I recently gave the boys two age appropriate books about bodies and where babies come from and all that. I found one called It's Not the Stork for ages 4 and up, and its companion for older children called It's So Amazing. I had botched any attempt at having an appropriate discussion about babies the last few times they asked, and I had noticed that they had stopped asking me anything about how babies were made altogether. I realized I was about to lose control over the flow of information - if they decided Mama was an unreliable source of truth, they would start asking other people instead. I figured a couple good books were the way to go.
I let them discover the books on their own, and told them they could read them alone or we could read them together, or they could not read them at all. Big Pants voted to read the books on his own. I tucked the boys into bed that night, and Big Pants fell asleep reading one of the books. By some miracle, it migrated to his younger brother's bed by morning.
I waited for the questions to start, but none were forthcoming. I wondered if I should bring it up or not, but decided to wait a little longer. Finally, at dinnertime, Tiny Pants had something to say.
TINY PANTS: Well, that book answered one question I've had for a long time.
MAMA: What was that?
TINY PANTS: How girls pee. It's called the Opening of the Virginia.
MAMA: Actually, babies come out of their Mama's bodies through the vagina, but they pee through their urethra.
TINY PANTS: No, it's called the Opening of the Virginia.
TINY PANTS: Virginia.
I gave up.
A few days later we flew to Florida for a family vacation. Tiny Pants brought The Book. We were seated in the back of a full flight, elbow-to-elbow with strangers, though luckily, Tiny Pants had a window seat. He pulled out The Book.
TINY PANTS: Mama, is it pronounced, Ah-Noos?
MAMA: No, it is Ay-Nus.
TINY PANTS: Is it Vel-vah?
(Oh God, please don't let the people around us be listening. I know that's a poorly constructed sentence, but I can't think clearly.)
MAMA: No, it is VUL-VAH.
I was trying really hard. Really, I was. I wished they would ask Daddy instead. I wished for that as hard as I could.
After vacation, The Book accidentally went to Daddy's house. I was hoping it would stay there and Daddy could deal with it. No such luck. It reappeared the following week in the Daddy-And-Mommy-Bag we use to transfer toys between houses.
At this point, Big Pants had finished reading both of the books I had given him, the one for ages 4 and up and the one for ages 7 and up. Tiny Pants really wanted his brother to read the one for ages 10 and up, even though he is only 9. I thought about it. He was almost 9 and 1/2. He was close.
MAMA: Big Pants, do you want to read the last book?
BIG PANTS: Oh, Mama, I have enough knowledge for now. I'll wait for September.
Tiny Pants became frustrated with his own reading ability, so he asked me to read The Book to him. Every night I read just a few pages. We went through the names of all of the body parts, inside and out, for both sexes. We even discussed circumcision. Then one night I saw that the next night we would be reading the Penis goes in the Vagina part. Oh Lord, give me strength. I was not ready for this.
But, miraculously, Tiny Pants lost interest. The next night, he requested I read Diary of a Wimpy Kid instead of The Book. The same thing happened the next few nights.
My mother used to say that, "God watches out for fools and drunks," but apparently Someone has their eye on really uncomfortable mothers as well.
Eventually I had to tell the children the basic penis-into-the-vagina mechanics. I had heard that Big Pants was due for The Talk at school during health class, and I had to make sure he knew the score. I remember being mortified in fifth grade when we had the big sex talk at school and I didn’t know what fallopian tubes were. How had my mother neglected to teach me about the alien arms of the ueterus? So I sat the boys at the kitchen table and briefly and quickly said something rapid fire like, “the-penis-goes-into-the-vagina-and-transfers-sperm-do-you-have-any-questions?” And I added something about doctors being able to accomplish the same in same-sex relationships or if people had medical difficulties conceiving, because we have friends in both camps, and I am nothing if not inclusive.
Big Pants just wanted to get away from that table faster than I did, but Tiny Pants had a few questions:
“Did you need a doctor to get pregnant with me?”
“No. Anything else?”
“When a woman has her period, does she wrap her entire body in toilet paper like a mummy?”
“Umm, no. They make special pads for that.”
(Tampons were not a discussion I was ready to have, nor was I going into menstrual cups. But seriously—how often did he see mummified women walking down the street???)