“Let me tell ya ’bout the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees..”
~from that song on the “hits of the 60s” cassette my parents used to play in the car
Even as a toddler, my son Christian was always a detail-oriented, literal-minded little guy. He was the kind of two-year-old who removed his socks during dinner, asked where he should put them, and when I suggested, “on the chair behind you,” looked around for another piece of furniture. Entirely in earnest (he wasn’t even messing with me), he pointed out, “There ISN’T another chair behind me.” Fine, fine–behind you on the chair, then.
I actually had to explain to him about humor and teasing, because he took absolutely everything so literally, and had to learn to question whether someone might be kidding with him.
I also didn’t dare “do Santa” with him–having a whole fictional story “pulled over on him” would have messed with his head. (Besides which, I’m not sure I could have invented quickly enough to keep up with the inevitable questions he’d have fired at me, for which I wouldn’t have prepared sufficient back-story. Raising him would have been training enough for novel-writing, if I’d had the guts to attempt the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy…)
Christian is also (and always has been) a focused and diligent inquirer when he’s in pursuit of any line of questioning–and I’ve always figured that if he’s old enough to ask, he’s old enough to get an (honest) answer. I’d start with “generalized” information, but if Mr. Detail continued with follow-up questions, I’d keep going. For that reason–and because he had the obvious question-starter of my pregnant belly to prompt him–we had the full-on birds-and-bees conversation before he was three.
My youngest daughter, by contrast, has more of a butterfly-mind—even when she has something on her mind, she has other things on her mind… She also didn’t have an in-house curiosity-creator in the form of Mommy’s-disappearing-lap the way her brother did, so the baby-question didn’t seem to surface in her conscience. For quite a while she didn’t probe beyond the general explanation I’d offered: “the Daddy plants a seed in the Mommy and it grows into a baby”–and since she didn’t ask more, I didn’t take it any further.
I think she was nearly six when she thought it through and inquired about the mechanics of that transaction… Old enough to ask, old enough to know. So I explained.
She looked at me like she was waiting for a punch line–but with none forthcoming, she scrunched her nose, shrugged, and delivered her verdict: “Huh. That’s kinda gross.”
Off she flitted to the next thought–while I murmured a fervent wish in the direction of her departing pigtails: “May you continue to think so for a LONG time!”