When I lowered my voice in the library yesterday, it wasn’t because a librarian scolded me. Instead, it was because I was reading aloud to Zoe the book My Mom’s Having a Baby by Dori Hillestad Butler, and I was a little surprised when I got to the part where it describes explicitly how the sperm gets to meet up with the egg.
I wasn’t surprised by how that happens. I’m aware of the process. I was startled by the fact that this book, recommended to Zoe by the librarian, included this description. The many other books we’ve read on the subject just say something along the lines of the mommy and daddy love each other, so the sperm meets the egg and they have a baby. Certainly this is vague, but it’s enough information for most preschoolers, I thought.
And I am by no means opposed to information. I am pretty sure I knew about sex before most of my friends, thanks to my parents’ discreet presentation to me of Where Did I Come From? when I was pretty young. I was just a little freaked out to be reading this out loud in the library without realizing what I was getting into. Zoe didn’t remark at all of my discussions of penises and vaginas, or ask any follow-up questions. She’s really more interested in how the baby grows and what happens when it comes out and what a big sister would do. For the record, I am not pregnant, but Zoe’s favorite subject to look for books on remains mommies having babies, and so that’s what she asked the librarian for a suggestion about, as part of the summer reading program she’s signed up for. When she asked, the librarian high-fived her and said “You’re going to be a big sister!” and I quickly said, “Not right now, hopefully someday.”
So Zoe requested the book again at bedtime and her dad read it to her, although he had been forewarned by me. He reported that she didn’t ask any questions about the particulars. Perhaps there’s no reason why she would. She’s not a mommy or daddy and although she is aware of her own body parts, she knows that only grown-ups can have babies, not little kids. She still loves to pretend that she’s having babies, and that’s fine. I’m just hoping we can hold off on any detailed follow-up conversations for a little while longer.
As a post-script, while we were on vacation Randy found, in the banned book section of a cool store called Malaprops, a great book for Zoe. And Tango Makes Three is the true story of a pair of male penguins who mated for life and adopted (with the help of their zookeeper) a baby penguin called Tango who they raised together. It’s a very sweet story. So at least Zoe is getting a variety of perspectives on how families are created.