Monday, October 06, 2008

The Birds and the Bees and the...Oh My!!

We had great news today that a good friend who is pregnant was finally in the hospital ready to deliver. I received the news earlier in the day, and this evening after TaeKwonDo I took the boys over to the hospital to see the new baby...who had decided he/she was not really ready to arrive yet and Mom was still in labor!! My troop and I ran into the expectant Daddy in the hallway as we were on our way to their room and he was the one who informed us that Baby "Abu" (the unknown baby's nickname in utero...hahahah!) had decided to stick around in mom's tummy awhile longer, and he encouraged us to go in and visit for a few minutes. The boys had surprised me with how excited they were about it all, and so off we marched down the hall and quietly peeked into their room and were invited in. Mom-to-be was sitting upright in a rocker, hooked up to a fetal monitor and in pretty good shape for the moment, all things considered.

Watching the boys take it all in was so interesting, they were filled with wonder about it all. They heard the baby's heartbeat and watched the monitor, and all 3 were pretty quite as we were there...which for Kenny and Josh in particular is unusual! Not wanting to stay long but wanting to wish our friends all the best I gave hugs and the boys offered shy smiles, and Kenny being his usual up front self stepped forward gave her a handshake and said boldly "Good Luck Miss T-". It was a riot and we all laughed at that as we walked out the door.

As we walked back towards our car I was bombarded with questions about the mechanics of all of this, and I realized this was the perfect opportunity to open up a conversation on a deeper level about child birth and conception, so on the way home we stopped quickly by the library and I found the same book I had used with Matthew a couple of years ago which provides factual information in a clear manner with cartoon like drawings. I may be modern but I am not ready to have my children see what in my estimation is an equivalent to "soft porn" as I try to explain things to them. Although there were many things I elected to explain myself, and we did not read the book itself, overall it was a great tool and helped explain things very well before so I wanted to use it again. Kenny has been asking a lot of questions the past few months and I had been meaning to check the book out but kept forgetting, so I was glad now to have it and be able to better provide Kenny with some answers as well as introduce Josh to the basics and take it to another level for Matthew, who had vague recollections of our initial talks about all of this but was fuzzy on a few things.

I know many parents have a terribly difficult time with this subject, and I am so happy that for me it is quite natural and not at all uncomfortable. Maybe it is because we have already tackled so many personal, intimate, difficult topics already that sex seems far less intimidating. I mean, after all, staring your 4 or 5 year old in the eyes as you explain it is ok for them to be quite angry at their birth mom for abandoning them, well that is more loaded by far than a mere talk about sex and body parts.

I don't know about others, but in talking to our other friends with kids this age I find that adoption brings up the deeper questions about reproduction much earlier than is typical for their peers here. It is quite logical that when we have conversations that explain their adoption and talk about babies being in other mommies tummies that any kid would make the next step in thinking and ask how those babies get there in the first place.

I guess I could try and push it aside until they are older, but that somehow seems like a cop out and unfair. After all, they have a right to answers that help them better understand how they came to be in state care, why we couldn't make babies and instead turned to adoption to build a family. In conversations in the past with other parents I have had strange looks when I revealed that we had already had "the talk" with Matthew when he was about 5 or so and continue when appropriate his "sex education". I have had disapproving glances when Matthew hurt himself in the crotch at 2 1/2 years old and came running up in public sobbing "Mommy, I hurt my penis!" if knowing the correct term for his own body part instead of calling it his "winky" or "wee wee" was somehow oversexualizing him or something. I have never understood why some people think that information alone will lead to behavior, and I'd far rather that we were the ones imparting that information along with a good dose of our own morals and beliefs than to have the school do it. That is our job, anything else is supplemental but I would feel like an unfit mother if my sons entered health class someday and didn't already know most of the material taught there. As I told all 3 boys tonight, we should be the first place you come with questions, not the last...and we will never get mad at any question, even though Kenny asked if we would.

As we talked about the wonderful world of pro-creation, relating it to what our friend at that very moment might be going through, the responses were quite interesting. We saw an actual size drawing of a 6 months old fetus and we talked about abortion and what that word meant, how some people honestly think that a fetus at 6 months is not a real life until it is born. The look of horror on all of their faces as I asked them what they thought about it was enough to tell me that, God forbid, should they ever find themselves in that circumstance they would think twice about whether or not a fetus of 6 months is "really" a living person. I also brought up the fact that no matter whether or not their birth moms could keep them, they loved them enough to give them life and that many women in their country make a different choice.

