19th April 2011
Once upon a time my son came home from school with a reading book entitled ‘The Christmas Story’. He sat next to me after dinner and started to read, this is nice I thought, as he read to me about angels visiting Mary and Mary and Josephs mad dash to Bethlehem by British Rail (also known as a donkey) and their eventual arrival at the famous birthing centre, The Stables. So far so good, then along comes Jesus and it is at this point that my son puts the book down on the table and declares “This story is not true”.
“Oh, what makes you say that?” I reply
“Well you can’t just go into a stable and have a baby like that, you need hospitals and doctors to make the baby come out” he says, looking up at me for confirmation.
Do you know those parenting moments when the red lights start going off in your head and you are sitting there thinking…. now what? Well this was definitely one of those moments, but I was confident that I could handle this with honesty and clarity and so pressed on.
“Wellllllllll……. actually you don’t need to go to the hospital to have a baby and in the time of Mary and Joseph there weren’t any hospitals” I replied
“How?” Was his reply
Now bear in mind when his younger sister had been born I had had a C section and so he knew that I had ‘had an operation’ to help her get out of my tummy, so I explained this again but then went on to say that was not how most babies were born. Of course this was like a red rag to a very inquisitive bull and so he pressed on with the subject.
A rather interesting conversation then ensued with me explaining the miracles of child-birth to my seven year old son, using nice anatomically correct words, as he stared up at me with a look of total disbelief on his little face. At this time in his life my son was an avid viewer of wildlife documentaries and a wonderful invention by the BBC called Animal Park and so I had what I thought was an eureka moment and said….
“It’s the same with all mammals darling, you know, on those programmes you like to watch, they have shown lambs and calves being born, well it’s the same for humans.”
“No” he declares “I have never seen that”
And so with a sigh I turn to YouTube. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a ‘nice’ video clip of a lamb being born that does not seem to show a farmer ripping it from the poor sheep’s innards? After much searching a suitable video was eventually unearthed and viewing commenced.
At the end of the clip, there was a request to watch it again, which was granted. After the second viewing I bustled up to the computer to take control and reiterated that “there you go sweetie, that’s how all mammals are born”. I was so pleased with myself. The whole birth story had been explained without a hitch, or so I thought.
“OK, now show me a video of a baby being born” he replied.
Do the words “rabbits caught in headlights” mean anything to you? Yes, that was me…..
“No” I replied with some authority this time
“Oh you can’t videos of people doing that on YouTube” see how well I handled that?
The story ends with a bedtime kiss and lots of discussion about what he would like for his birthday, a topic that was, thankfully, guaranteed to distract him from any other subject.
The moral of this story is, watch out for the bible stories they may well end up with you searching for sheep birthing videos on YouTube!
The reason for writing this little ditty was that I came across this brilliant video today of Julia Sweeney’s account of a very similar discussion with her 8 year old daughter. If you are a parent I can guarantee you that it make you laugh out loud and if you are not, well maybe it will help you be prepared for when you are and then you can make the same blundering mistakes as the rest of us. Do please give it a watch, it is hysterical.
Pps…. if you have a child who is discovering all this reproductions stuff then I highly recommend this book. Let’s Talk about Sex By Robie Harris