Started with soup, ended with avoidance

By Mir
October 10, 2006

Today was a pretty dull day, though that was (as you might imagine) a welcome change after yesterday. Oh, sure—at one point this afternoon, my internet died. That was exciting for a few minutes, as my life flashed before my eyes. (Insert slow-motion realization that I’ve lost connectivity—and the slow, anguished “Nooooooooooooo!” that came with it—here.)

Being left without a connection to the outside world forced me to take up my vacuum and CLEAN in the middle of the afternoon, so it all worked out okay.

And the crockpot was going all day, so it certainly smelled good in here. Crockpot soup, cleaning… I was feeling very earth mother-y and on top of my game.

(And we know that no good can come of that.)

It started at breakfast. While the kids ate, I fetched several containers of homemade turkey stock from the basement freezer. While the kids watched with growing interest, I loosened the contents within and dumped three icy slabs into my crockpot.

“What’re we having for dinner?” Chickadee asked.

“Turkey pucks,” I answered. “Delicious, frozen turkey pucks.”

This was intriguing enough to cause both children to leave their pop-tarts and come investigate. Once I convinced them that it would, indeed, be soup by dinnertime, Chickadee seemed relieved. This was a crushing disappointment for Monkey, however. He pointed out that 1) he doesn’t really like soup and 2) we NEVER get to have turkey pucks!

Despite his protestations, after the kids got off to school and the pucks had melted down, I added the rest of the ingredients and had soup simmering on the counter all day.

(Some people who don’t use a crockpot regularly think I’m sort of domestic maven, using mine as often as I do. The truth is that I just really like it when my house smells like food. If they come out with a Glade Plug-In that smells like chicken soup or beef stew, I’ll probably stop using my crockpot.)

I had my coffee and did my work and wandered away and cleaned while my internet was on the fritz and worked some more and then the kids came home and it was time to pay attention to them. Those kids! Always wanting attention! Is it not enough that I made soup for them? Apparently not, no. They want snacks and admiration for their work and rides to places and all kinds of other things.

Finally we arrived at my favorite time of the day: BEDTIME. Hooray! Now before you conclude I can’t wait to be rid of the children, let me rush to point out that my favorite part is our bedtime READING. I plan to read to the kids at night as long as they’ll tolerate it, just because I love the cuddling up and sharing of a story. I love the questions they ask and the comments they come up with. There’s a kind of interaction that happens over a good book, when you’re ready for bed and the day is done, that just doesn’t happen any other way.

And when it’s a favorite book from my childhood, so much the better. We’ve just embarked on one of my most favorite series of all time; we’re about three chapters into The Great Brain. Monkey had a bit of trouble getting into the Little House on the Prairie series, but these are right up his alley. Sure, they’re set long ago and contain lots of stuff that needs explaining (last night when we read the chapter about the boys having the measles and then the mumps, we had to take a break and have a little discussion about immunizations), but they’re full of boys being boys. And don’t worry about Chickadee—the Great Brain’s scheming ways garner her full appreciation. They are both LOVING the book so far.

So, we got all settled in and I started reading. The narrator starts talking about how he’s going to mate his dog with this other family’s dog.

Uh oh.

I manage to give the most elementary glossing-over possible: Mating is when you bring the boy and girl together so she can have puppies! Yay! Let’s keep reading! There’s a brief discussion of the female dog being in heat, in the book, and it basically says “that’s when she can get pregnant and she acts weird” and we moved on. No problem!

When it was time to shut the book for the night, I felt like I’d dodged a bullet. I tucked Chickadee into her bed and kissed and hugged her, then carried Monkey to his room and did the same for him.

“Mama?” he asked, “How does that work?”

Oh dear Lord. Breathe.

“What, honey?” Maybe he’s thinking about something else entirely.

“You know, that thing in the book… the… buddying.”

“Buddying?” Ha! Wait. Must. Not. Laugh. “I think you mean mating, sweetie.”

“Mating! Yeah, that. I don’t understand.”

I am so not wanting to have this conversation right now.

“Well, you know that to make babies you need a daddy and a mommy. WOW IT IS LATE, I think you should go RIGHT TO SLEEP!” I faked a huge yawn and pulled Monkey’s covers up to his chin and commenced tucking him in with as much fuss as possible.

