When my son was thirteen months old, I took him back East to meet his cousins, Aunt and Uncle. One night, in the middle of this visit, ensconced with my son and three nieces in a cozy bed, my oldest niece suddenly looked at me and said in a perplexed tone, “Tanya, he’s so cute. But I just don’t get it. How does the baby get out? Is there an operation and does it hurt or does the hospital give it to you? I mean, how do you get a baby?” A little flustered as to how to answer, I wound up telling her that it takes part luck and part biology to make a baby and that she might want to talk to her mom about the specifics.
Over the next month, this conversation kept creeping back into my mind. As my thoughts swirled around the topic, I couldn’t help but think about how I couldn’t remember not knowing how babies are made. Soon after, I decided that I would talk about this subject with my son at a very young age in a low-key manner. Fortunately for me, I serendipitously soon found a Dr. Ruth pop-up book that explained this very topic.
And so, between the ages of three and four, we read this book innumerable times. Before bed, in the mornings, and at nap times, we learned how to spell S-E-X, what it’s all about, and how it works. By the end of this phase, I had developed a pretty good analogy for explaining how babies are made.
In the shortened version, I would tell my son that making babies is isn’t too different from making a cake. You need some ingredients, an egg and a sperm. And, just like when we’re baking, the ingredients need to mix together to make something new. The mom’s uterus is the oven, with the only difference being that instead of an hour, it takes nine months before a baby’s ready to come out and be enjoyed. Most importantly, though, just like when we make a cake, it’s important to make sure that you love the person you have sex with since it makes the experience (and the baby) all the sweeter. And then, adopting the philosophy of spray and pray, I fervently hoped that my son absorbed the main messages.
A couple of years ago, my seven year old son casually approached me as he was getting ready for bed and calmly stated that “A lot of my friends think hugging and kissing is disgusting, but I don’t get it. It’s just a natural fact of life. Right mom?” “Right.” And with this quiet declaration, I knew that my son had indeed retained one of the valuable tenets that I had espoused to him.
As I watch him grow older, quietly but steadily approaching teenagehood with all of its precarious uncertainty and novelty, I hold on to the hope that he will keep his heart open, make his emotions visible, and dare to take emotional risks while treasuring himself enough to only share his intimate self with one he loves and who can reciprocate in measure.