The Scene: it is Sunday night. I am doing Viva’s hair, a long process of sectioning and oiling and combing through each section and twisting each section down into one long plait, secured with a barrette. Because this is a long process, we generally watch a movie while it’s going on. It doesn’t take me the whole movie to finish her hair, but it’s a nice ritual involving microwave popcorn and lemonade.
The Movie: we are watching Shrek the Third. There is a point at which (spoilers ahead! For a movie that’s at least a couple of years old!) Shrek (the ogre, in case you’ve been living under a rock) is leaving on a quest in a large ship going out of the harbor. His wife Fiona is on shore and she calls out, “I’m pregnant!” Shrek is completely freaked out, and as the boat pulls away, the following conversation takes place:
Shrek: I can't believe I'm going to be a father. How did this happen?
Puss In Boots: Allow me to explain. When a man falls in love with a woman, he is overcome with powerful urges—
Shrek [yelling]: I know how it happened! I just can't believe it. [stomps off]
Donkey [to Puss]: How *does* it happen?
Viva [to me]: How *does* it happen?
Mama: Oh, well – you know, we’ve talked about this a little before. You know the daddy kind of plants a seed in the mommy and it grows into a baby.
Viva: But HOW does he do it?
Mama [biting the bullet]: Well, the daddy puts his [clinical term] into the mommy’s [clinical term] and—
Viva: Oh my GOD.
Mama: Yeah, that’s pretty much everyone’s reaction when they first find out. It sounds unbelievable, but that’s how it happens.
Viva: That is WEIRD.
Mama: Well, when two people love each other, it’s kind of like – it’s a very special kind of hugging that they do.
Viva: You mean a very WEIRD kind of hugging.
Mama: Okay then.
And by then we were on to the scene where Shrek is having nightmares about ogre babies projectile vomiting and crying and having multiple near-accidents, and that was the end of that.
I’ve shared this story with a few people since then, and the reaction seems to be: “Wow, I can’t believe you straight out told her like that.”
I’m really not sure what else I was expected to do. She asked me a question and I answered honestly in a spur-of-the-moment way that I hope was age-appropriate. I want her to feel she can ask me anything, and I don’t want her to feel like the Big Topics are off-limits. And it seems to me that 6 is a pretty reasonable age for her to be curious about where babies come from, and that now I can go ahead and get a book like this, or this, or this, for us to read together and talk if she wants to. (I think when I was little I read this. I wonder if it’s held up over the years or if it’s dated.)
At any rate, I would love to hear from you about your experiences talking with your own kids, or your own “birds and the bees” talk with your parent(s), if you ever had The Talk. My mom was always very frank with me and my sister, and I’d like to be the same way with my kids. Curious to hear other people's experiences! PG only please!