The Birds and the Bees and Belonging as a Family

“Mama, where do babies come from?” I stared at my five-year old son: he wasn’t really asking me about the birds and the bees, now was he?

He looked at me, eyes wide in expectation.

“Well buddy,” I replied, taking a deep breath, “babies come from their mommies’ tummies.” I felt far from ready for the conversation we were embarking upon.

This must be what Anne Lamott calls a “Help!” prayer, I thought to myself. Help, Lord – I have no clue what I’m supposed to say right now. Help, Lord – shouldn’t my husband, an actual man with man parts, be here to help me field this question? Help, Lord – shouldn’t I first have the chance to consult social media, read a plethora of books on the subject, and ask all the parents on the playground, too?

Feeling rather in over my head, I stared at the wall, hopeful my answer was enough in the moment. But, of course, it wasn’t. The boy naturally notices everything in the world around him – he is the human embodiment of Curious George himself.

So, y’all know what question came next:

“How do babies get in their mommies’ tummies, Mama?” At this point, the fourth grader within me returned, cheeks aflame in scarlet glory. This is not happening, this is not happening, this is not happening.

“Well buddy, the mama and the dada give each other a special hug,” I said, my words sticky like molasses on my tongue, down my throat, right down to the belly that once grew tiny fetuses all by itself.

“But how do mommies and daddies give each other a special hug? How do they, Mama?” I gulped at his question.

“Their bodies just seem to fit together,” I said, my answer enough for the time being – at least when it came to the basics of heterosexual biology.

A couple of weeks later, his appetite for knowledge proved even more insatiable, so my husband and I ordered a book from Amazon. Every night before he and his brother went to bed, we read a couple of two-page chapters, written just for kids his age. We read about girls’ bodies and women’s bodies, boys’ bodies and men’s bodies; we discussed the changes that happen in the human body, and how it’s natural and normal and glorious, too. And, of course, we read about that special hug called “sex” or “making love,” and about how a baby grow in a mama’s body, and about all the different kinds of families, too.

We read it all, folks.

And at the end of it all, when it was time to start reading the book again, I thought to myself, who better to talk to my son about bodies and sex for the first time than me, his parent?

He’s not hearing rumors on the playground.

He’s not receiving shame from the Church.

He’s not making up magical stories in his head.

But he’s getting the facts, and he’s processing it with his very own mom and dad. Together, we’re learning and we’re growing and we’re dialoguing. We’re creating a safe space for conversations to come, as we put together the pieces of the puzzle. We’re binding ourselves as a familial unit, together in awe at the holiness of God’s creation.

In her recently released book, Braving the Wilderness, Dr. Brene Brown tells a story of disconnectedness with her family: “Not belonging in our families is still one of the most dangerous hurts. That’s because it has the power to break our heart, our spirit and our sense of self worth.”

So, here’s the deal: more than anything, I desire that my little family be a place of deep belonging, a refuge that fills the heart, the spirit and the self worth of all who live here. Because maybe this belonging – to ourselves, to each other and to God – really does start with the simplest of conversations.

For my family and me, we’re going to keep reading and discussing and entering into conversation about the birds and the bees, and whatever else comes our way. And in the midst of it, you know I’m going to keep on whispering, Help, Lord!  

But I think you’ll also hear me uttering holy prayers of Thanks and Wow, too.

Or so I hope.

Cara Meredith

Writer at Be Mama Be
Cara Meredith is a writer and speaker from Seattle, Washington. She is passionate about issues of racial and social justice, and also can’t get enough of dinners around the table with those she loves. Her first book, a memoir about her journey into issues of race, releases in January 2019 (Zondervan).

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  • I love this, and we’ve just lived the other end of that conversation with one of our sons a few weeks before his wedding. We gave him a book to read, “written just for kids his age,” and it was his turn to be a little sheepish and a lot cool. “I think I’m fine,” said he with all possible manliness.

    However, he texted his dad a few days later to thank him and say that there was quite a bit in the book that he hadn’t realized. Still chuckling just a teensy bit over that.

    • I love it. Learning – or at least “getting” it, for all of us – happens when we’re ready, on our own time. And it sounds like that move with your son was perfectly timed. To remembering these stories!

    • What I love most about this anecdote is the belonging you’ve created in your family for your son to come back and text his dad. Good work. 🙂

      Well done, Cara. I think along with help, thanks, and wow, “I’m sorry” (to God and kids) goes a long way.

      • Yes. I’m such a huge fan of not only modeling, but of saying and meaning all those “I’m sorry’s.” Good word!

  • Nicole Walters

    That’s the book I used with our 7 year old (our son has yet to care enough about it to ask questions). It was neat because we could address just the questions she had at the moment, loved that it was more of a “science of things” book but we could address how our faith fit into it ourselves, didn’t feel like I needed help with that part. It wasn’t scary like I thought it would be because I was determined she’d hear it from me first (I heard it all from school) and know what a beautiful, God-given miracle families are from an early age. Good job, momma!

    • DebSteve Rhoads

      Hi Nicole. I couldn’t open the link to the book. Could you message me the title, link, whatever… i’d love to check it out. Thank you!

    • Aw shucks, thank you, friend. It is a GIFT for them to hear it from us first, that’s for sure!

  • “Not belonging in our families is still one of the most dangerous hurts. That’s because it has the power to break our heart, our spirit and our sense of self worth.” YES! And I hope I’m breaking that generational curse in my family. I want home to be the hub for us all. Thank you for sharing this great article, friend.

    • To breaking the generational curse, for SURE. In this with you, friend.