Aug 22, 2011  •  In Parenting, Personal

Before I Knew About Sex…

Lately I have been wondering how I will tackle the inevitable question that all parents get asked by their young children:

Where do babies come from?

My parents will be the first to admit that I was an unusual child. Always preferring books over other children, and never having to be reminded to go study, do my homework, practice the piano, etc, I am told that I hardly ever asked my parents or other adults questions about the curiosities of life. Rather, I chose to seek out the answers myself (usually in a book).

And when I could not discover the answer myself…

I went ahead and devised my own theories.

So before being instructed on the birds and the bees by fellow classmates during a traumatizing recess period in the third grade, I believed that pregnancy was a disease that only women can catch.

How did one “catch” this disease?

By eating infected watermelon seeds!

As such, I was very careful about never, ever swallowing watermelon seeds. :-)


(image source)

I know that as parents, it is J and my job to instruct our children about sex, and that having a healthy and open conversation with them about it will be better for them in the long run.

(That being said, if J has his way our daughters will remain pure and virginal forever, never having to find out a thing about sex or boys. ;-) )

I want to be honest with my kids and not give them a B.S. response when they ask me difficult questions. At the same time, I do know that some truths are inappropriate for young children, i.e., telling them anything more graphic than “When a mommy and a daddy love each other very much…” may be traumatizing.

Luckily, we still have at least a few more years until we need to devise a plan of action.

Before you knew about sex, where did you think (or were told) babies came from?

What do you believe is the best way to tell a young child about sex and the origin of babies?

17 Responses to “Before I Knew About Sex…”

  1. AmandaT:

    Hahaha, I thought my parents bought me at the department store. I had this picture of a clothing rack filled with babies hanging by their diapers. The truth was kind of a relief after that.

  2. I gained a lot of my knowledge from a Madonna video, can’t remember which one. I knew that kissing and being under sheets at the same time was involved, but I didn’t take my theorizing any farther. You guys were much more creative than I (although my early career aspirations did include being a helicopter or, failing that, an airplane).

  3. I thought french kissing made babies. I also thought losing one’s virginity meant being french kissed for the first time. Scandalous!

    My parents simply never told me anything about ANYTHING sex related, and their complete silence told me it’s shameful to have questions or wonder what’s going on with my body during puberty, etc. I was lucky to have an older sister who was very open to talk about all that stuff – she had to suffer through the same awkwardness in silence.

    The few times I did ask my mom a question, I was met with the implication that I was immoral (and, seriously, I was as innocent as they come!). That’s not healthy. I think just showing your kids that they can always come to you with questions will help them out when the topics get awkward. That’s my hope for my kids: I want them to feel like talking with me is always safe.

  4. Rachel:

    My parents didn’t ever talk to me about sex either and did a horrible job explaining puberty (until I got my first one I thought periods were just like going pee, only you pee blood-you can imagine my surprise at the real deal). I ended up educating myself. I only have a theoretical knowledge of parenting but I think the first thing I’ll do when my kids ask is to see what they think and go from there. Maybe a “these are the terms I’ll explain when you’re older” talk, because how do you explain to a child something as emotionally involved as s-e-x?

  5. Christine:

    I had older siblings who told me about it, so no surprise there. They showed me the thin books that came from school (we went to private catholic school) and explained the whole process.

    On to a different matter – my baby has sprung his first tooth! I remember a long time ago you spoke of an amber necklace. Did Claire like it? Did it really help? Thanks in advance!

  6. I don’t remember every finding out where babies come from. I was 4 when my little sister was born, so my parents must have told me something, but I don’t remember.

    My mom did a really good job with birds and bees stuff for me. There was never one specific talk, or a sit down. As far back as I could remember I could/would ask her anything I wanted to know. I came home from 4th grade and asked her what a boner was since Daniel Larimer said he had one when Mr. Saskiewitz was out of the room.

    My mom was my primary source of info on all of that and it served me well. She’s a nurse at a public school (when I was little, a public high school) and knew all too well what happens when girls don’t know their birds and bees.

