied firmly. "Sometimes I feel a rumbling in my tummy. Is that a baby floating around?"

Oh, sad! No, I reminded her, only grown-ups have babies in their wombs. Clearly we needed to go over digestion again, so I began telling her all about how food is broken down for nutrients in the stomach, and waste travels through the intestines to become poop. Her eyes widened and her expression softened to one of curiosity and wonder. Mommy was talking about poop! She had lots of questions about how poop is made and the reason we sometimes have gas (admittedly we call gas a "toot").

From this experience, I take away the importance of follow-up questions and making sure I understand why she wants to know the information and that she understood my responses. My daughter is almost five, and next year she'll be in kindergarten, so I know there are more talks to come before that first day of school. I want her to know she can always come to me when she has questions about how her body works or if kids at school tell her information she doesn't think is correct or feels needs clarification.

Later that day, I went to the library and picked up a few books that have started and continued quite a few discussions about the human body this week. To my surprise, she will sit through an entire lengthy book on the subject! This proud mama looks forward to the many more conversations to come.

In case you'd like to pick up some books, here are the ones we've read so far and liked:


Above all, I want Vivi to be excited about how amazing her body really is and hopefully never rarely embarrassed by her bodily functions. Her question was a good reminder to me that once is not enough for a discussion about her body. We're never going to sit down and have THE TALK because I plan to have many age-appropriate talks over her childhood. I consider this conversation a doorway to a new beginning for us.

Have you had "the talk" with your preschooler? What can you share about the experience?


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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon March 12 with all the carnival links.)
  • A Difficult Conversation — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is keeping her mouth shut about a difficult topic.
  • Discussing Sexuality and Objectification With Your Child — At Authentic Parenting, Laura is puzzled at how to discuss sexuality and objectification with her 4-year-old.
  • Tough Conversations — Kadiera at Our Little Acorn knows there are difficult topics to work through with her children in the future, but right now, every conversation is a challenge with a nonverbal child.
  • Real Talk — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama explains why there are no conversation topics that are off limits with her daughter, and how she ensures that tough conversations are approached in a developmentally appropriate manner.
  • From blow jobs to boob jobs and lots of sex inbetweenMrs Green talks candidly about boob jobs and blow jobs…
  • When Together Doesn't Work — Ashley at Domestic Chaos discusses the various conversations her family has had in the early stages of separation.
  • Talking To Children About Death — Luschka at Diary of a First Child is currently dealing with the terminal illness of her mother. In this post she shares how she's explained it to her toddler, and some of the things she's learned along the way.
  • Teaching 9-1-1 To Kids — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling talks about the importance of using practical, age-appropriate emergency scenarios as a springboard for 9-1-1 conversations.
  • Preschool Peer PressureLactating Girl struggles to explain to her preschooler why friends sometimes aren't so friendly.
  • Frank Talk — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis unpacks a few conversations about sexuality that she's had with her 2-year-old daughter, and her motivation for having so many frank discussions.
  • When simple becomes tough — A natural mum manages oppositional defiance in a toddler at Ursula Ciller's Blog.
  • How Babies are Born: a conversation with my daughter — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger tries to expand her daughter's horizons while treading lightly through the waters of pre-K social order.
  • Difficult Questions & Lies: 4 Reasons to Tell The Truth — Ariadne of Positive Parenting Connection shares the potential impact that telling lies instead of taking the time to answer difficult questions can have on the parent-child relationship.
  • Parenting Challenges--when someone dies — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about talking to her child about death and the cultural challenges involved in living in a predominantly Catholic nation.
  • Daddy Died — Breaking the news to your children that their father passed away is tough. Erica at ChildOrganics shares her story.
  • Opennesssustainablemum prepares herself for the day when she has to tell her children that a close relative has died.
  • Embracing Individuality — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy addressed a difficult question in public with directness and honesty.
  • Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, Jessica Claire of Crunchy-Chewy Mama also values discussing them with her children to soften the blow they might cause when they hit closer to home.
  • Talking to My Child About Going Gluten Free — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama concluded that her family would benefit from eliminating gluten from their diet, she came up with a plan to persuade her gluten-loving son to find peace with the change. This is how they turned the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle into an adventure rather than a hardship.
  • How Does Your Family Explain Differences and Approach Diversity? — How do you and your family approach diversity? Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen shares her thoughts at Natural Parents Network and would like to hear from readers.
  • Discussing Difficult Topics with Kids: What’s Worked for Me — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares parenting practices that enabled discussions of difficult topics with her (now-adult) children to be positive experiences.
  • Tough Conversations — Get some pointers from Jorje of Momma Jorje on important factors to keep in mind when broaching tough topics with kids.
  • Protect your kids from sneaky people — Lauren at Hobo Mama has cautioned her son against trusting people who'd want to hurt him — and hopes the lessons have sunk in.
  • Mommy, What Does the Bible Say? — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work works through how to answer a question from her 4-year-old that doesn't have a simple answer.
  • When All You Want for Them is Love: Adoption, Abandonment, and Honoring the Truth — Melissa at White Noise talks about balancing truth and love when telling her son his adoption story.

