“Where do babies come from?”
It’s that age-old question we parents often dread. Our family has been fielding variations on this inquiry for years now. We finally had the official ‘sex talk’ with all six kids whilst sitting around the kitchen table recently. Any child who watches a mother or family friend’s belly expand throughout pregnancy – then meets the baby afterward – is bound to be intrigued. How did the baby get in there? And equally curious, how did it get out?
It’s a pretty amazing process, procreation. What prompted our final explanation of the act of sex was not what I would have anticipated when we first started parenting a few years ago. We have been, in some ways, pushed toward the discussion by content presented at our elementary school. It was our scientific minded seven-year-old who, after reading a book about families which included a gay couple and their daughter, got stuck on the idea. I was the one who selected the book on his iPad, expecting exactly this sort of conversation. After viewing gender diversity content presented during our virtual shutdown, I was prying around to see what else was being included in the curriculum. I fully expected same-sex couples to appear in the family-themed books he had access to on his device, and decided I would prefer he read this book for the first time with me, rather than at school. It seemed like now was the time to start broaching this subject; take the reins into our own hands, so to speak. We could not trust that the information regarding sexuality and gender identity in our elementary school was appropriate developmentally. It certainly wasn’t aligned with our moral convictions on the subject.
As part of our conversations over the years about the origins of babies, we had given the kids little tid-bits here and there. I am a big believer in being honest with children. One can be honest and connect at the appropriate developmental level. It may be challenging at times, but it can be done. We never told the kids that babies flew in with storks or fairies. We also never told them the silly white lies we were expected to about holidays. Santa was not real (though Saint Nicholas was), Mommy was the tooth fairy, and leprechauns don’t actually exist. We are that family whose kids ruin it for the rest of the class at school. We feel it is important that our children learn to trust us in many areas, and for us, that means honesty even at the risk of being killjoys. If I tell you lies about a jolly man who flies through the sky with reindeer and puts presents under trees, am I telling you lies about a God-man who came to earth, died, and then came back to life? White lies are lies. We simply don’t do them at our house.
One thing had been hammered into their heads during our baby discussions: It takes a man and a woman, even though they didn’t understand the mechanics of the process yet. Back at the iPad, after our son stared at the gay couple for a long while, I asked him if he noticed anything unusual about this family photo. “Where is the mommy? How could they have a baby if there isn’t a mommy?” I explained that they couldn’t have a child without a mommy – they had adopted. He eventually nodded slowly and moved on. But the question came back a few days later – and this, I believed, was a sign we were ready to have a more in-depth discussion.
A pointer, if I may, from our time discussing this topic with a variety of ages and cognition levels: Answer the question in a very basic, over-simplified way, and leave it at that if they don’t ask for more. Often, kids are happy with a simple answer. Most don’t need many details for a long while. The first time I got a variation of the where-do-babies-come-from question, the answer was probably something down the lines of: “They grow inside a mommy’s belly when they are ready to do so.” And that was enough for a while. We liked the concept of a ‘baby egg/seed’ when the kids were small. Little baby eggs are waiting inside the mommy for the right time to grow. A baby ‘seed’ from the daddy had to join with a baby ‘egg’ from the mommy. Eventually the baby seed was also referred to as ‘sperm,’ and we explained that the egg and sperm are the DNA of the biological parents. This DNA piece was easily grasped as we often have discussions about how each child looks like their biological parents, hence, our very blended family (made from six different parents – six different DNA books). Amazingly still, no one asked exactly how those two met, so we left it lie there. That is, of course, until recently when the mechanics of everything came into question.
When it came down to it, our family sex discussion was relatively painless and drama-free; we were, after all, practically there already. We left out the details about the female cycle and the physically pleasurable part of sex because, again, one step at a time. What I didn’t realize until we had launched into the conversation, was just how much our pro-life stance (which the kids were well versed in) had already laid the groundwork for the Biblical call to sexual abstinence before marriage. Additionally, the pro-life stance and marriage covenant (as opposed to testing out romantic partners without a legally binding agreement) go together nicely as well. The whole conversation fell into place without much difficulty. At the core of it; babies need lots of help from caregivers to keep them safe, warm, and fed. It is easier to care for a baby if two adults can be involved. If the mommy and daddy marry and commit to helping each other, it creates stability for the baby. The sanctity of human life was right in the center of it all. God knew that saving sex for the person you were committed to would likely strengthen the family unit (not to mention, decrease sexually transmitted infections/diseases). The concept that God’s plan for marriage and family involved a man and a woman, not two of the same sex, was obvious by the biology of procreation and barely needed clarification.
For those of us who still adhere to the belief that God’s best plan for marriage involves one man and one woman, sexually abstinent until legally bound together, and (barring extenuating circumstances) holding to this agreement for life, these are interesting times indeed. The marriage discussion aside, gender fluidity is creating a whole other level of complexity. As parents, I believe it is important to be proactive in teaching our children what we believe about gender and sexuality. If you have not yet, I recommend you familiarize yourself with your state’s approach to gender and sex ed (see the PA Department of Education here).
Below are some resources we have drawn on in presenting God’s plan for sex to our children:
God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies
The Story of Me (God’s Design for Sex, Book 1)
Before I Was Born (God’s Design for Sex, Book 2)
The Wonderful Way Babies Are Made
Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids