My three kids and I operate on a democratic system. When we get stuck on a decision, we vote on the outcome. They each get one vote...and I get four. That's right. I've stacked the system so that not only do I never lose, but we never tie.
I'm the mom. I'm allowed to do that.
Recently, my oldest son has been making noises about evening up the votes. He thinks we should have another baby and give that kid a vote, creating the possibility of a tie. I told him that we have to vote on whether we want to have another kid and, oh, hey looky here, MY VOTE WINS.
For the record, there will be no more babies in my family, but that doesn't stop my kids from occasionally bringing up the subject. The last time this happened, we were in a restaurant. It was my oldest who brought it up again, with all the questions about and arguments for having another child, but it was my youngest son who had the follow-up questions—questions that were not necessarily appropriate as public dinner table talk.
Specifically, he wanted to know not where babies come from, but where babies come out of, leading me to use a word that I don't think I've ever uttered in a restaurant before.
I am actually glad when my kids ask about sex. I think it is good for them to learn the information young and to get used to being comfortable about discussing it with me. In fact, I eventually got tired of waiting for them to ask and finally sat all three of them down a couple of summers ago and gave them a little presentation on sex, complete with diagrams and hand gestures.
This recent conversation got me thinking back to the first time I had to cover sex education for my kids. It was four years ago, when Sam, my oldest, was six and asked about where babies come from. Although I'd known this question was on the horizon, I hadn't yet formulated my answer.
I believe in answering questions at the time they are asked instead of telling my children that we'll talk about it later, so I had to come up with an answer on the fly. Remembering what I'd heard about keeping it simple, I forged ahead.
"Well, Sam, a mommy and a daddy decide they want a baby, so then the mommy grows it in her tummy, and then it is born." As those words came out of my mouth, I was second-guessing my "mommy and daddy" statement.
But, no. Simple. Don't start talking about two mommies or two daddies or adoption or any of the other permutations, I told myself. He doesn't need the gray areas. Keep it simple. Hold it together, woman!
"What about the egg?" he asked—or something to that effect. I don't remember his exact question because I was thinking to myself, "He knows there's an egg?! How does he know there's an egg?! Who has he been talking to?"
"Are you talking about people babies, Sam, or other animal babies?" I asked.
Okay. This is not so simple. Should I start talking about sperm? "Oh, lord," I remember thinking, "I really don't want to talk about sperm."
"Well, the mommy has an egg and the daddy has a...seed and they put them together and the baby grows in the mommy's tummy."
"Does the baby grow from the seed?" Sam asked.
"Ummm. No, the seed fertilizes the egg and then the baby grows from the egg," was what I said. "Please don't ask how the seed fertilizes the egg," was what I didn't say. "PLEASE don't ask how the seed fertilizes the egg."
Instead, he asked, "When can we have another baby, Mom?"
I was off the hook. Crafting an age-appropriate biology lesson is one thing; dashing the hopes and dreams of a kid who wants to be a big brother again is a whole other thing. That I can do.
Jean, a.k.a. Stimey, writes a personal blog at Stimeyland; an autism-events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont; and a column called Autism Unexpected in the Washington Times Communities. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey.