"Mommy, did you know that when babies are born they have blood all over their eyes?"
I paused, put down the Junie B., First Grader book I was reading with a theater-worthy performance, to glance nervously at my 6 1/2 year-old daughter. It was bedtime. We read stories, talk about our day, say our prayers and kiss goodnight. And sometimes discuss the big questions in life.
"Where did you hear that, sweet pea?" I ask, fingers crossed, hoping that by this time she has forgotten what she said. Kids do that, you know. There have been many times when I'm in the middle of an amazing answer to a big question, when I notice their eyes have glazed over. That's when they look at me and say something like, "I really love everything green. Please stop talking now, Mommy."
But not this time. She was sitting there expectantly, waiting patiently for an answer.
"Well, maybe honey. But when you were born the doctor cleaned you right up and by the time I held you in my arms you were blood-free."
There. That should satisfy her for now. Pat, pat.
"How do babies get born anyway?"
Crappity, crap crap. I have two options here:
1. I can spin a tale about that long-beaked slightly creepy stork who delivers babies wrapped precariously in pink or blue blankets. But has any child in the history of children really believed that one? Santa, I get. But a flippin' bird? Delivering babies?
2. Or I can tell her the G rated truth. In fact, a friend of mine had just recently shared that when her kids ask the big life questions, she just tells them the truth. That is so 1970's cool. I consider this option and already feel like that groovy parent who can always be counted on to give their kids the real "skinny on the deal."
So I take a deep breath and begin, "Remember the scar on my tummy?" She hesitantly nods her head. "That is how you came out of mommy. It's called a c-section."
"Okay. But did I climb out?"
Oh boy. I start to get fidgety. Time for honesty parenting. I take another deep breath and begin. "All right, here's how it happened. The doctor takes a scalpel, which is like a really sharp knife, and cut open my stomach. Then he reached in, pulled you out, wiped you off and handed you to me. It was one of the best moments of my life." I finish with a nostalgic smile on my face.
I turn to my little girl. It was really wonderful to share something so real yet touching with her. But she is staring back at me, eyes wide open, chin trembling, mouth open in a silent horror movie scream.
I frantically begin back-pedaling. "Oh, baby. Wait a minute. You think it hurts, don't you?" Tears are beginning to fall from her once-innocent blue eyes. I take that as yes.
"It doesn't hurt at all," I assure her confidently. "You see, before they took you out they gave mommy loads of drugs that made me feel numb and super happy. I couldn't feel a thing. But...ah...don't do drugs."
Impressive parenting talk. Pat, pat. I was just totally real and truthful with my daughter AND I advised her on the downside of drugs.
"Mommy," she says in a trembling, tear-filled voice. "I don't want to have babies, ever, ever, ever. Can we ask God for me to never, ever, ever have a baby?"
No, no, no. This is going so wrong. I've just gone from loving, truthful parent to demon bringer of horrific news and I've just convinced my daughter to never have a child. I'm actually terrible at this. They should really make people pass a test before they become parents.
We sit there in silence for a bit as I hold her. Then she says in a small voice, "Is the knife actually very soft?"
Screw honesty. "Absolutely. Very soft."
"Is the knife more like rubber?"
"Definitely. Just like rubber....and you know what else? On the day you were born, a big beautiful stork flew you to our house in a pink blanket and safely delivered you to mommy and daddy."
And now that her world had been set straight again, she happily snuggled closer to me and as she was falling asleep she mumbled, "That's what I thought in the first place. You can be so silly, Mommy."