“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.