Sex and Death*

*Not necessarily in that order.

As we were checking out of the pediatrician’s office the other day (Kate is free from ear infections which is only a bummer because now I don’t know why she is still throwing epic tantrums and crawling into bed with us at 4:45 a.m.) when Flora said, “Aw, look at the baby.”

On the bulletin board was a poster. On the poster was a picture of a sorrowful-looking couple holding a picture of an infant between them. The poster was encouraging parents to vaccinate their children. In short, the baby had died of pertussis (whooping cough) because she hadn’t been inoculated.

I glanced at the picture, quickly scanned the poster, and turned back to Flora. “Yep. It’s a picture of a baby.”

“What’s that picture for?” she asked.

“Well, it’s asking parents to vaccinate their children,” I answered cautiously. “You know, those shots you have to get sometimes when you come to the doctor’s office. Those keep you from getting sick.”

“Oh. Did that baby have shots?”

Oh, no, oh no. “No, that little baby didn’t have any of those shots.”

“So did she die or what?”

“Yes, Flora, that little baby died.”

Pause. “Do you remember Mr. Tim?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Did he not get those shots? Is that why he died?”

“No. Mr. Tim had cancer.”

“What’s cancer?”

“That’s a type of sickness. Sometimes doctors can’t help you if you have cancer.”

“Oh.”

And that was the end of that.

++

Later that evening, Flora again: “When I was a baby, and came out of your mouth —”

“Woah, what?”

“When I rose up and came out of your mouth. When I was borned.”

“Oh, honey, babies don’t come out of mommies’ mouths.”

“Well how do they get out of mommies’ bellies?”

Long pause.

“How did I come out?”

“You came out of my lady business.”

“What?? Babies come out of lady business?” And she laughed and laughed.

I thought, I’m glad you think it’s funny now.

++

Would you have handled any of this differently? How?

16 thoughts on “Sex and Death*

  1. I’m a fan of being just honest enough to answer the question without getting into (too many) potentially nightmare-inducing details. I’m not sure what I would have said, but it feels like you got it right. And any time you can work “lady business” into a conversation, you gotta go with it, right?

    • I wish I had a policy for these types of conversations. I mean, I think my basic strategy is not to treat my kids like they are dumb; be honest without giving too much information; and know what’s age appropriate. Flora is primed for these questions right now, and I’m disinclined to hide things from her, but I also am figuring out my responses on the fly. Hence the long pause before I decided to say “lady business”, which is accepted nomenclature in my house. I have my husband to thank. (They know the scientific words, too.)

      I’m a little afraid that I’m going to be that parent that gets calls from other parents. “What’s all this talk about lady business?” That’ll be fun.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. 1) Me likey the new design.

    2) I do believe the Mr. Tim post was one of the first of yours I ever read… And it somehow made me want to know you… So happy that that happened.

    3) Lordy, lady, your girls… Between them both and their insight? Geez Louise…

    Also, please give Kate a big kiss from Miss Claire because of the questions she asked… I LOVE your two little ladies!!!!!! They are sweet, nice girls. Even when I said “you should be napping!” lol. they went quiet… for 5 min. Good enough…

    I can’t wait to see them again. I’m sorry my car was super fail and I couldn’t watch them Friday night!!

    • 1. Thanks. I’m looking into some other designs, and I’m thinking of buying some domains so I can use some free downloads, but I like this for now, too.

      2. I’m glad we met IRL too!

      3. I know. I know. I’m doomed, but in a good way.

      They are bright and sweet and my favorite people in the world (along with Dan, of course). You will have to see them again, soon, and you can tell Kate all about your mom!

  3. I think you handled it well, but just wait till you have to (or ought to)be more specific. I have 1/3 interest in 2 boys 8th and 9th grades, and they have “girlfriends”. There is no way I am going to do the ‘sex talk’ with the boys; their other mother would somehow make it a heinous crime. But apparently their father plans on having them watch farm animals to find out the birds and the bees, because he sure isn’t. The first time Mackenzie was asked to a high school dance I practically envisioned sex on the bleachers (look, its a really small, boring town…)

    • The thing that really freaks me out though (I mean, today anyway, tomorrow it will be something different): by the time I do finally talk to them, they may have gotten a lot of information (right or wrong) through other channels. I mean, I was “learning” about sex at the lunch table in 6th grade (did I just give you a heart attack?) from two girls who had peeked in a medical textbook. I won’t go into details here, but I clearly remember thinking: Count me out!

      And look where I am now. ;)

  4. Aww, I think you handled that pretty well. Or at least that’s pretty much how I would have handled it. I think it’s your job to not lie, but present things in a way kids can digest it. There’s crappy stuff that happens out there and they’ve got to learn how to handle things. There is definitely no clear cut way on how to do things, which drives me bonkers. And yeah lady business, that’s hilarious. And her reaction had me falling out of my chair too!

  5. I have no answers for the death questions. I am not looking forward to hearing those myself.

    I love her reaction to the lady business. HA! She’s right- IT IS CRAZY.

    • She’s lucky I didn’t traumatize her by telling her how long it takes to get out that way.

      We’ve been dealing with death in one way or another, so it’s appropriate for Flora to be asking. What is striking to me is that right now all death relates to Mr. Tim he’s probably the first person that Flora really knew who died, and whose funeral we attended we even took her to the funeral home, which was the first time we did that.

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