“Yeah, I know, but how does it WORK? What does the mating DO?”

What does the mating DO? How much time do you have, kid?

“Honey, it’s… complicated. If you really want to talk about it, we can, but not right now, because right now it’s time to go to sleep. Ask me again tomorrow after school if you still want to, okay?”

This satisfied him for the time being, and I bid him sweet dreams and slipped out of his room, hoping against hope that tomorrow Pokemon or soccer or school or even wrecking my plumbing occupies the corner of his brain currently wondering “how that works.”

And here I’ve been trying to figure out how to have “the talk” with Chickadee. (Maybe I can explain it to Monkey, and then make him tell her. That should be good for at least two blog entries, I bet.)


  1. Carol

    Oh boy….we had this discussion, sort of, when I was pregnant with baby numero tres. The problem with this discussion is that if you give too much information then you’re screwed. You have to give them *just enough* information and if you can figure out just what that is, well, then you are even prettier than I imagined.

    In any event, I highly recommend this:

  2. Cele

    I was shocked when my 6 year old asked me some really weird question that I’ve long forgotten. I remember responding with, “Honey, don’t believe everything you hear. When you want to know about that come ask me.”

    I was totally floored by her reply.

    “Oh, mom I know how babies are made.” And then she preceded to tell me, and she was right, I was blushing. She apparently had watched a movie at a friend’s house that has something to do with where chickens come from. Saved me oodles of blushes and stammerings.

  3. Daily Tragedies

    Ohhh, “the talk.” I vividly remember (and now make fun of my mother) for our “talk.” I read the book school sent home. We were then to discuss it with our parent(s).

    Mom: Did you read the book?
    Me: Yup.
    Mom: Any questions?
    Me: Nope.
    Mom: Ok, then, where’s that form I need to sign?

    Somehow I ended up the most well-informed kid on the playground, but let me assure you, it was ALL book-learning and not an ounce of experience!

  4. Marvo

    You need neighbors with open wireless networks. Whenever my wireless network goes down, I can just jump on one of the other half a dozen networks around. SHHHH!!! Don’t tell the FBI!!

  5. Mary Tsao

    Forget about mating, I want to hear about how buddying works.

    If you don’t mind!

  6. Muirnait

    I don’t remember my “Birds and Bees” talk as being particularly traumatic. My mum’s a nurse, so everything’s biological and logical. Looking at the book someone suggested, one of the controversial bits is how the book approaches homosexuality, and I was thinking that I don’t ever remember being “taught” about people who are gay. And yet, I must have, somehow? Sometime?

  7. Fold My Laundry Please

    Do like my mom did and hand me a copy of “Where Did I Come From?” by Peter Mayle and then walk away. You can’t go wrong with parental examples like that! You can get “What’s Happening to Me?” also by Peter Mayle at the same time and just set it aside for the puberty discussion. Ahh, reminiscing about my childhood makes me want to …well, retch!

  8. angelfeet

    I have vaguely uneasy remembrance of myself at age 10, returning from an unnamed “Sex Ed” lesson at primary school and telling my Mum what I’d learned: God decided when Mummies and Daddies loved each other enough and gave them a baby. I distinctly remember the teacher saying nobody had to put anything in anyone to achieve this. Hmmm. I still remember my Mum’s uncomfortable look. I don’t recall when I learned differently, but it certainly wasn’t by talking to my Mum.

    My favourite book about “The Birds and the Bees” is Mommy Laid an Egg by Babette Cole. If you’re not familiar with her work, she is an amazingly funny illustrator. You can see it here:

  9. Leah

    My daughter is a tad too young for the talk, so I can’t offer advice or sympathies. However, feel sorry for me! Because my dog shatter the lid of my crock pot last week! So now I not only find little glass shards far more often than I would like, but I can’t use my crock pot. Which I may perhaps love more than is entirely healthy…

  10. chris

    Oh “THE TALK”…

    Really it should be called the never ending talk, because they just keep asking questions at moments when you are least prepared to answer them.

  11. Suebob

    Can I have your frozen pucks recipe? I love frozen pucks!

  12. Ben

    I learned it all from random Playboy magazines we found while exploring a nearby creek. Perhaps if you toss a few around the house he’ll find them and stop asking pesky questions…

    (just a thought)

  13. Mary P

    Am I the only mother in North America who actively enjoys answering these questions?

