One day I made bagels. We had family coming into town later that week and I cancelled school in order to get ready for their arrival. The day started with bread. While the bread was raising, I looked at the already-dirty Bosch mixer (Brandon's promotion present from me - I'm a very thoughtful wife) and figured that as long as I had it out English muffins would be a good idea too. Then, of course, it was a short hop to bagels. It's very satisfying to fill your freezer with baked goods. But it's really depressing when they've been eaten and the only way to have that satisfied smug freezer-is-full feeling is to go and make everything again. I'd prefer a magic freezer.
Sophia offered to help me roll the bagels. Once I taught the sisters of the Relief Society how to make bagels, and judging by their difficulty with rolling snakes uniformly (the snake tends to develop a hollow core and then flatten out), I told Sophia that she should practice with her play dough first.
After one or two attempts, she abandoned bagels and announced that she was going to make a baby instead. Sophia is the nurturer in our family and so loves all things baby. I nodded and encouraged her while continuing to roll bagels.
So she busily got to work opposite me on the table, industriously rolling various items that I couldn't see, but imagined to be a head, torso, arms, and legs. Once she made a model of herself in bed, complete with play dough hair.
After a few minutes she stopped, finished with her efforts. "See mom!" she announced, "I'm ready to begin!"
I glanced over and saw her holding up a round ball in one hand and a flat, wormy thing in the other. "So this is the egg," she began. I nodded my head. Lots of babies begin in eggs - chicks, snakes, robins, lizards, and turtles. Then she held up the other, smaller, play dough creation. She wiggled it through the air until it came close to the egg. "And then the insect BITES the egg!" she continued.
I looked more closely at the wormy thing. Was there a bulbous part... with a little... tail?? Surely she couldn't be making what it looked like... right?
Brandon and I are in favor of telling our children things accurately and with correct terms. If something has a name, we use it, even if I might inwardly squirm when Edwin announces to me, "Mom, I have a penis! And you don't!" But we are also in favor of gradual, age appropriate release of information.
I remember once volunteering in the nursery for another ward Relief Society's night when I was very pregnant with Kathleen. A small girl came up to me and announced that I was pregnant. Yes, I told, her I was. She continued by telling me that it was going to come out of my vagina. At that point her mom intervened with an apology that included something about 'being straight with the facts.' I agree with being straight, but maybe not with a three year-old.
Kathleen's curriculum this year has included studying the human body, and one of the books for school was an encyclopedia. When I read the book's reviews, several people mentioned a page that covered reproduction, with a very large, very prominent picture of an egg with sperm surrounding it. Brandon and I debated over gluing the page shut, reading it with Kathleen followed by a discussion, or just handing it to her and not making a big deal. Eventually we just handed the book over and asked her later if she had any questions. "Nope," she responded, and went back to reading.
As I watched Sophia's 'insect' biting the egg repeatedly, I asked her if she had seen a picture of that in Kathleen's book. She nodded enthusiastically and kept attacking that poor egg.
"That's what I get," I sighed to myself, "for letting the children have access to books." Then I sighed even deeper as I thought about whether to let that 'insect' keep biting the egg until Sophia could read or just get the job done and stay true to my parenting philosophies. Eventually I crumbled and stopped Sophia mid-bite.
"Sweetie," I started, "that's not an insect. Do you remember when we talked about how you started out as a cell that was half me and half daddy? That 'insect' is the part that comes from daddy, and it's called... [long, long pause as I consider whether I want my four year-old to know this]... sperm [inward cringe]."
"Oh, okay. And daddy's sperm bites your egg."
"Sweetie, it doesn't bite the egg. It burrows inside and its genetic material joins with the egg's nucleus." Sigh. Sometimes being accurate doesn't have the wards that it should.
"Really?!? Then what happens next?"
"Then the cells splits into lots and lots and lots of cells and those cells turn into your blood and your hair and your fingernails and your bones and they keep dividing and making more cells which makes the baby bigger."
I looked over out of the pit of embarrassment my principles had dug for me to see Sophia smashing her
two pieces together. "And then they divide into lots and lots of cells," she muttered to herself while crumbling the play dough into tiny pieces that inevitably fall of the table and get stuck to the bottom of my socks. She held one up, "Here's a blood cell! And a brain cell! And a bone cell!" then stuck them all together and proudly announced, "And now I have made a baby!"
And that's another day in the Sherwood household: bread, bagels, and babies. And my apologies to you if Sophia decides to share her new knowledge. Maybe next time the insect will just get to do all of the biting it wants, parenting principles be hanged.