April 11, 2014
By Ekta R. Garg
Last week after dropping Five at school, Seven and I chatted casually about a friend of hers who will soon have a baby brother or sister.
“K. doesn’t know if it’s a brother or sister yet,” she told me.
“Oh, okay,” I said. The conversation drifted to other topics, and I didn’t really think too much about the baby thing again. Until I got a Question.
“Can you have kids and then get married?” Seven asked out of the blue.
“Well,” I said, hesitating. I wanted to make sure that I balanced several things here: facts and values. In our house, as in many of yours I’m sure, we have a definite opinion about this topic. I wanted to convey that opinion as a way to let her know what we feel is right. I also know that with her smarts, at some point she’ll hear on TV or from conversations in other contexts that people do things differently than what we think.
“You can,” I began carefully, “but it’s better to get married first.”
I half opened my mouth, getting ready to defend why and then realized that that conversation would get into the stability of a home and a relationship in a way that I didn’t know quite how to handle yet. At least not on a seven-year-old level. That’s why I definitely didn’t anticipate the next question.
“How do you get a baby anyway? Do you just become a grownup and then after a few years see it in your tummy, or what?”
I am a Phi Beta Kappa and have a graduate degree from a prestigious university. I consider myself a curious person, and I read a lot. So I answered the way any intelligent person would.
No kidding. That’s actually what came out of my mouth.
My heart began to pound. How in the world would I explain procreation to her in the eight minutes we had left before I dropped her off at school? Could I really just drop intercourse in the middle of our drive and expect her not to have any questions? Or worse, go to school and discuss with her friends (or the teacher—horror!) what I’d offered as a feeble attempt to explain the facts of life?
Don’t get me wrong, with two daughters in the house I have actually thought a few times about having this discussion with them at some point. I had always imagined me initiating it, however, and trying to fend off their embarrassment with a bright smile and a, “Come on, we can talk about this!” sort of attitude. It would all end in a Hallmark moment when we would hug and feel grateful for a mother-daughters moment that would bring us together.
I certainly never imagined having it before they hit the age of 10, though. Or that they’d throw the questions at me without yelling, “Catch!” and then expect me to do so without falling over my feet.
Seven didn’t prompt me for anything. Maybe she sensed that I couldn’t answer at that time. Maybe she got bored with waiting for me. I don’t know. But after a few minutes she asked another question.
“Do you have to go to the doctor to find out if there’s a baby in your tummy?”
Have you ever heard the term “waiting to exhale”? I found out firsthand what that meant that day. Because I finally got to do it at this point.
“Yes,” I said, sure I probably sounded a little too enthusiastic that I could steer the conversation in another direction. “You go to the doctor, and he or she takes pictures of the baby.”
“That’s what K. said, that she got to see the pictures. But she said they were just black and white and that she couldn’t see anything.”
“You know, we have pictures of you like that too,” I said, turning into the school’s drive. I explained how new parents could see various parts of a baby in the pictures, and she sounded charmed by the fact babies could look like they were waving from in utero. At that point we had reached the drop off point, so I gave her a kiss, wished her a good day, and smiled as she exited the car.
As soon as she got out of the car and turned to face the school, my stomach managed to come back to its normal position. I think. Her questions, as innocent as they were and as she is now, had thrown me completely off balance.
I think about my daughters’ futures often, hoping and wishing and praying that they make good choices and that I can continuously encourage them to do the right thing. Maybe next time I will respond to her questions better prepared. Thankfully Seven is still young enough that she doesn’t need too much information. So after some deep breaths, on the spur of the moment I turned the car in a direction away from home for some therapy. Retail, to be exact.
Now that’s an idea. Maybe I can use the concept of shopping to distract her next time she starts to ask too many mature questions.