    I love how direct little kids are. They are so innocent, they have no prurience yet. Do I want anyone ELSE messing with that? I think not. Let me be the one to tell them, in a positive, constructive, respectful way. Besides, it’s just so damned fun!

    And the expression on their face, when they finally get around to asking *how* the sperm gets to the egg? HA! Priceless!

  14. Christina

    I love my crockpot, too! Any recipe that I can convert to crockpot status makes me so happy :)

    Haven’t really had to have the talk in any form yet, except to explain to my 2 year old that the reason her baby brother looks different is because he has “peanut” (her word, not mine!)

  15. BethR

    I’m with Mary P – these questions don’t bother me a whole lot. I’m going to be one of those annoying moms who’ll just talk about how the sperm meets the egg all day long until my children are permanently scarred. There are other questions that I find much harder to answer.

  16. Kimberly

    I Loved LOVED *LOVED* the Great Brain as a kid! Diva Girl is getting that, plus the Little House books, for her birthday.

    And if you figure out how to explain it all, by all means make it blog fodder. because it’s coming up here, and I’ve got nuthin’.

  17. Gem

    I just wanted to recommend a wonderful author, Robie Harris, who writes some excellent children’s books about sexuality. These books are wonderful to read as a family because they speak right at the level of the children’s learning. I am a sexuality educator and have worked with both parents and children and I always recommend these books. The ones I know best are titled, “Its Perfectly Normal” and “It’s So Amazing.” I plan to start reading them to the Okapis soon.
    ps. I love the crock pot meals.

  18. Kate

    Longtime lurker here. My son is too young for this, and your is too old, but your readers might be interested in my parents’ tactic: they explained how babies are made in bits and pieces between two and four years old. It’s a brilliant age to do it, because I can’t remember ever NOT knowing the whole story, and I also can’t remember *the talk*. Didn’t matter how awkward it was, because I can’t remember a thing.

  19. Aimee

    I wouldn’t recommend this for monkey, but my favorite film version of the birds and the bees talk is when Anthony Hopkins talks to Hugh Grant in the garden in “The Remains of the Day.” It’s hilarious. All that British restraint!

  20. Jenn2

    Hee hee…you think there is just one talk. Oh my pretty, silly Mir. There are the following talks:

    1. The boy sex talk I (basic intro or where babies come from)
    2. The girl sex talk I
    3. The girl development talk (usually three parter: boobs, body hair, period.)
    4. The boy development talk (usually two parter: body hair, spontaneous erections)
    5. The girl sex talk II: keep your pants on, self respect…etc.
    6. The boy sex talk II: covering girlie mags, stop staring at her chest, don’t date “that sort of girl”

    If I didn’t live across the country, I’d buy you a drink…or a bottle.

  21. Karen

    First of all, I love the Great Brain, too! I still have my whole set of eight books. I’ve been reading the first book with my 6-year-old son, and he is really enjoying it. I’m already making my plan for Chapter 5, and it’s endless use of the word “jackass,” as well as for Chapter 8’s suicidal story line. Got any ideas?

    As to “the talk,” here’s how far I’ve gotten:

    Son: Mom, where do babies come from?
    Me: The hospital.

    Son: But, how are they made?
    Me: Oh, it’s a very special recipe, and only God knows all the ingredients.

    Son: How do babies get out of their mommies’ tummies?
    Me: The doctor helps with that part.

    These answers seemed to satisfy his curiosity — even though he’s the type of kid who requires scientific illustrations to explain how grass grows or why the sky is blue.

  22. Laura

    I made my husband explain “mating” to our son and said I would handle our daughter. I wasn’t in the room, but I know he used Tinker Toys to explain the, ahem, mechanics. I *still* can’t look at them the same way and it has been about 7 years.

  23. Woman with Kids

    I agree with Kate; the Boys have been fed bits and pieces of information regarding sex, drugs, strangers, etc since they were little. Age appropriate, of course, but it never was “The Big Talk.” It just is, and that way if they have questions it’s not a big deal. And lucky for me, my two boys have lots of questions. :-/

  24. ishouldbeworking

    Since my 12 yr old daughter was old enough to start asking questions, I’ve answered them with “just enough” info and it worked until she was a little older and wanted more details. By the time she was in 6th grade, she knew everything but “the mechanics”. Well! Let me tell ya…the “mechanics” talk came about real suddenly this past January when 2(!) of her middle schoolmates (!!!) ended up pregnant…one in 6th grade, one in 7th. I was just glad I had laid the groundwork for it well in advance…can’t imagine the stammerin’ & stutterin’ that would’ve happened if I’d had to start from scratch.

