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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How do you make a baby?

"So, how do you make a baby?" our 9-year-old son asked me one evening as we settled into the couch to watch one of his favorite shows.  My breath caught in my throat.

Perhaps, if I sat very, very still, he would become distracted and move on to something else--you know, ADHD and all...

"So, Mom?" he turned to me expectantly.

All at once, the world seemed to have stopped. There were no noises on the television nor blustering winter wind outside of our doors. I could have sworn all cars must have been off the road. Fish became stilled in our oceans. Animals from the deep woods to the open plains quietly settled--all at the exact same time that my dear child looked up at me innocently, pressing me to tell him about procreation. There was no escaping either my duty or my son's rare and undivided attention.

It simply had to be done.

"Well," I began, trying to pull the right words out of thin air, "men and women make babies together." I started. "It takes teamwork."

Teamwork. Yes. That was a good fourth-grade lesson to pull into the discussion.

"My girl gecko doesn't need a boy gecko," he informed me. "She can have babies on her own. It's true."

He was right: it was true. He knew everything there was to know about geckos. In fact, if anyone would like to stop by our home and engage him in a conversation about his gecko, I will happily grab my purse and head for a nice long visit to the spa while that happens.

"Well," I said again, searching for the next direction to take, "women can have babies on their own also--so can men--if they decide to adopt a child. However, biologically speaking, a woman needs a man to make a baby."

I stopped briefly, thinking about how happy I was that I could use terms such as 'biologically speaking' to my 9-year-old and trust that he understood. Autism has given him so many talents: his intelligence, his creativity, his ability to retain an astonishing number of facts about any topic of interest. This kid loved science and had a voracious appetite for facts about animals, how they live, what they eat and, indeed, how they made

That's when it struck me. He was treating this question no differently than asking me how a blue whale makes babies. All the social and emotional complexities of love and human relationships were completely lost to him.

This was strictly a question of science.

Score! Autism had saved me more than half the battle! With gusto, I moved forward with the conversation.

"You see, women carry eggs inside of them," I started.

"Ah! So mammals DO have eggs!!" He thought he'd uncovered a great misrepresentation among the classification of animals.

"Ah, yeeesss, however women don't lay the eggs, Once our eggs are fertilized, they turn into babies."  I explained.

"How are the eggs fertilized?" he asked with anticipation.

"They are fertilized by these little tiny tadpole-like things inside of men called 'sperm'." I finished with a smile.

Done. Done and done! Not a bad job, if I did say so myself.

He sat contentedly, pondering our discussion, and, after a short while, he looked at me again. "But, Mom?" he asked. "How does the sperm get inside the woman?"

Some days, I just wish that I had an invisibility cloak.

Facts. The kid wanted more facts. He wanted to know all the details of this straightforward act of nature when my instinct was to blush, stammer and cringe because it was socially delicate. He did not know that it was delicate. He thought nothing of  the intimacies involved; and, while that, itself, is an area requiring my attention, I ignored it. In fact, I celebrated it and its great power to pull me through the first stage of this inquisition without dying from embarrassment.

Science. Just stick to science, I told myself, and give this kid what he wanted. The next thing I knew, out from my mouth flew an explanation of private parts and how his would behave like a squirt gun, shooting the sperm into a female.

Somehow, I managed to boil the topic of procreation down to squirt guns and science. I didn't know how, but I was going with it. My eyes were focused on the light at the end of the tunnel.

"I get my gun back after it squirts, right?" he asked.

"Absolutely," I answered. "But remember, it only takes one squirt. where you put your gun."

He looked at me quizzically.

"You don't want to be a daddy any time soon, do you?" I asked.

"Don't worry, Mom," he said, "I've got too much future left to do."


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  1. Aren't you the smartie pants with your no social relationship required nor understood little man? Wow, what a stroke of genius to realize you only needed science!

    This is inspiring and always remembering only give the child answers to the questions they are asking will avoid overload and confusion, now that is an important lesson for ALL parents.

    Birds and Bees talk are never easy yet seldom as complicated as most mom and dads think it will be.

    Great job Mamamommy!

    1. As you can see, I'm modest. I'm also an opportunist. Thank you autism for making this impromptu talk a little easier.

      I'm sure the other shoe will drop later.

  2. Best. Post. Ever. And you handled yourself really, really well.

    "I get my gun back after it squirts, right?" he asked.

    "Absolutely," I answered. "But remember, it only takes one squirt. where you put your gun."

    Does it get any better than that?! Awesomeness.

    I'm the one who handled all of the talks in my family--with our daughters and also our son. I came from a family where these things were no big deal and my husband came from one where private parts were referred to in cutesy slang terms since I'm pretty sure his mother would have died on the spot were she required to use the actual names of certain body parts.

    I started early, making it easy for them to ask questions naturally as they had them, and I answered honestly every time. After our youngest daughter got the squirt gun specifics, she said she couldn't wait to share the info with her friends. She was pretty young (maybe five, if memory serves), so I told her that she might want to hold off on sharing her new knowledge. Not all parents are comfortable talking to their kids about that stuff, I told her, so she might want to wait and let them tell their kids in their own way and time.

    The next morning, my friend's kids from down the street showed up at my door as they always did on school days. The group would play for a few minutes until the bus pulled up in front of our house. On that morning, my daughter immediately grabbed the little neighbor boy, who was in her class, pulled him aside, and quickly spilled her info. I watched as his face scrunched up in disgust and then he shook his head. Finally, he spoke, still clearly creeped out. "My parents did that THREE times!" he said, incredulous.

    All these years later, that's still one of my favorite mom stories. :O)

    1. Hahahahaaaa! Excellent story!!!

      One of my family members told her daughter about body parts at an early age. Her daughter was a lot like Little Brother, and her mom felt that she could understand the Birds and the Bees discussion. She did, of course, but she also liked to talk the way our younger guy does. And, soon the names of private parts were inserted into casual, every-day conversation. Blush.

      I thought for sure this would happen with our guy, which is another reason why I avoided it. Not a good approach, I know, but, really, I'm not Superwoman!

  3. This is great, Amy! Well done. And funny too!