It's not like I didn't see it coming. We spend a lot of time on public transportation, and Zinashi takes every ride as her opportunity to pepper me with questions, knowing that there is little to distract me unless the baby is trying to crawl off my lap or I get a time sensitive text message. She's asked about why there are boogers in our noses and what makes people smell different. She's asked why someone who was wearing tights as pants didn't know about privacy. But until last night, questions about how babies are made have been confined to times we are at home.
We approach questions about biological functions of all sorts pragmatically. We answer the question she's asking, and if it is about a more grown up topic, we do not offer additional information about the subject beyond exactly what she's asked. So I'd told her already that two parts have to go together to make a baby, the egg from the woman and the sperm from the man. She didn't ask how that happened, so I stopped there.
Last night at dinner, she found out that a friend's mom is pregnant, and so naturally she had more questions. Being exceptionally inquisitive, she simply couldn't wait to ask more questions. On the N, on our way home, she started in immediately. She began by asking about the egg. Why doesn't it come out of the mom before the baby comes out? Does it have a shell? So it's not like the eggs we eat? I was hoping to keep that line of questioning coming until we got home, but no.
There was a pause.
She sighed, looked up at me, and said, "I just need to know exactly how the parts go together from the mom and the dad to put the baby in the tummy."
I obviously wasn't going to answer her in front of everyone on the train. But I had to give some sort of answer...in front of everyone on the train. So I told her that just like there are parts of our bodies that are private, there are some things that happen that make a baby that are private, so we will talk about it at home.
So far today, she hasn't asked about it again. I do intend to bring up the subject. Not-quite-six years old is not the time I thought I'd be having the birds and bees talk with her, but I don't want her to feel awkward or ashamed about the subject. I want her to know that if she has a question, I will answer it.
What I recall about my own conversation with my mother about how babies come to be is that she put me off for a long time, and then it was embarrassing. We didn't really talk about those things in our family. I think that was the way it was for a lot of families. But if I want my daughters to feel comfortable asking questions and bringing concerns to me, I need to remove the awkwardness and make it clear that this is nothing to be embarrassed about.
Right now Zinashi has a healthy sense of openness within our family and boundaries outside our family. When faced with an I'll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours situation, she did exactly the what I taught her to do and said no, told me what happened, and wasn't embarrassed. I want to keep things this way. I also want to give her a healthy respect for her body and for the bodies of others, for the things they can do, and the responsibilities surrounding all those things, including making a baby. Even though I hadn't anticipated discussing this subject just yet, I think it's good. I think she's ready.
Now I just have to put my own learned sense of embarrassment aside and tell her what she needs to know. I won't be approaching the s*x for pleasure angle, just the mechanics of making the baby. Like I said before, I answer the question she's asking and don't give her a lot of additional information. I know that she will have more questions as time goes by, and by allowing her to ask those and giving an answer readily and without making a big deal of it, she will learn all she needs to know in a way that is (hopefully) natural and comfortable for both of us.
You know, if she'll just stop asking those questions on public transportation.