Baby talk


It was inevitable. The bins piled up in my room proved too alluring. And the Maiden, ever fickle, soon tired of her baby dolls getting all the love.

Besides, she simply couldn’t ignore the nostalgic pull of the baby gear: the changing accessories, burp pads, and bottles, the womb-sounds bear, quilts, and diapers, and the fabulously alluring nursing pads. She boxed up the baby clothes, and moved on.

Spurred on, no doubt, by her exciting experiences in theater camp this week, the Maiden decided to launch a full-scale production of Childbirth: the Musical, or some other such performance, during which birth is Act I, and in the first five minutes of Act II, the baby advances from a screaming infant to a crawler to a walking kid who decides to take a break and go read a book while the ever-obliging mother fixes her lunch.

I played the part of the mom, of course, which meant I got to do all the exciting parts like changing diapers, trying to interpret the goo-goo-ga-ga, and carrying around my 40-lb infant. Oh, and re-experiencing childbirth.

I was curious as to what the Maiden actually thought of childbirth. She knows a baby grows “in her mommy’s tummy” (which she insists upon saying even though I’ve told her the correct anatomical name) and that it eventually comes out and starts screaming for clothes and food. (Said screaming continues for the next 18 years, I’m told, and the past 5 years’ worth of evidence backs up the claim.)

Anyways, she donned her surgical gear and advanced toward my stomach with her pretend shot. Apparently, in the Maiden’s hospital this shot is given to wake the baby up to tell her it’s time to come out now (I guess she thought the hormone signals needed a bit of help). To calm her patient, she jabbed the shot into her own arm to show it wouldn’t hurt, and then gave me a swift poke.

She did not clean the syringe off in between. The medical license boards are going to love her someday.

As soon as I could escape from was released from the game I started pondering the crazy things kids’ minds invent to help them understand processes about which they really have no clue.

And would they want to? Because the facts of life can get a bit gritty–yet how to balance that with a child’s natural curiosity and the importance of maintaining open communication about reproductive matters?

One of the best explanations I’ve ever read was an article I stumbled upon years ago, when the Maiden was barely talking. The author noted that kids are always curious, always going to ask how, when, why, what–so shooting down those squirmy-type questions isn’t a good plan. After all, a blanket “never mind” is just going to set their rapidly whirling brains into a frenzy of curiosity; plus, by brushing them off we lose that opportunity to establish a bond of trust that’s going to serve us all well when the kids get older and start coming up against the really tough issues.

But as parents, we often go too far, and that was the author’s main point: typically, kids’ questions are much simpler in scope than the answers we parents are frantically wracking our brains to come up with. He suggested offering simple, basic answers, and only building on those answers if the kids keep digging deeper. Most of the time, they’re satisfied with the basics, and they’ll come back to us for more if they need clarification.

This has been pretty much borne out with the Maiden. She’s quite satisfied for the awkward questions to be answered with the minimum–and she doesn’t ask further, which surprises me, because we’re talking about someone who uses the word “why” at least three times in each sentence. Perhaps her brain recognizes what it is and is not ready to hear, and her active imagination makes up for the rest.

And that’s okay. When she’s ready for more, she’ll know she can come and ask. In the meantime, she can cheerfully administer stomach shots to all her expectant dolls, and none will be the wiser.

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