Sperm and Eggs: A Mother’s Dilemma
A young mother fumbles as she tries to answer her eight year old daughter’s unexpected question.
I slam on the brakes stopping just inches away from the car in front of me. From the back of the car I hear, “Mommy I understand about sperm and eggs, but how do they get together to make a baby, do you swallow them.” I look in the rear view mirror, alarmed. Naa, she couldn’t be asking me that, could she?
Just moments ago, my eight year old daughter came bouncing out of her ballet class, holding her little brother’s hand. Nothing as serious as sperm and eggs seemed to be on her mind as the two of them climb into the car. As I fasten their seat belts she chattered away about the field trip she had taken with her class, earlier in the day. Like most parents, I don’t always give my children my full attention when they are talking to me. Today was no different. I needed to stop at the store on the way home from ballet and was trying to remember what I needed to pick up. We were also in construction traffic so I will admit I didn’t hear much of what she was saying.
I look at my daughter in the rear view mirror again. She’s all bangs and pigtails, her brows scrunched together as she tries to figure out this great mystery. I can feel the hole she’s boring into the back of my head as she waits for my answer. My son is no longer reading his book, but watching us and listening to our conversation. I’m waiting for him to ask, “What is sperm?” My mind is racing in circles as I try to regain my composure.
My daughter’s third grade class went to the local health center earlier in the day. The center gives lectures on “Health Education.” Of course, this is supposed to be age appropriate. Her class was scheduled to learn basic anatomy and personal hygiene. The class was to be separated into male and female groups. However, my daughter proceeded to tell me that the class was not separated and that they learned about “girls and boys body parts.” Now, I understand. It was obvious the class had mistakenly seen the fifth grade lecture and film. Why didn’t the teachers catch the mix-up?
“Do you swallow them, mommy?” my daughter persisted. I look at my son again and realize this is not the time to go into a serious discussion about sex; I needed time to find out just what happened at the health center so I could decide just what I needed to explain. Kim, I want to answer your questions, but I can’t right now. I need to pay attention to my driving; I will talk to you later, ok? “Ok,” she replied. In an attempt to distract her, I asked about her ballet class. Once again, I was no longer listening as we inched along in traffic. I was planning the conversation I was going to have with her teacher as soon as I arrived home.
Later that night after homework was done and the dinner dishes were in the dishwasher, with just a few minor protests, the kids headed to bed. After reading a story to my son and tucking him into bed I walked across the hall to my daughter’s room. I watch her for few moments before going in. Her teacher confirmed that the class had seen the wrong program; the damage was done, being angry wouldn’t help now. I have to admit the whole thing is rather funny.
Parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual. How could there be. There’s no way to “plan” for situations like this. I watch as my daughter gets into bed. I walk in and sit next to her. I take a deep breath, and spend the next half hour stumbling through an explanation of how babies are made. I watch her expression and ask if she has any questions, she doesn’t, but as I tuck her into bed I can see that her little mind is churning. Turning out the light I close the door knowing that there would be questions later. I didn’t want to think about that now. I headed for the kitchen and that bottle of wine I was saving for a special occasion. If your eight year old daughter asking about sperm and eggs isn’t a special occasion, I am not sure what is.