Maybe a Dingo Ate Your Baby

A little over  year ago I asked readers for their opinions on when to have the changing body talk with my children.  When I began blogging nearly five years ago, my daughter was in pre-school, my son still in diapers.  My biggest parenting problem was my never-ending quest to get my son to sleep in his own bed for the entire night.  My daughter?  She provided the most peaceful moments in my day, quietly playing with ponies while I watched, laptop on my knees, throwing me the occasional smile, happy just to be.

Somehow my children have grown into independent little people, the time they have left under the cloak of innocence fading quickly, years beginning to pick up speed like a rock rolling down a hill.  Just last week my son said he’d like to work at Disney and live in Florida along with his grandparents, unless they’re dead, which he thinks they likely will be.  My daughter announced that she will only be having two children.  The idea of more was eye-roll worthy.  Their thoughts are deeper, grasp on reality – the good and the bad – more concrete.  It shakes me to my core.  I can now only act as a filter, no longer able to stop the world from reaching them.

With the very evident reality of passing time staring me down, I once again picked up my daughter’s American Girl book, The Care and Keeping of You, which I bought after recommendations from the brave moms who reached this terrifying place before me.  For the record, there is now a The Care and Keeping of You 2 for girls ten and older.  Looking at the table of contents, I have never been happier to have a daughter under the age of ten, yet I tucked the book away knowing I will someday cling to it like a rope meant to pull me safely through this phase of parenting.

We had already covered all the basics.  Yes, bodies change.  This should come as no surprise since my daughter has known forever that the best place to trap me into answering her questions is to talk to me while I’m showering.  Smart girl.  Yes, you’ve got to – please God – wash carefully and use deodorant.  Check.  Your skin needs extra care.  Got it.

And then I got to the page that I had been avoiding for months.  You know, the page showing the girl marking a date on the calendar for the first time, shopping for feminine products with enough smiling girls standing around her in the always-empty-in-my-experience aisle to easily form a women’s soccer team or at the very least a decent cheerleading squad.

I looked into my daughter’s eyes and saw the anticipation.  She knew some big secret was about to be bestowed upon her.  After all, the door was closed and her brother was safely playing football in the basement.  I prayed that when she looked back at me she didn’t see fear.  And nausea.  And maybe a touch of panic.

I started out by telling her that today was not the day to talk about how babies come to grow inside of us, nor would we be talking about how they leave our bodies.

“No entrance.  No exit.  Got it, Mom.”

Oh, this sweet girl…

Then suddenly I was reminding my daughter of the logistics of the digestive tract and the urinary tract.  Receptacles.  Tunnels.  Tubes.  I floated above myself as I spoke, remembered writing a paragraph in fifth grade about the circulatory system, remembered learning about the life cycle of a water drop.  I used words like pee and poop and she laughed…focus…must focus…

I finally got the nerve and explained that about half of us have a uterus.  I grabbed my husband’s pillow that was next to me.  I explained that the pillowcase was the soft lining and then, improvising, I grabbed the children’s TUMS from the bedside stand, still there from  my son’s tummy ache the night before.

“This is the egg.  You already have all the eggs you will ever have.  Your body was born knowing how to do what it will need to do someday to become a mother.  This egg needs a soft place to land, to grow.”

I dropped a pink TUMS onto the pillow.  Then I explained that once a month, the body practices, then sheds what it didn’t need, what it may only need once or twice ever.  I removed the pillowcase.  More talk of systems, tubes, tunnels…I could do this.  Breathe.  I’m doing this.  This is going to be okay.

And then, done with the prop and relieved, I popped the TUMS into my mouth.

“Mom, you ate the baby!!!  You totally just ate the baby!!!”

Parenting, you are not for the faint of heart…

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  • I love this story more every time I hear it…

    • Says the mom of three sons. Believe me, you’ll be helping me out with my guy in a couple of years!

  • filing away for a meeeeeeeeeeellion years, ahem, 7 years, from now.

  • anne hill

    lol wow. thanks for letting us know how it went with you. i always think of that seinfeld episode…”maybe the dingo ate your baby” elaine is so rude

    • Yes, that episode is what I had in mind as well!

  • I’m cracking up at “You totally just ate the baby!!” lol

    Kaitlyn is 7, and through natural conversation I’ve already explained to her about her outer and inner labia, urethral opening and vaginal opening. I’ve explained my period but I would guess she didn’t understand most of it, so if she doesn’t ask about it again by next year, I’ll explain it again. I started my period at 10, I know girls now can start as early as 8! YIKES.

  • Having recently had this conversation with my girl, I was laughing the whole time. Of course, we went into the entrance and the exit as well. LOVED the ending!!!! Oh, my word!!!!

    • Becky, what age did you discuss entrances and exits? Trying to decide when is right to add that part of the story!

      • She is almost 10, so 9 3/4. I’m not so sure it is the age that determines it, but more what their questions are. Her body has been changing, so I wanted to go into the conversation being willing to answer her questions. I have always been quite open about all of these things, so I was ready. Since I am pregnant, there have already been a lot of natural questions. But as we were talking, she said that a friend at school said that you had to have sex in order to get a baby. Linds said that was absolutely not true because her mommy had a baby in her tummy and there was no way that her parents would have sex. 🙂 We had fun with that one! But I’m glad we had the conversation (and subsequent ones- she was quite traumatized to find out that we have indeed had sex!), but I always want my kids to be able to come to us for the answers and not their friends. Hope that helps!

        • My heart fluttered just reading this! Friends at school – OY!

  • Melissa P.

    Ah, mommyhood. LOL When I try to explain things to my son he just covers his ears and says I don’t want to talk about it. To him it’s all yuck. He wants nothing to do with those changing times. Says he will never wear deodorant. However, he just turned 11 and he knows very well that those days are right around the corner and I’ll be there for him every step of the way. : )

    • As a former middle school teacher, I thank you for pushing the deodorant conversation with him. I used to teach one class that came to me straight from P.E. Let’s just say I kept the classroom windows cracked…

      • Melissa P.

        LOL. I completely understand. And while he doesn’t quite need it right now, there is a stick of deodorant waiting for him in the bathroom closest. I have a feeling when the summer comes…lets just say…he might be ready and ripe. LOL

  • That has to be a tough conversation to have. Sounds like you handled it well!

  • Your story brought back so many memories of going through this with my four children. But the one that sticks in my mind most is the eldest – I geared myself up for days to talk to him about the birds and the bees. No sooner had I started than he turned to me and said – Mum if you are going to talk about sex and babies – I already learnt all that at school – I’m just not sure on a few of the technical words. It took me a good hour before I was able to stop laughing and ask which technical words were puzzling him.