I knew this question would come up very soon. In fact with the inquisitive nature of my four year old I would say, she delayed way too long in asking me. Way too long. So it didn’t come as a surprise when she broached the subject. It was rather interesting how she brought it up.
I come from work, and my wide eyed toddler was looking at me with curiosity in her eyes. I could read the way she was looking at me as I walked around the house that something was up with her. I at first thought she did something that was making her have those guilty toddler moments. You know those ones that they look at you thinking that you already know what they did and at the same time they are trying to hide it from you? She had that look.
When I was about to probe what she’s been up to, she couldn’t contain herself she asked me in an excited tone.
“Mom, which supermarket did you buy me from?” I was thrown off balance. Then she looked up at me. Expecting a ready answer. I almost chuckled. Seeing the seriousness in her eyes, I tried desperately to hide my laughter. I looked at her and decided it was time. She needed to know where she came from.
The day, I gave birth to my daughter, I made a promise to myself that I will do my level best as her mom to make sure she gets the right information from me. Information on her sexuality, her life, her family, her schooling, her friends, her health etc. I want to be the source of right information for my daughter. I promised myself to educate her on all matters that affect her as they come in a way that I will be able to tell her the truth but at the same time be able to explain to her in a way that she will be able to understand it at her age without me being overly explicit or complex for her to understand. As a mom, I wish to be straight forward with my child. I want to be gentle in explanation. I want to be open with her. To school her. I want her to run to me first when she wants information. When she is being bullied. when she cries. When she needs understanding, I wish for her to know her mom has her back and she can come to me first.
Truth in my motherhood is very essential. If I don’t school my child in this age of internet and knowledge from the streets, she will still get that information. Information that she would perceive it indifferently. It is very important for me to create that balance as a mother and what she will learn from the world.
So I asked her where she got that idea that I bought her from the supermarket. She said that one of her friends mother had just given birth. During one of her visits to her friend’s house, the second time mom told them that babies are bought from supermarkets. I could only imagine the questions the kids might have asked. You know how curious kids are? Toddlers for that matter. I could imagine, they must have been staring at the new baby with utmost awe. Maybe they were curious at how tinny he was. Oh what tinny head he has! Oh, what small hands he has! Oh, what tinny body he has! Oh, what tinny feet he has!And then maybe came the question. Probably from her friend to her mother, “Mommy where did you get this baby?” Or maybe it was my daughter who asked more daringly. “Where do babies come from?”
I gently took her in my arms and sat her down and smiled. Motherhood is hard. Really hard. Explaining some issues to a four year old is the hardest. But like I said, its important for me to explain the truth to her in a language that a four year old can understand without being explicit or loose meaning.
I explained to her that babies are not bought from supermarkets. I emphasised that I didn’t buy her. I had to be really careful with my next choice of words. Taking a second to pause in between words, checking her reaction and level of understanding. At the same time bracing myself for further questions. Our conversation went something close to this.
Me, holding her hands, “God put you in my stomach”. Pause. Searching her eyes. Holding my breath dreading her next question which I thought would be something like, “How did God put me in your stomach?” Sigh of relief. She didn’t ask. I wasn’t ready to explain the “How”. Oh God.
Me, using gestures, “My stomach grew big, like this”
Her, “Inside here?” Touching my stomach.
“Yes. When it was very big. I went to the hospital and the doctor removed you from my stomach.” Pause. Searching her now wide open eyes. I knew she would ask the next question.
“How did the doctor remove me?”
I lifted my blouse and showed her my C-section scar. “The doctor gave me medicine. I slept and then he cut me here and he removed you then he put glue and closed me up”
“Did blood come out?” She sounded terrified.
“Yes. Blood came out. But the doctor cleaned it.”
She almost jumped out of her skin, “So babies are cut from their mommies stomach!”
Me, “No baby. Not all babies are born that way.”
“So their mommies buy them from supermarket?”
“No sweety.” Trying so hard to be gentle. Pronouncing each word slowly and deliberately. “All mommies get big tummies. Then they go to the hospital and they give birth and then come home with their babies.”
Her nodding. We getting somewhere.
Me, “So, all babies are born in hospitals.”
Her, “Which hospital?”
“Do they cry?”
“Was I tinny?”
“Did your mummy go to hospital?”
The focus changed from where babies come from and the conversation trailed off and finally to an off topic. I know that would not be the end of her questions. But each day, as she grows she will ask more and more hard questions. And as she advances in age, curiosity and knowledge, I will expound my answers more and explain as clearly as possible in a way that she will understand. I know one day, we will have explicit conversations as mother and daughter.
Till then it’s baby steps. Literary.
How do you handle hard questions from your toddler?