I’m not quite sure I understood what it all meant at the time, but I was soon to find out. I was 9 years old when my parents set me and my other two siblings down to explain that a fourth child would join our family in a few months.
How did this happen, I wondered. Do babies really come from a stork? Where’s it going to sleep? Do I have to share my toys with it? Will it be a boy or a girl?
Although I’m not exactly sure, I think the development was about as surprising to my parents as it was to my siblings and I. But we took in stride and in the process learned some real life lessons.
Over the years my mother has had a good laugh from time to time reminding us about some of the questions we asked as the process progressed.
For instance, she says that one time when we were discussing what was to come that I looked at her quizzically and asked, “So what if it doesn’t like macaroni and cheese?”
I don’t remember the answer, but I assume we were discussing what preborns eat. And, since macaroni and cheese was my favorite food at the time, it must have seemed like a reasonable question to me.
Mom says my brother closest in age to me once asked if the baby had a pillow down there to put its head on. That one seems pretty reasonable, too. I mean, when you’re 8 or so like he was, and you’re trying to figure things out, you’d have to assume it’s pretty dark down there where the baby is hanging out. Since it’s dark, it would seem to be a logical assumption that the baby sleeps a lot. So why wouldn’t a youngster wonder if there was a pillow?
No doubt because of some of those questions, it was around that time that my mother decided she should explain to us exactly how babies are made. I remember it like it was yesterday, probably for two reasons – because I’d never heard of anything even remotely so outlandish, and because I knew my mother wouldn’t lie.
My brother and I were on the bed we shared, probably getting ready for bedtime prayers, when mom came in and told us she wanted to talk to us about something. She was very matter-of-fact, explaining in short but complete detail exactly how babies are made when a husband and wife love each other. It was rather shocking, and while I’m certain I was thinking – What? Wait a minute! Really? – I was too busy processing what I’d just been told to ask questions.
Over the years I always thought that after the initial shock I figured it all out pretty quick, while my brother was a bit confused. But I asked mom about it just the other day and she said it took several minutes for it to sink in for both of us.
She also said it was a really tough thing to explain.
I know it was, but I also know it was something I came to appreciate more than she will probably ever know.
It’s around those elementary school days that such topics start popping up among young boys at recess, lunch or whenever. I remember it happening one day on the school playground clear as a bell. One boy was saying it happened one way, another had another explanation, and the loudest one of all said babies comes out of a mother’s backside.
I wanted to tell them they were all wrong, and explain why. But then I would have had to tell them where I learned such things, and that wouldn’t have been cool, so I kept my mouth shut.
That episode educated me a little more. I learned it’s probably not a good idea to believe the loudmouths and know-it-alls. And I learned that my mother was special for taking the trouble to explain something that several other parents obviously had not.
My mom said that a few years later she explained the whole thing to my sister, who is more than four years my junior. Mom said my sister let her explain the whole thing, then she told mom that she already knew, but she wanted to make sure that what she thought she knew was accurate.
When my own sons got to a certain age my wife and I tried to sit them down and have the birds and bees talk. They said they already knew, and they were quite adamant about it. A couple questions reassured it. Thank goodness.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.