Words from the Why's
by Karen PlattI am about five months pregnant and my six-year-old is full of questions—everything from how do babies get made1 and how does milk get into a woman’s breasts2 to who decides whether the baby is a girl or boy3 and how will the baby get born4. Then there are all of the other questions about penises, breasts, pubic hair—you name it. I don’t want to discourage his curiosity but I’m afraid I’m in over my head. Every time I explain something, he wants to know more; his favourite word is “why?” I don’t want to give him the wrong answers and I’m not sure how much he really needs to know. Help!
Why? My favourite question. Isn’t it funny how some kids are happy with a one-sentence answer and an ice cream while others never seem to reach the bottom of the curiosity barrel. I wonder why?
While it may seem you have your work cut out for you, don’t despair. Just the fact that you want to encourage such eager curiosity allows your son to continue asking and the two of you to learn together. Consider that you are creating the foundation for a very healthy sexual future for your son.
One of the biggest fallacies a parent can hold is thinking she has to know everything before she leaps into the abyss of sexual information. Trust me, no one knows it all and there are lots of great resources available out there. Once upon a time, our parents were limited to books such as The Wonder of Life, a book I found among my parent’s collection of old kids’ books (and one obviously used on me and my sisters to explain the “why’s”), that gave a sketchy, if barely accurate, description of reproduction—with pictures, albeit anatomically-adjusted-for-decency ones. I suspect it may have been considered an “edgy” book in its time.
But in a time of truly fabulous books for both kids and parents and, of course, the internet, you are not alone with Mr. Curiosity nor left trying to fill in where those “private bits” were supposed to be. The biggest challenge is sifting through the masses of information to find clear, concise, simple and, most importantly, accurate facts for both of you.
But before I send you off with some great reads and sites, here are a few “becauses” in response to those most pressing “why’s” in your letter:
• Why1? A baby is made when sperm from the man joins with an egg (or ova) inside the woman. The man delivers sperm to the egg by placing his penis inside the woman’s vagina. It is something adults do when... insert your values here.
•Why2? When a woman is pregnant, chemicals in the body called hormones prepare the breasts to feed the baby after it’s born. When the baby is born these hormones tell the breasts to start making milk.
• Why3? Both men and women have reproductive cells—men have sperm and women have ova (or eggs). Each reproductive cell has sex chromosomes—the sperm an X or a Y; the egg has only an X. The male’s sperm will decide whether the baby is a boy or girl; if a sperm with an X chromosome meets the egg, the baby will be a girl. If it’s a sperm with a Y, the baby will be a boy.
•Why4? After about 40 weeks, most babies are ready to be born and will be born through the vagina; sort of like sliding down a big water slide. Sometimes the doctor will do a surgery called a Caesarean section and lift the baby out through the abdomen.
Let me reassure you that, assuming your boundaries are intact around the intimate details of your sex life, it is pretty difficult to overload a kid with information; most will simply stop listening or move on to a more interesting activity when you’ve gone too deeply into the involvement of the hormones prolactin and oxytocin in lactation (have I lost you
And for that list of great books and websites, head to islandparent.ca/current/birdsand.html
.Karen Platt, MA, is a writer and sexual health educator. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.