Annika: My story is going to be called "The Tale of Love!"
Frankie: My story is going to be called "Love Tale!"
Annika: You can't call your story that. I already chose that title!
Frankie: No, yours is called "Tale OF Love".
Annika: It's pretty much the same thing.
Frankie: OK. Then I'll call mine...hmmm....
Frankie: I'll call my story "Midnight Love Action!"
Frankie: Mommy, stop laughing! Stop it!
Annika: I don't even get it.
Frankie: Mommy, stooooooop laughing!
Last summer the girls were both obsessed with the whole topic of having babies. We have a couple of children's science books that explain about egg and sperm and the baby growing in the mother's uterus. The girls would bring me those books to read to them every night before bed. Every night I'd try to guide them to another topic, and every night they'd tell me that they wanted to read about making babies. Again.
The books' descriptions of conception and fetal development are as dry as their descriptions of digestion and respiration, but with a surprising degree of detail and lots of illustrations. The one facet of the whole process that gets short shrift is how the sperm actually arrives to make its long journey up the fallopian tube. Which is just the way my little chicken heart liked it. Not that I necessarily believe sex needs to be kept some Mystic Secret from kids, especially since I firmly believe that Sex as Mystic Secret combined with Crazy Adolescent Hormones is a Recipe For Disaster. But it's hard to know when your kids are old enough, and I also know that my kids are already masters of the inappropriate. So I was dreading what sort of public conversations we'd be having once the kids were armed with accurate (and complete) knowledge of the miracle of life.
After many weeks, I was really getting tired of reading about the sperm and egg and fetus. I mean, whatever happened to good old dragons and princesses for bedtime reading?
Then, on the way to the pool last summer, Frankie asked me (out of the blue, but in a tone of voice that let me know she'd been thinking on this for a while), "This doesn't make any sense. If the egg is in the Mommy, and the sperm is in the Daddy, then how does the Daddy sperm get to the Mommy's egg?"
I took a deep breath, trying to get my thoughts in order, assuming that I had reached one of those Big Parenting Moments.
But then Frankie went on in her serious and bemused tone, "Unless...Does the Mommy eat the Daddy? Then the Daddy would be inside the Mommy...But, no..."
In the rearview mirror, I saw her glance down the street in the direction of Jörg's office, where he was working and where he was also most definitely undigested.
I thought another moment while the girls waited in silence, Frankie's frown telling me that she was still trying to work it out.
So I told them exactly how it works. Nothing graphic; no indication that this stuff might have to do with anything other than making babies. Totally straightforward.
A few seconds' stunned silence, and then the backseat erupted in gagging noises and shouts of
"That is so gross!"
"Disgusting! I cannot believe that!"
As I drove on to the pool, I realized that they probably would have been less revolted had I explained that, yes, the mommy does in fact eat the daddy, who then fertilizes her egg by spitting on it, and then the mommy poops the daddy back out and he's back to his normal self a few days later, none the worse for wear. Although possibly a bit stinkier.
After that, they quit asking to read about the sperm's long journey up the fallopian tube.