    Ha – “laid” the groundwork ;)

  25. Susan

    Not only are there several chapters to the sex talk, but I learned that if you tell your son the Birds & the Bees story at too young of an age, he will forget after a few years (SOMEHOW)… and then you have to tell it yet AGAIN when he’s older.

  26. Genevieve

    I told my son some things when he was older, but now, at Monkey’s age, he started asking a LOT about “how does the fertilization happen?” I got a book related to the Robie Harris books mentioned above and linked in your first comment: “It’s NOT the Stork!” I also got “It’s So Amazing,” but I liked the stork one a little better for a 6-year-old – a little less info on puberty and related issues (contraception, abortion), but as much or almost as much information on what part has what purpose in boy and girl bodies, and fertilization. In cartoons, with much detail, and a silly cartoon bee and bird who comment after everything. That was particularly helpful because the kiddo read the bird and bee parts, and it gave him something to do if he was a little embarrassed. He was really glad to have all the information about body parts, etc., and thanked me for getting the book. Though he was horrified by the answer to his original question, e.g. how does it actually happen! He said he didn’t want to do that! I said that’s a very appropriate feeling for a kid his age to have.

  27. Genevieve

    That first sentence should’ve said, “when he was younger.” He’s not Merlin, aging backwards.

  28. Her Bad Mother

    I say, run with the ‘buddying’ story. Male and female ‘buddy up’ to make babies – just another kind of co-operation. This could, however, backfire if he’s ever called upon to pick a buddy at school…

    See? I’m no good at this.

  29. carrien

    I’m with Mary P it just makes sense to tell them when their smaller and it’s just information. We also talk about death very early, and let them see dead things, understand that meat is from a dead animal. Their not insulated yet in a way that makes it disturbing, so they just figure it’s normal, which it is. OUr kids are fine with these subjects. My four year old finally asked about babies this year. HE knows, at this age that daddy’s have sperm that they put inot the mommy to fertilize the egg, and they use their penis to do it. I have not decribed that actual mechanics yet, because he wasn’t yet interested. When he wants to know, I’ll tell him. If I’m not embarrassed, he won’t learn to be; which is what I”m after.

  30. creative-type dad

    Wow- I’m dreading those talks. I would end of making jokes and just confuse my kid even more.

  31. Whimspiration

    Hmmm. Age appropriate, at all times. If they want more information, they will ask for more. Never overfill container. :D

    Where do babies come from?
    2yo: From mommy’s tummy.

    3yo: Daddy plants a seed in mommy’s tummy and a baby grows there.

    5yo: Mommy makes an egg, and daddy fertilizes it to make a baby, like bees do with flowers.

    6yo: Boys have this part, girls have that part and they fit together like a puzzle to make it easier for the pieces that make babies be able to connect.

    At 9yo, my eldest knew all the mechanics, and now, at 12, she’s studying basic anatomy and the stages of pregnancy as well as fetal development because it interests her. I sure never would have thought to teach her about fetal development and so forth until around 14 at the earliest.

    They learn what they want to when it is time. *smile*

  32. carolyn

    When my now-teenage daughter was 2 and a half and I was pregnant with my son, she wanted to know how the baby would get out. I went into panic mode, because all kinds of possibilities flashed before my eyes, all of which could possible scar her for life: the pain, the pushing, the blood!! Oh I was freaking out. So, I started……well, honey, when it’s time, the mom goes to the hospital and the doctor…. and my precocious daughter said “and the doctor takes it out?” and I said, why yes, that is exactly what happens. This satisfied her for several years, and taught me to answer simply and see if that works.

  33. andi

    I recommend “Preparing Your Daughter for Every Young Women’s Battle” for Chickadee. It’s not just about sex – it’s about guarding your heart and mind too.

  34. Cory

    I didn’t see anyone recommend it, but the book, “Mommy laid an egg” is smart, funny and direct. It takes “the talk” to a different level. I found it charming.