14 comments:

Kerry McDonald, M.Ed. said...

Great post, Justine, on talking honestly about birth with young children! So important! We love the book Hello Baby by Jenni Overend and used it regularly to prepare for my last homebirth.

Ariadne said...

Kids sure love talking about how they are born and...about poop :) The book Who has What is really great isn't it!

Erica Keil said...

My preschooler still catches me off guard with his timing, you think I would be used to it by now. They never cease to amaze me with their questions and curiosity. It keeps us on our toes, that's for sure! You handled this with grace and you know she'll feel comfortable in the future approaching you.

Dionna Ford said...

We've had many of these conversations, since Kieran became a big brother last year :) He has more intimate knowledge of female anatomy than I did at his age, and I own a set! I'm glad, though, because I think it is all part of helping children learn about and respect the human body.
~Dionna @ CodeNameMama.com

Amy Willa said...

We haven't had too many of these conversations about how babies are made or how babies are born, but we have had plenty of conversations about penises, vaginas, and appropriate times to and not to talk about them or *facepalm* display them or lately *head in hands* explore them. . . it's a hard topic for me because I want Abbey (4.5) to be comfortable in her body, but I need her to understand that there are limits too. Good for your for answering your daughter's questions so honestly and with calm and simple language! I'll also definitely have to check out those books! :)

hobomama said...

My pregnancy with Mikko's little brother opened up so many new paths of conversation! Some were loud and in public (ha ha!), but I did my best to keep a level head and a straight face. I think it's so important to be matter-of-fact about these things so they know they can always come to you. How fun that your daughter feels so comfortable!

Ursula Ciller said...

I love how you follow up on conversations. Your very good communication will undoubtedly promote your daughter's interest in life and make her a well-informed and cluey young girl :)

Kimberly @ Red Shutters said...

I just had the same question from my soon-to-be-kindergartener! I guess this is the age to start asking the big questions... great post! Thanks for sharing your story.

The Lone Home Ranger said...

Thanks! Must be in the air for almost-kindergarteners.

The Lone Home Ranger said...

Thanks Ursula. You don't hear the word "cluey" much but I like it!

The Lone Home Ranger said...

Sometimes I wonder if being matter-of-fact will result in her NOT coming to me, but I just hope that's the exception to the rule. :)

The Lone Home Ranger said...

Ha! We haven't had to discuss limits yet, but I'm sure that's coming soon.

The Lone Home Ranger said...

I feel the same way about my daughter's knowledge of anatomy. I agree that teaching them is important, even if it's difficult at times.

The Lone Home Ranger said...

I don't think I'll ever get used to the odd timing of such questions. My brain is on auto-pilot most of the time.

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