A few weeks ago my three-year-old son asked how babies get inside your belly.
This is not an unusual question for a three-year-old, but I still paused to consider its milestone. Before I was a parent, I had pictured this conversation very tenderly, with plenty of self-righteous joy. I imagined us sitting together, hands clasped, talking openly about our bodies. No honey, penis is not a dirty word! Look at what a wonderful mother I am.
Of course in reality, the conversation looked a lot more like a three-year-old bouncing up and down on the couch and misunderstanding everything I was saying.
“But YOU don’t have a spray, Mommy. Only Evie and I have sprays.”
“Not sprays, sperm,” I explain for the 30th time. “A sperm from the daddy and an egg from the mommy make a baby. Eva doesn’t have any.”
“But Daddy’s spray is in his belly and mine is in my belly and yours is lost, right?” His face is sincere but he is still bouncing.
Eventually I give up.
Sex is not embarrassing to me. I don’t want it to be embarrassing to my kids either. Which is why a few days later when we are in the grocery check-out line and Waylon asks if Grandpa “has any spray,” I try to be nonchalant. “I’m not sure,” I say, trying and failing to remember when you run out of sperm. “Maybe.”
Waylon pauses to consider this while I unload our groceries onto the conveyer belt. “When I have a baby in my belly, I’m going to be as big as you!” he concludes proudly.
“Actually honey,” I say quietly, “Only girls grow babies in their belly.”
He looks disappointed so I offer him a conciliatory gatorade. “What about him? Does he have spray?” Waylon points to our 17-year-old cashier.
“What spray are you looking for?” our cashier boy answers without looking up. He appears bored.
“He’s just confused,” I say quickly, throwing a jar of tomato sauce onto the bread bag.
“Do you have spray in your belly? Because only boys have it. Not girls,” Waylon continues, presenting the information at hand.
“I’m so sorry,” I apologize.
“It’s cool,” answers cashier boy, clearly not understanding that this three-year-old wants to discuss his sperm. “Does he want a sticker?”
“Oops, I forgot!” Waylon says, smacking himself on the forehead like a cartoon version of himself. “It’s not SPRAY, Mommy said. It’s called SPERM!”
“Did he say sperm?” Cashier boy looks alarmed. Ah, this is how you get a 17-year-old’s attention.
“Sperms are in your belly to make babies if you want to,” Waylon offers politely.
I try not to notice the redness creeping up cashier boy’s neck and swipe my credit card. “Um, yeah. I don’t know. He’s three so…”
The machine does nothing. I swipe my card again.
Waylon: God made sperms at school with Miss Danielle.
Cashier Boy: I think you’re holding it backwards.
Me: I don’t–
Waylon: But when we get bigger we don’t have sperms, ONLY babies. Buzz Lightyear does not have sperms.
It’s always good to leave the check-out line on a good note.
Moral of the story: Always be open and honest with your kids about sex.
Secondary moral: Self check-out. Every time.