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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Birds and the Bees

Over at you can find this book used for $0.01.
Just for Janet over at 32-akre wood, I thought we should talk about the Birds and the Bees today. I don't mean the kind with wings, which I do dearly love, but the awkward question kind that kids are prone to ask while standing at the supermarket checkout. Why do they choose that precise moment? I even have the answer to that! Just so you know, this article is PG - no references to body parts will be made, unless you include feet. Update, update, I did mention the word womb. Read on...

Thankfully for Janet The Queen popped the question in the secure environment of home. Unfortunately for Janet she just wasn't very prepared. Not that I'm criticizing because she did manage to field the question when it was passed off to her by the Mountain Man. Well done Janet, but so that you can be prepared for the future, because of course these kind of questions have boomerang capabilities, let's get some ways to handle this down pat so that you can be a star instead of a fish with your mouth open! I'm treading on wobbly territory here so let's hope I don't dig myself a hole, or end up with my foot in my mouth, so to speak. Just so you know, this article is PG. Um... is there a parrot around here, I think I said that already.

The book pictured above is one that made it onto my bookshelf way back when my eldest was an innocent 5 year old or so. Imagine that, I actually planned ahead! But is this book any good and what does it contain? Would I recommend it? For me, I count this book in the parental reassurance category. Like the books on how to play all kinds of games with your baby, it's a book that seemed like it should belong in my home. I mean, every parent needs one of these so that they'll know what to do. Right? Whether or not you read it or use it is kind of irrelevant. It's there in the way that an emergency supply of large bandages is. The chances are that if you need it you'll be too busy calling in the emergency services, or your frantically struggling unprepared brain cells in this case, to go and pick up any book. Get it, read it, you'll know what kinds of questions kids ask, you'll know what parents are supposed to say at each and every age and then you can proceed to immediately forget all the details and fly by the seat of your pants when little Johnny pops the question. I mean, parental self-help books are great, but who actually remembers all that stuff you're supposed to do when they actually need to use it? Certainly not me! I promise I am going to tell you why kids ask at the supermarket checkout. If you're still reading, so far so good!

On to what I do actually recommend to prevent those awkward moments. This is where I realize that I have an overactive imagination. Pictured on your left is See Inside Your Body, a fantastic, flap-ridden Usborne book that arguably every family should have a copy of. But wait a minute, where did the picture of baby inside mom go to? I was convinced it was in there. I checked every page, I even read the contents: your amazing body; eating and excreting; breathing air; pumping blood; bones and muscles; brain power; the senses; drinking and peeing; body words. No, absolutely NO reference to the reproductive system, not even in the body words. Well, what about The Usborne Complete Book of the Human Body? Surely that contains graphic images. Well, actually no, it doesn't. There is one double page spread entitled conception and birth which shows no body parts. It does talk about how the man and woman get together in a very tasteful and factual way - "they fit together" and the names of various organs are in that section. Then there's a double page spread on babies in The Usborne Internet Linked Children's Encyclopedia, which has a few drawings of disembodied wombs, 4 sentences about birth, one of which is "It makes the mother tired.", and 5 sentences about making a baby, with no organs described or named. Tasteful is the order of the day and I'm not sure these would be enough to give The Queen the information she needs to prevent further questions.

What I'm trying to say here is that personally, like Janet, I've found simple and factual to be the best approach. Having a book around the house which shows some basics may prevent questions in the first place, or at least give a parent the few sentences they need and provide a safe environment for conversation. I took another look at and Where Do Babies Come From?, a Dorling Kindersley book, might fit the bill if you want a book that is solely focused on this topic. If you really tell some truth and don't say "from under a cabbage leaf", or "the stork brings babies", the chances are your kids will be grossed out. But I can assure you, they don't seem to be in any way damaged by it. Something simple like "the man and the woman get together and make a baby, which grows inside the mom's womb and when the baby is big enough it comes out a special passageway", seemed to work for us. Come to think of it, I'm sure I did learn something from that book pictured way up at the top. It was to ask first where the question came from so that you understand what the child really is asking. It's helpful to make the answer as short as possible, either that or start into a long discussion that goes something like this, "Well, I'm really glad you asked that. First of all the man and woman must get to know each other, to know that they get along together...", if you're lucky little Mary's eyes will glaze over as she foresees a long lecture which will require more of her attention than she is prepared to give right at that point. When she beats a hasty retreat you can head for the bookshelf and start frantically studying for the next time she tests you.

And why do kids ask awkward questions at supermarket checkouts? Have you ever read the front pages of the magazines on display there? They are real vocabulary builders. And if your kid chooses that awkward moment, it's OK to say, "I really want to answer your question, but let's do it later because I'm busy packing groceries right now." The trick is to be like a boy scout and be prepared. You've read this article so, well done, now you've got it covered.

By the way, I'd be happy to field any questions, read your funny stories, or answer more questions about any of the above books. If you have a story you want me to link to let me know.

From my readers:
  • Alison of Everyday Best recommends It's So Amazing. You can see in an inside view by following the link, or pop over to this other homeschooling Alison's blog if you want to leave her a question.
  • Kat recommends Golden Book How We are Born, which appears to be out of print. have a few used copies available through their marketplace. Check the comments if you want more details of why Kat likes this book.
Brought to you by your independent educational consultant with Usborne Books at Home - home of a choice of over 1,300, wonderful, engaging, colorful books kids love to read. And in association with, with parenting books to answer all your questions.


Janet said...

Wow, a whole post in my honor! It's pretty cool. Actually I'm not that stressed out about explaining everything to them, I just wasn't quite ready to get that question when she was 4! She also has a tendency to repeat everything she knows in inappropriate places, and I could just envision her regaling Storytime with how babies get born. But having some books around that explain things in an excellent idea. We like the Usborne books. I assume you know where I could get some . . . ;)

Alison said...

Janet, you are an inspiration. Maybe others need the information more than you do, but thanks for the inspiration in any case, and well done on fielding the question! Parents surely need a quick reaction time sometimes for kid-asked questions. I'm sure that after all my school experiences I hated being asked questions because teachers wanted not just any answer, but the right answer. Kids, at least when little, are forgiving - they don't mark us down in a test even if we mess up the answers :-)

Alison said...

I like It's So Amazing. I used it during first grade, and I'm getting ready to read it agan for Son #2.

A different homeschooling Alison

Alison said...

I was seriously disorientated there for a moment. Huh, did I write that Alison comment? Ah, another homeschooling Alison; thank goodness, because I thought I was losing my mind!

Is my duck avatar enough to distinguish us, or do I need to add a second part to my name - I wonder?

kat said...

For the up to 10 year old crowd I really like the Golden Book How We are Born, How We Grow, How Our Bodies Work, and How We Learn by Joe Kaufman.

It does explain how babies are conceived and has diagrams of each gender's parts, but we have skipped that page to get to the next which shows how the baby develops inside (every month is shown with baby getting bigger). It might be more explicit than some would like, but since little ones can't read yet, the pictures more than make up for that.

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