We talked about cell division, Fallopian tubes, and deodorant. We talked about Kenny's cleft and birth defects and how all of that happens. I was continually impressed with the thoughtful and introspective questions asked. We were asked which one of us couldn't make a baby, which one had parts that didn't work. Matthew asked me if I was ever depressed or sad that I couldn't make a baby of my own to which I was so glad I could truthfully respond "Not at all, I think all along God had prepared my heart and I just didn't care if I had a child that looked like me. Besides, if I had given birth you three wouldn't be here and I don't even want to think about not having you, it would be too sad!". I did explain, however, that many women are deeply affected by not becoming pregnant, that many men and women can not imagine being able to love a child that does not share their blood or look like them...and that there was nothing wrong with that either, that everyone is different.

As Dominick and I have had our own discussions lately, he has done a stellar job of imparting other just as equally important information to the boys. He and I have had many discussions about girls and their body image, the pressure on them in society today, how past interactions with men can really damage a young girl, and how important he and the boys will all be in helping the girls to feel emotionally secure and whole. In turn, Dominick has often pointed out to the boys lately the overly skinny models on magazine covers, the unrealistic expectations that girls be "model perfect" and how that is not real life but girls think they need to look like that because that is the example set before them. He has made a point of telling the boys that they will need to be gentlemanly to their sisters, and that the girls will take what they say to heart so they should watch their words carefully and think about their feelings. He has taught them that their own compliments of their sisters will be able to work miracles with their self-esteem and even gone so far as to explain that if their sisters feel loved, appreciated and confident in who they are then they will not feel such a strong need to turn to a boy to get that feeling. We have both emphasized to all three that the respect they show their sisters and mother is the respect they will eventually show their girlfriends and wives, and that young ladies who will make good wives will appreciate that behavior. I know it may seem a little overboard to say such things to a 5 year old like Joshie, but we believe that it is never too early to start teaching responsibility and respect. Maybe we are wrong, but it is what works for us...and maybe we are Parenting Freaks of Nature! hahaha!

I have no doubt that we will have plenty of additional questions during the coming days as they digest some of what they learned, as new things they see and hear in their daily lives brings new questions to mind. And I am continually reminded of the miracle of birth as I look at my three sons. It doesn't matter a whit whether or not I experienced it myself or not, my life is lived in daily amazement at what the birds and bees hath wrought.

It's not all just about cells is about souls colliding.


Anonymous said...

Can you please tell us the name of the book you are referring to? I applaud you for feeling so comfortable about discussing it with your kids. I have to admit that it doesn't come quite as easy for me. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Good for you, for telling them the truth and using correct terms! Information is always best. We call Michael's part "Mr. Happy" although I had voted for the correct term. My 74 year old mother who lives with us just couldn't handle that, however.

I told Michael months ago how babies got here and he was fascinated, then said OK, can I go play now? He was 11 and nobody had ever told him anything. I wish I had had your book - I drew my own cartoons which were awful... LOL


Cindy LaJoy said...

"We call Michael's part "Mr. Happy" although I had voted for the correct term." Well, while we know what the terms are and use them around the house, the boys had a teenage friend who taught the boys to call the entire "region" by a new name..."Area 51". I gotta admit, that one has kind of stuck around our here :-)

Cindy LaJoy said...

"Can you please tell us the name of the book you are referring to? I applaud you for feeling so comfortable about discussing it with your kids. I have to admit that it doesn't come quite as easy for me. Thanks!" Kelly, the book I am using is titled "It's So Amazing" and is written by Robie Harris. While I felt it got too involved in many places for the kids, and shared a more information than would hold their interest or than I felt they needed to know quite yet, it has terrific cartoon-like drawings that are accurate and I basically ad libbed through it, adding in some of our own beliefs about when a person should try to make babies, that they should be married before they ever do such things, talking about what we will and won't allow them to do and at what ages we think things are appropriate, and how they will have to make their own decisions and we hope they are wise when they do so. The books is great on facts, not so great on morals which I wouldn't expect but maybe we can find something more in that direction later on. I mainly needed good drawings so, like Dee in her comment, I didn't have to draw my own which would look NOTHING like the real thing! And it is so funny how kids take it all in so matter of factly, especially if you don't wait until the age where the the embarassment really begins.

