Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Birds and Bees and Adoption

OK, I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but driving in the car with the kids on Sunday, we discussed sperm banks, which they both declared were "Ooooh, gross!"

Actually, I am sure how we got there -- my rule on every subject (except, Santa, so shoot me!) is that I answer ALL questions age-appropriately but truthfully.  We were talking about some friends who quite tragically lost their two-week-old daughter, and Zoe wanted to know if they were going to have more kids.  I explained that they first wanted to figure out why Addy died, whether their DNA had something to do with the defect in her heart.  If it did, they may explore other ways of having more children.  And there we are with adoption and assisted reproduction and sperm banks! (Oh, and somewhere in this discussion we also touched on birth control pills and condoms, oh my!)

This post at Adoption Under One Roof, Talking With Your Adopted Child About Procreation, reminded me of how talking about birth parents, and really getting what adoption was, brought on the sex talk with Zoe.  This is what I wrote about the birds-and-bees talk with Zoe (who was 6) after we returned from visiting her orphanage and finding spot:
OK, I knew that going back to Guangxi meant there would be tons of questions from Zoe especially – about her birthparents, about her finding place, about the orphanage, about adoption. And sure enough we’ve had those (last night she asked if she was buried in the ground at her finding place, and I was able to reassure her that she was just on top of the ground. Thank goodness she asked – who knew she was worrying about that). But I didn’t expect it to spur the where-do-babies-come-from talk!

I’m not even sure how it happened – we were talking about how she might have gotten to her finding place and she suddenly asked, “How do babies get in the birthmother’s tummy?” And my answer, “They grow there,” just wasn’t going to cut it this time!

Yet another child-rearing moment when I wanted to say, “Wait a minute – let me do a little research on how best to explain it to you. Can you wait a few weeks?!” But they never can wait, can they? So we had to do the whole seed-egg, insert Tab A into Slot B thing. . . .
At age 10, Zoe has asked enough questions to have a sort-of picture of procreation, not a full picture.  But I was a little surprised to find out that one of her 10-year-old friends has NO IDEA AT ALL -- or at least her parent hasn't told her a thing about sex.  At Adoption Under One Roof, Lisa advises:
Ideally it is the parents who provide sex education to their children. But if your child doesn’t ask you questions she is probably getting her education elsewhere, such as from a friend. This being far from ideal, take the initiative by having discussions with your child.

How old were your children when they started asking about the birds and the bees?  Which came first, their understanding of adoption or their understanding of where babies come from?  Does one require knowledge of the other?  Share your favorite birds-and-bees moments with your kids!


travelmom and more said...

I am not sure one conversation was first, probably babies. My daughter gets a little obsessed by babies in tummies, when she was three she had a good cry that she didn't grow in my tummy. She didn't start processing that she has birth parents until she was about four. Just this week we talked about how babies get into tummies because one of her friend's mothers is expecting, our conversation was similar to yours. This is a timely discussion because on Sunday I went to a parenting safe children workshop about helping to prevent sexual exploitation of children and talking honestly about babies, bodies and sex helps empower our kids. The presenter recommended "Its Not the Stork" to read with children four and up.

Melissa said...

My DD is going to be 5 in 2 months. We started reading It's Not The Stork just after she turned 4 when her best buddy was about to become a big brother and she had all sorts of questions about where the baby went when the mom showered (so he didn't get wet) and how he stayed him when his mom went potty.
In the last few weeks (and after watching Tangled) she has had all sorts of questions about:birthparents, why we wanted a daughter, why we went to China to get a daughter, whether her birthparents miss her, why does everyone in China look the same.

We strive for honest/age appropriate answers to all questions (aside from Santa)

Liz said...

