Following our trip to the zoo, zoo, zoo (sorry) Tilly was clearly bothered by a couple of things.
Why was the snow leopard poorly? How did it hurt itself? Will it be alright?
The gorgeous snow leopard had been limping on our visit and whilst we had explained that in a zoo it would be looked after, it was still playing on her mind. Trying to be reassuring my response was a sensible “oh, I expect it hurt its foot on a rock or something. But don’t worry the zookeepers will look after it.” Daddy then decides to go into a little more detail: “Yes, he’ll get the vet and he will put it to sleep and sort it out.” There then followed a lengthy discussion about how and why the vet would put the animal to sleep. Would a dart gun kill the leopard? (No, it’s just because the vet can’t walk into the cage). Would it hurt the leopard? (Not really, it’ll just be like a sharp scratch for a second and then it’ll be over). Would the leopard die? (No. Of course not). Would the foot be put into plaster like Alana at school? (Have no idea on this one so, possibly, but, no, it wouldn’t have a wheelchair).
And so the conversation went on. However this started moving into dangerous territory as Tilly started asking more questions about zoo keepers, vets and, finally what the point of a zoo really was – to preserve and breed animals that are in danger in the wild. So came the question: “what’s breeding?” Swiftly followed by the one that every parents dreads and will do anything to avoid answering:
How do the babies get made?
Now Tilly is 6 1/2 going on 16 and has been curious about the creation of babies since she was able to talk. I have always skirted round the detail of an answer and firstly responded with the highly original “God makes them”. God was rapidly questioned and so it became “well a mummy and a daddy make them”. This was rapidly questioned and so the ‘special seed’ was introduced but never the process. Finally we have animal breeding being queried so, perhaps because it was a bit removed from mummy and daddy doing the do, I decided to go for it. Yep I did. I really did.
I won’t reproduce (I know, I know) the entire conversation bar the end because it really made me chuckle.
“Where do you do it?”
“What do you mean, where do you do it?” Honestly, I just looked blankly at her, I thought I’d been fairly specific: penis, vagina – hey presto 9 months later, baby.
“I mean, like, where would you do it?”
“Umm?” Yes I really was being that dopey.
“In the house or…”
“Ooh, well, in bed.” Or in a whole load of other places depending on how adventurous you are.
“I am NEVER doing that.”
So ended our dreaded conversation and, you know something? I am glad I took that elephant in the room and gave it a baby. Tilly has learnt about one of the most commonplace, but intimate, acts that every human is able to do; sex and reproduction. What’s even better is that she has learnt this from me. None of the playground myths will confuse her. She won’t suffer the embarrassment of complete naivety when it is time for the classroom teaching to take over. She knows the potential consequence of having sex. And the best thing? I can relax about it. She knows the process by which a baby is made. We can build on that as she gets older and, instead of getting hung up on avoiding the conversation, I can concentrate on teaching my beautiful daughter about how to have a loving, passionate and respectful relationship because one day she will want to do it (in bed or elsewhere!).