Cindy LaJoy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hello Cindy,

I love the way you are raising your boys! When my girls are older we'll take them to the US and introduce them to your sons. I would love if they would fall in love and marry kind sensitive men.

Best wishes to you all,

Lindsay said...

I love that you are giving your boys such matter of fact information. I also totally agree with the fact that you go with the correct names for parts of the body. Helping normalise these terms stops the kind of sniggering and embarassement that actually does stop children seeking answers to life's questions. It never ceases to amaze me when I am teaching PSHE the level of embarassment or sheer lack of knowledge that teenagers can display over simply naming the parts of their body. Get our children used to using the correct terms and the embarassment disappears.

I do think part of the problem these days is that there is so much awareness of abuse of children that we are actually in danger of creating a society where parents fear normal interactions and conversations with their children. Parents avoid raising sex education issues and answering children's normal questions and even naming body parts to them because there is a climate of fear with parents at risk of being accused of all sorts if their actions or motives are misunderstood or misrepresented.

Even very young children can have complex questions and understand quite complex ideas if it is presented in appropriate language. Why should procreation be a taboo subject of discussion when they have innocent and natural questions to ask? Teens and taboos are a terrible combination and I applaud you for getting your boys comfortable and familiar with such topics early on. Too many parents do leave it all for the schools to handle when it is their responsibility to equip their children with this information and moral base.

And your last sentence: It's not all just about cells is about souls colliding.....

just beautiful.

Anonymous said...

We taught the boys to refer to their "region" as their penis and their bottom. Sophie on the other hand refers to her parts as "the woman" and the "bad dragon" but then she's always had her own spin on things.

Living on a farm has opened up the birds and bees conversation many many times... particularly since we breed sheep. We have approached it from a more functional aspect (which sheep breed well, which ones don't and why, why the rams have to be kept separate). Our newest donkey's birth fueled a few questions, and they seemed to roll with it. They've seen the sheep breed so they understand what goes where (although I did have to explain some positional things that did make me blush!!)

I used to teach riding lessons and was the person to have "the talk" with over half my students (thanks to an over amorous gelding and his lady love... my favorite line "what is he doing?" and on explaining "ewwww, yuck!")

I've found that staying as factual as possible and keeping the "prissy-talk" out of the discussion helps kids keep it in a informational context. Most just want to know the mechanics of how it works.

Once an adult starts adding innuendo (as happened with one of my students parents) then things tend to go badly and devolves into vulgarity.... not pleasant.

So I applaud you :) I think it's brilliant to have an open ended sex-ed convo with your kids... I think the more kids know the better off they are.

Anonymous said...

Kudos! As a counselor who works with sexually abused children I hear lots of various nicknames for sex organs. Ones that cause me to cringe are those such as "cookie." What message does that give? We 'share' cookies!! It is much less confusing for children to know the real name. Not to suggest that some of your blog responders are wrong for allowing their children to use nicknames - they might just consider making sure their children know the real names of their body parts and make sure nicknames don't suggest other meanings or that their sexual body parts are 'treats' for others. Most people would be shocked to hear how perpetrators take advantage of the innocent names children use for their "private" parts! Good job, as always with your sweet boys! Miss Joan

Christina said...

I agree that adoption brings up topics sooner and in different ways for children. My kids asked when they were quite young (4 and 5) did they have a birth dad, who was he, and how come he would be called the birth dad? All this after we became their parents and hearing conversation about their dead birth mom. Their birth dads are all unknown as their birthmom was on drugs and lead a lifestyle that would produce kids with unknown birthdads, but we answered that with yes, they had birth dads, but their mom died before she told us who they were... This was enough of an answer for a while, and then the questions got deeper... (and more specific). We talk alot about the correct terms (they arrived at my house calling their parts "peanut", even my daughter called herself "peanut")but we talk about how it is safe to talk to us (mom and dad) about sex and any questions they might have because sex is how you become a family. So far, this has worked well. We have had some frank discussions about where babies come from, and I feel that because of the adoption it made the conversations need greater details to answer the kids questions.