My daughter is almost four and has been with me since she was about two-and-a-half. We started having this talk last year around her third birthday, her first with me, because she wanted to understand WHY it was her birthday - I told her it was the day she came out of her first mommy's tummy. We also have a book called How I Was Adopted that treats this very matter-of-factly, talks about how adoption means you grew in another woman's uterus and then were adopted (with pictures), and we talk about this a lot. Most recently, we have been going to a monthly potluck for single moms in my area and I had to explain to my daughter that some of the kids there have no daddy because they are adopted like her, some of them have daddies who don't live with them and their mommies (divorce), and some of them have no daddy because a doctor helped their mommies get a baby in their tummy (which has since led to her learning the vocabulary "sperm" and "egg" and telling her it might be better not to use those words at pre-school because some kids don't know them!).

dawn said...

I was adopted by a very Catholic family and I can remember being extremely confused about how it was even possible for my birth mom to give birth to me when my birth dad not only not married to her, but was with another woman. I don't think my parents ever clarified it for me (I was probably to shamed to ask) and they limited their education of me to sex: don't have it.

Besides being a terrible model in general (my non-adopted sister still thinks, at 24, that it's perversion to know the names and structure of one's own anatomy), my parents' general anti-sex, anti-woman, homophobic, anti-cohabitation, anti-divorce attitudes communicated to me what they really thought of people like my birth parents (and everyone else not like them) even if they never spoke against them directly.

I don't know if that would be as true for international adoption; I don't know if it as enmeshed (or in quite the same way) in debates about (especially female) sexuality.

Reena said...

We haven't really had a sex talk per se-- my oldest is 4-- but she does understand what the correct terms are for private body parts and that girls and boys have different body parts and that they should only be touched for cleaning and keeping her healthy. I have told her that it is always OK for her to tell someone that they are not allowed to touch her there-- she can say NO to an adult. I realize that this is a little different line than what you are talking about--but something I feel parents need to begin addressing with kids at a young age.

On a lighter note-- last night I found myself trying to explain to her why my stepkids go their mom's house and why we are not one big family. This was over dinner and I thought DH was going to choke. After answering a couple questions she asked if she could have a straw for her drink.

Small steps.

I'm going to look in the book mentioned.

Tina said...

I would LOVE t have a talk with my 10 year old step daughter but her mom insists she be kept "innocent" as long as possible. I think it is INSANE they have not told her anything at all yet other than ladies have babies when God wants them to

Von said...

As an adoptee but not mother of an adoptee I now what a minefield it can be.I thought the big question had come, launched into the story and my daughter looked at me and said "You're kidding!" Oops! Too early!

Anonymous said...

My eldest has always asked questions, to which no answer was ever answer enough ... and so, even at two years old she got the entire story.

Each year the subject would come up and she'd ask more questions ... until one year, at about age 7, she remembered I'd been pregnant once and asked, "so you & Daddy did THAT?" ... and then after my answering "yes", said, "I think I'm going to adopt!"

ewrwer said...

My oldest liked to watch "A Baby Story" on TLC when she was about 3 or 4. We started talking about things then - age appropriately and no more than what she had asked. As she has grown, I am so glad that she feels free to ask me any question she has. And she has some doozies.

I always felt that you have to walk a line between innocence and vulnerability. If you don't know what sex is and what is appropriate, how do you know if someone is being inappropriate with you?
I am completely honest with my girls, now 10 and 8,( including Santa), because I want them to be completely honest with me. When they were 8 and 5 and asked me, "Really, Mom, what is the truth about Santa?" it didn't feel like fun fantasy anymore, it felt like a lie.
Of course, I try to gauge what they are ready for and limit the sex talk to that. But I do try to answer all their questions, since I figure its better they have some understanding of whatever it is they're asking about. If they are asking, they're bound to have some sort of misinformation.

travelmom and more said...

At the parenting safe children workshop I attended recently she suggested telling kids what sex was when they asked, "Sex is when two grown-ups, who love eachother, agree to allow one another to touch their private parts." I thought this was a good way to empower childrent to know what are safe touches and what are not, but still preserve their innocence.

Reena said...

"Sex is when two grown-ups, who love eachother, agree to allow one another to touch their private parts."


An said...

Thanks for this post! I've been wondering what I should say when my boys ask. They are 3.5 and 4.5 right now, and they are boys, so far they haven't shown any curiosity, but I want to be prepared. Thanks!