  35. Em

    I’ve got my kids covered. Someone needs to talk to my husband. He is horrified when he hears me answering their questions. He agrees with my basic principle of educating them with honest information (I think, ha!) its the anatomical terms that get him squirming, especially, I guess, when I don’t pause to show the proper amount of embarrassment over using them (sorry, lost that in nursing school).

    My 4 year old has noticed. She had some questions about breastfeeding (I’m expecting). I explained how it worked (pretty simple compared to the idea she had in her head that included “metal parts”) using proper terms while my husband tried to crawl under the front seat of the car in utter embarrassment (or should I say, udder embarrassment, *rimshot*). Finally, my daughter told me, maybe I should just call nipples “things” so I don’t “disgust people”.

    My only fear over explaining the birds and bees to my kids is my daughter’s inevitable need to pass on the information, either to other kids, to MY parents, to anyone with ears basically.

  36. InterstellarLass

    Make it very scientific. And use puppets.

  37. julie

    When I was about 6 I asked my (poor, mortified) grandmother how the sperm got from the man to the woman. She said “I don’t know. I guess they just crawl across the bed. Since I shared a bed with my 4 year old brother at her house I spent many nights with the sheets wrapped tightly around my body because I was afraid I’d wake up pregnant. Honesty is the best policy;)

  38. Ben

    Melissa just sent this to me in an e-mail:

    An 8 year old girl asked her Dad, who was working in the yard.
    “Daddy, what is sex?” The father was very surprised that she would ask that question, but decides that if she was old enough to ask, then she is old enough to get a straight answer. He proceeded to tell her all about the “birds and the bees”.
    When he had finished explaining, the little girl was looking at him with her mouth hanging open. The father asked her, “Why did you ask this question?”
    The little girl replied, “Mum told me to tell you that dinner
    would be ready in a couple of secs.”

    Hee hee…

  39. rachel

    we did the Great Brain as a book on tape, and then the sequels as read alouds. I vastly prefer the read alouds, as there are several things in there my mom always bleeped over (like whippings, cruel teasing, etc).

    The joy of oblivious children. Mine know what mating is, they just don’t really *get* what happens. yay!

  40. Kalyn

    Almost as funny as most of the comments above is that I searched on google blog search for “soup” and ended up here!

    Hi Mir.

  41. Ruth

    Oh Mir! You have a beautiful array of funny, funny friends! I pop by to catch a laugh every now and then, this one just put a lighter under my tongue. I’ve done enough efective “buddying” of my own, I have 4 boys squashed close in years. I’ll never forget when my oldest son (at about 6) asked me how babies came out! I ended up talking about how a uterus is like a balloon with muscles around it. Two years later he asked me why breasts were “private parts”. Ha! Such loving fun! But I’ve demanded of myself to be the one to be sure they get the respectful version rather than whatever materials may be in others’ closets. I had decided on rabbits. I just need to own a large rabbit hutch and nature will explain itself with only a few residents and a few months. I could even bill it as a small business for my kids, raising and selling beloved pets. Animal Planet has saved me the mess, because “mating rituals” are well covered. They’ve also caught tidbits about “sex offenders” and asked me: (Sex is the box you check on a form for male or female; offender is obviously someone who treats those particular parts offensively.) Now I just have to say that “sexual intercourse” is the term for human mating, that we are more complicated than animals and bugs in general including these behaviors; that because we’re smarter and have more influence we also have more responsibility; and that if they get too curious about what it’s like and why it’s such a big deal they can ask and I’ll hook them up with good info. Later. But that they should avoid stoking that curiosity because curiosity kills the cat and it’s better to develop interest in something you can pursue. Ha! We’ll see if they don’t grow up with inhibited personalities. Seriously, though, I’m leaving their Dad, he’s been a spineless perv; they’ve got a bunch in their extended family. They also have a little sister WHO IS NOT FOR EXPERIMENTING with. Caution dictates balancing the unbalanced. Somehow I still hold on to the ideal that dignity should rule all human interaction. Again compensating for other forms of self-delusion.

    Have fun with Monkey! “Mommy laid an egg” is gonna tickle my imaginaion for a while. We are kinda chicken at about that time, aren’t we?

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