    Or maybe she was so good because when she was a little girl going to Catholic school in Brooklyn she was embarrassed when Margaret Mary Hanrahan laughed at her for thinking women got pregnant from men coughing. Margaret Mary said, “Then you wouldn’t know who your father was! It could be some man on the bus!”

  7. I maintain that if and when we decide to have kids, the stork is bringing mine. :)

  8. My parents never really talked about sex…when I was 10 they handed me a book about it and left the house for 2 hours. As a result, I had some very confused ideas…like, I thought that a period meant you had blood coming out of your nipples (eek!). I do wish talk about stuff like that was more *acceptable* in our house growing up, because then I wouldnt have felt so ashamed and guilty about body changes as a teenager.

  9. I don’t remember ever being curious about where babies come from, which is really odd since I was always curious about how *everything* worked. I’m the eldest girl in a family of 15 cousins, so there were many babies born into my life. I have no memory of having an “omg, that’s where babies come from?” moment, though, so I’m not exactly sure how/when I learned about babies.

    My mother also never had a “birds and bees” conversation with me until a month before I got married. By that time, TV and movies had gone into further detail than she did, anyway. :-P

  10. Great post!!! Good luck!! : )

    OK, so, my mom did a good job and did explain everything when I was in elementary school. Unfortunately, one of my friends(a boy) beat her to it, and told me sex was when people touched their butts together. We then proceeded to do just that (clothed!!), and since I was an anxiety-prone child, who probably shouldn’t have been allowed to watch the news, and this was the early 90’s, I FREAKED OUT (like, seriously) that I was going to get AIDS. Ha!!!! I feel so bad for my poor 6 year old self!!

  11. Dad is a pedotrician and mom is an ob/gyn… both were Navy docs.

    With that background, and the fact I am a boy, I knew about sex and babies pretty early, maybe 6ish.

    Of course I also had a kind of inherited clinical detachment with both subjects, which extended throughout most of my childhood. I did however, like boys do, put my knowledge to use disgusting girls when I was younger, and chasing after them when I got into my teens. :-)

    Having a sister that is 14, I agree with J though, my little sister is my princess and I will greet her first serious boyfriend with a shovel, shotgun, and overalls. Hopefully that will scare him into being a lot more virtous than I was :-)

  12. Dejavuj:

    Check out “From Diapers to Dating: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children” by Debra Haffner. It’s the best book so far on the topic. Let me know if you read it! :)

  13. With a former-hippie psychologist mother, I pretty much never DIDN’T know about sex. She explained it to me in simple terms from preschool on. And if it’s any consolation, I found boys and dating relatively boring and didn’t really get serious about either one till my late 20s. Maybe there’s something to be said for taking the mystery away?

  14. I remember asking about where babies came from in elementary school, expecting some kind of bs answer. Mom, being an art major that started in biology, instead gave me (and my younger sister) a detailed description of what happens along with hand-drawn visuals. I don’t think my later biology books had so much detail! I still remember it and, when asked about it, that was apparently Mom’s plan all along.

  15. Deanna:

    I don’t remember what my parents told me, but I think I knew it was something men and women did in bed. I remember when my friends and I played barbies, I thought that if Ken and Midge went to bed for a half hour, they’d have one baby, an hour two babies, etc. Can you imagine?!

    As for telling the girls, a friend of mine had a great idea. She told her 5 year old when asked “your daddy and I prayed and prayed to god that he would put a baby in my belly, and luckily he did.” It’s so generic, not a lie at all, and something you could always build on later if they ask again :)

  16. Haha, that is pretty funny. I don’t remember what I thought about the subject, although I do remember my mom having the books that told the story of where babies come from in a kid-friendly way, and I guess whenever I had questions, she would pull out those books.

  17. Emily:

    When I was a kid, I had a sweet little book called “So That’s How I Was Born.” It has pretty detailed explanations of some of the biological workings, like what an egg is, without going into much detail about sex itself, except to indicate that it’s something intimate that mommies and daddies share when they’re in love. You might like it, because it doesn’t shy away from talking about the “truth” of how babies come into existence but it does it in a way that’s appropriate for very young children. I don’t think there’s really any chance you’re going to “traumatize” your daughters, but I do think it’s hard for them to contextualize sex at young ages, and I think that’s one very good book to help you.

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