Mommy, Where Do Babies Come From?Posted: May 30, 2010 | |
Recently there was a post from a mom placed on facebook that read: Yesterday, my son asked me how do women get pregnant? It went on to ask for advice as to how to talk to her 5 year old son about sex, babies, pregnancy etc. Some of the responses were sane, but many were bordered on the absurd and gave me something to think about. The little boy’s question had been rolling around my mind. As l lay awake the other night, I felt compelled to answer this question. It seemed to me that an innocent inquiry from a young child, has wider implications in the world we currently occupy.
The crux of my thinking is centered around lying. This is the reason I am writing a response to some of the responses to the mom’s question. Many were advocating telling ridiculous stories about birth to forestall the child’s curiosity. One respondent suggested “we told our son that mommy and daddy go to the doctor, and the doctor takes a little stuff from mommy and a little stuff from daddy, and he puts it inside mommy…” blah blah blah. Children ask these questions for a reason. Their own bodies are in a constant state of change (as all of us are) and they need support in trying to understand these changes. Other than the stork or the tooth fairy, my feeling is to give a straight forward answer, taking into account what you think the child will understand. And believe me, they understand way more than we give them credit for.
The core of the matter here is, is it okay to lie to children? If you are uncomfortable talking about certain things with a young child, does that give you a pass to lie to them, so that you can begin being truthful at some imagined later date? Telling tall tales to put off childhood questions has been a popular technique in our society for many generations. My parents never spoke to me about sex. I am not sure if I ever even pitched the question to them. The truth is, my older sister laid it out for me when I was about 7. Fortunately, she had at her disposal, issues of Life magazine. A published article showing some of the first photos of the fetus forming in the womb. Her explanation, as I recall, was matter-of-fact, fairly scientific for a 12 year old girl, and may of been the last time I ever posed the question. Once she gave me my one class session, I was ready for business. Of course, with my friends help by telling ridiculous dirty jokes and singing raunchy jingles that told of prostitutes, testicle destruction, poop and masturbation.
I say there is no time to lie to a child. Or is lying too strong a word. Should we call it misrepresentation? I think that if you start now, it is never going to stop. And if it is 5 years that you have been “misrepresenting’ the truth, chances are that it is ingrained behavior. Your feeling is to tell a child what you think he/she is ready to hear, what she can understand, and be as simple as possible. Guaranteed he/she is going to figure it out anyhow.
In my first marriage, my former wife never would tell our daughter she was eating lamb chops. We had to tell her it was beef. Her mother was afraid that she was going to make a connection to “Mary’s Little Lamb” and therefore refuse to eat. It was okay to eat Elsie the cow, but LambChop? My daughter is now 24. Maybe it is time we let her in on the deception.
The other thing that it is important to note is that as a parent, you represent a very high and trusted position in your child’s life. Why establish that trust with a pattern of insincerity? Aren’t there enough systems and institutions based on insincerity in the world that he or she will have to process? Religion, Media, Government, and yes, Education, have all based their current ideologies on insincerity and in most cases, outright lying. Lying seems to be epidemic in our society, probably in our species. But it is not a natural development. It is not natural, because it is based on imaginary fears.
Where it concerns my child, and other children as well, because I love children, I want to practice sincerity. It is obvious in the world that the systems for delivering bullshit are firmly in place. So I want to establish this one island of honor-ability. I wish to be one of these refuges, that, when a young person asks me a question that is important to them, to be able to deliver as honest a response as I can, and if I do not know, be willing to admit it. Then I can assist them in finding a sufficient answer.
It should be mentioned here that the most popular book among the 5-8 year old group of boys at the Brooklyn Free School is It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley. There is information on body parts, puberty, reproduction, birth, diseases, and the emotional swings that accompany adolescence. It is presented simply and matter-of-fact. Also these authors have a series of other books dealing with similar subjects aimed at different age groups. For a period of a few months last year, my son and his friends were constantly looking this book over. Fortunately they did not have a prudish, puritan of a teacher, looking angrily down their necks, waving a bony finger. They were allowed to freely express their curiosity.
To tell little Timmy an untruth now, and dress it up in the kind of Santa Claus is watching nonsense, then you are setting up a precedent that is going to repeat itself. It is the same as empty threats. 5 year olds eventually become 15 year olds. And a 15 year old who has been exposed to insincerity, repeatedly and systematically by their parents, can become HELL for those parents. They can become HELL for everyone else as well, but I do not want to be excessive. Ask anyone who has ever had to raise a teenager about what it is like. Teenagers can throw all of our own bullshit right back at us. I am not sure if there is even a way to avoid this. But we can minimize the drama.
There are so many other things that are impeding on childhood. The vast amount of corporate money, which is aimed at marketing to your child, is one. The barrage of commercials that are hitting them from media sources is staggering, with the only intention of getting at your money through your children. History, as it is presented in the classrooms is another huge fairy tale. Religion, which has invented complete and fanciful fantasies in order to hypnotize the masses into fellowship and blind obedience to the imaginary is another source of grand deception.
All of this has the repercussion of alienating the human being from itself. A real spiritual relationship would come from within, and would circumvent all the myths and taboos spun by religious figures. If one has a relationship to oneself, then the fairy tales and parables can take on another meaning. One that could support contemplation. And this relationship starts in the early years when the most profound of questions are asked. I always remember my oldest daughter, when she was 6, asking about death. She wanted to know that, if everything dies, then what is the purpose of all of this (she made a gesture to the world around us)? I felt at that moment, powerless to answer with words. But I felt her question.
We are all struggling to overcome the impact of lying on us. The biggest problem is that, mostly, we have been educated to lie to ourselves. Our self-esteem has been so messed with, that truth has a hard time finding its way to our inner world.
Look at the situation in the Gulf right now. Something really terrible has taken place there. It has taken place because of lies. Lies to cover greed, which has caused something that may never be repaired. AN impact on the planet that could take decades or much longer to heal. In an interview with Bill Maher, Phillipe Cousteau said that his hope was in the young people he met in his public talks. He saw in them the seed of the solutions to tomorrow’s problems. They have a vested interest in solving many of these problems. Karma is a hell of thing. And Karma is not just what has happened in the past, it is what is happening now. Every step we take causes karma. Karma is responsibility.
There is an old story that goes: “Lord, when will you forgive my sins?
The answer comes: When you stop committing them!”
Being as sincere as possible with a child is the first step.