“If I go to school I won’t be able to be a mommy!” We we’re driving home and I was navigating heavy traffic. I heard what she said, but it didn’t instantly sound as odd as it sounded when I finally got settled in the right lane and really heard her words in my head.
“What? What do you mean?”
“If I go to school I’ll be too busy to be a mommy.”
“No, no. You can be a mommy and work. I’m a mommy and a writer. It’s possible.”
“Oh. How will I become a mommy and a writer?”
“Well, you’ll go to school for 12 years or so, go to college, maybe meet a nice boy, get married and have babies.” I squinted at her in the rear view mirror. I wasn’t sure if I’d said what she wanted to hear, but she nodded knowingly.
“I’m going to have four babies.” She held up four fingers. “There are going to be four in my tummy and four in the daddy’s tummy.”
I didn’t answer right away. First of all I didn’t hear very clearly, second of all I was once again navigating another gnarly lane change. Instead I made some encouraging noises, which might explain why she got annoyed when I corrected her assumption that, duh, the burden of pregnancy should be shared equally between the parents.
She waited a moment with a scowl on her face, pondering the unfairness of what I had just explained, and I was so wrapped up in my commute and the cuteness of her pout that I honestly didn’t anticipate what was coming next.
“Mommy? How does the baby get in the mommy’s tummy?”
My heart sank. I glanced back at her hopeful face and wondered how on earth I was going to answer her question. What does a 4 year-old need to know about sex? What would assuage her interest without revealing anything I wouldn’t be mortified to hear her repeat on the playground tomorrow? What wouldn’t warp her idea of sex and babies for years to come?
I waited as long as possible, took a deep breath, and jumped in.
“When a man and a woman love each other very much and they’ve thought carefully about wanting to have a baby, they have a special kind of cuddle. The man puts a seed inside the lady’s belly and a baby grows.”
I figured it wasn’t too graphic and covered the basics. I hesitated and stressed the fact that it only happened during very special cuddles, not every cuddle. Last thing I wanted was for her to start looking for a growing belly every time M and I hugged.
She didn’t reply and I risked a glance in the mirror again. Her face was contorted and when she caught my eye she giggled and looked away. She squirmed and laughed and squirmed some more. Her face was bright red and she had trouble meeting my eye. She looked exactly like a little kid who has heard a slightly naughty secret. A delighted little girl with a slightly naughty and embarrassing secret. I laughed and winked at her. She stopped looking embarrassed and just looked amused. We laughed the rest of the way home, giggling extra hard when our eyes met in the mirror.