“What’s the big deal about being celibate?” That’s what my 8-year-old asked me the other day when we were driving in the car.
“What?” I said, with no idea how I would answer.
Luckily, my son elaborated.
“Just because somebody’s on TV or in the movies, everyone thinks they’re soooo great.”
Oh! “Celebrities? You mean, what’s the big deal about celebrities?”
That question was a lot easier to answer, especially since my 4-year-old was also in the car.
In case you were wondering, no, I did not use Tim Gunn as an example, even though he would have been the perfect choice for either topic. Instead, I delved into an elaborate discussion about celebrities that featured the cast from “Star Wars.”
A few years ago my son did ask the big question, “Where do babies come from?” Once again, we were in the car and I was caught off-guard. But I was committed to being as truthful as appropriate with my 5-year-old.
“When a woman really wants to have a baby,” I explained, “she starts taking prenatal vitamins. They really help healthy babies grow.”
My son has been satisfied with this answer ever since. (He’s also really careful around vitamins.)
I realize that the time for total clarity is coming. The birds and the bees are hovering, waiting to be sighted. That’s why we have a vintage copy of “Where did I come from?” by Peter Mayle waiting in the garage on standby. I’m prepared to be specific and honest.
But gosh darn it! It’s a lot easier to talk about DNA, chromosomes, Labradoodles, bicolor corn and proper prenatal care than it is to discuss the deed itself.
I’ve heard that for a while, you can explain things away by saying that there is a “special hug” involved in making babies. But that sounds pretty problematic. I don’t want my kids to be freaked out by hugging. “It’s good to see you, too.” (Hug) “Ack! I’m a father!”
(The “Hug, handshake or high-five” line at school would never be the same again.)
I’m a proponent of letting innocence linger. Sometimes protecting childhood means abstaining from enlightenment a little while longer.
If other parents want to share scientific information earlier than I do, fine. Everyone has different opinions on how best to parent. I just hope their kids stay mum about it at school.
Third grade should be a safe space. The girls chase the boys. The boys chase the girls. Somebody picks dandelions to make a “love potion.” Somebody else becomes famous for burping. Let’s let 8-year-olds concentrate on their math facts, not the facts of life.
And please, Lord, with the real conversation finally happens, don’t let it be in the car.
Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at teachingmybabytoread.com.