By the time their brother was born a few months ago, our kids understood that he had grown inside my body and that he would be born either vaginally or "through the sunroof." However, with the exception of our oldest (a fifth grader), our kids really hadn't grasped how the baby got in there in the first place. When I asked them recently, it was clear that my kids think babies are made in all sorts of hilarious ways.
As a parent, it's my responsibility to keep my kids safe as they grow. I try to share my values with them every day — empathy, generosity, respect, consent, compassion, and kindness — while understanding that some day they will have to navigate the world without me. That freaks me the hell out. So, I talk openly with them about their bodies, and don't shy away from questions, even ones that are surprising or scary, like how the baby got in my uterus, why I get my period, and what the word "rape" means. I try to be sex positive and to use medically accurate terminology for body parts and what those body parts do. I also call out misogyny when I see it, like slut shaming, sexualization of girls, and bullsh*t dress codes. I don’t want them to feel shame about their bodies, sex, or sexuality.
Since they are still pretty young, my partner and I have time to teach our children about how their bodies work and how babies are made, which in my opinion is seriously important. Studies have shown that kids who receive comprehensive sex education wait longer to have sex for the first time, experience fewer teen pregnancies, use condoms and contraception at higher rates, and contract less sexually transmitted infections, than kids who don't. Whether I like it or not, my kids are going to have sex some day. When they do (in 20 years, right?), I want it to be great, healthy, consensual sex. I want them to know how to access effective birth control and to negotiate condom use. I will talk with them about all of these things, of course, but for now it appears that the important question of the day is, "Where do babies come from? "
Here were their answers:
When I asked my 6-year-old stepson where babies come from, he shrugged and it was clear that either he didn't want to talk about it or he didn't want to be wrong. I didn't press him. There will be plenty of time to teach him about "the birds and the bees" later.
They Grow In Mommy's Tummy
All of our kids understood that me being pregnant meant that their baby brother was growing inside of me, and that I would grow larger as he grew larger, too, and until he was ready to come out. I tried not to take it personally when my 4 year old asked me if I was growing another baby after we brought his brother home from the hospital. "No, sweetheart, mommy's just postpartum. It's normal to look this way."
"They Are Made Of Parts Of Mom & Dad"
My partner and I told our kids about how they share DNA with both their dad and mom, and we explained that in order for that to happen, daddy's sperm combined with mommy's egg to create a fetus. They didn't, however, ask how that sperm got inside mommy. Thankfully.
"Storks Make Them In A Factory"
Hollywood really makes it hard to be honest with kids. When I asked my 4 year old where babies came from, he answered, "Storks. They make them in a factory." When I responded, "That's just a pretend story," he looked at me like I was the one telling stories. Now my kid thinks I'm lying to him.
This one is actually pretty close to the truth. There were a few snuggles, and then some foreplay, and some seriously good orgasms, but I am not about to tell my kids about my sex life.
"Mommy Ate Something"
My 8 year old is pretty sure that babies come from mommies eating lots of food. I think this theory is the result of numerous explanations, in which I told my daughter I needed to eat a balanced died to create the right nutrients for her brother to grow inside of me. She doesn't quite understand that babies don't grow in stomachs (unless they are burrito babies, that is).
My 11-year-old stepdaughter knows what sex is, mechanically speaking, and has read enough young adult novels to understand that it's ideally something you do with someone you love, like a vampire, or a werewolf. Kidding.
She's still at an age when she prefers to explore these topics at school and through science books, blushing when I talk about my period or kiss her dad in front of her. However, she knows that when she's ready, we will answer her questions honestly and without shame, even when they make us want to crawl through the floor, because sex education is so important and part of our job as parents.