When your four-year-old asks that question

I thought I had this parenting gig all figured out with my first two boys, and then my little June came along. She has single-handedly rewritten my parenting bible, putting me through paces that I’m pretty sure she invented. But her fourth birthday (last December) was kind of like a rebirth–overnight she morphed into a mostly delightful little person that I kind of want to keep with me all the time, if for no other reason than to see what she’s going to say next.

For instance, earlier this month we took the kids to a little carnival. Being the appropriately cheap parents that we are (and trust me, in Europe rides can get spendy) we told the kids they could each chose two of the five rides offered. “Bumper cars!” the boys shouted, June hot on their heels. “Yeah!” she said, “Bumper cars!”

Since she’s too small to take the wheel she was paired up with Daddy. I watched her jump into the car full of hopeful anticipation that this would be the most awesome ride ever invented.

The horn blasted, the music soared and they were off. Then she started to scream.

30 seconds into the ride the ring master had to fish their car out of the melee and let a hysterically sobbing June exit the arena.

“Mommy!” she yelled, sobbing her way into my arms as I wrapped her in a hug, “We were in…a accident!”

Girls. They are nothing like boys.

We take turns saying family prayers in the morning and there’s no doubt that as good as my boys are at praying for things that matter (Rex routinely prays for the animals in Animal Africa and will Mommy please buy him the plastic lizards?), June takes the cake. She ticks off each family member with her eloquent rhetoric. When she got to Georgia this morning (the baby will be two in August) she prayed, “And…I feel in my heart that Georgia…is going to be two years old. I really feel it in my heart, so yes, Georgia will be two.” Faith in action.

The kicker came the other day. “Mommy,” she said, “How do people get to be babies?”

Now I’ve got two boys who are seven and nine and neither of them have ever asked me this question. Slightly unprepared here.

“Oh…um…they come from Heaven, sweetheart.”

“Yeah,” she said, “But how do they get here?”

I know there are dozens of parents and modern thinkers who insist that we be totally honest with our children about s-e-x from a very early age. Unfortunately I am not one of them. I still agree with the mother who’s answer to her little child was, “Sorry, God doesn’t want you to know that yet.”

“Well,” I said, “when two people really love each other a lot they get a baby. Like I love Daddy.”

“But how do they get a baby?”

“From a mommy’s tummy.”

“How does the baby get in your tummy? Who puts it there?” she persisted while I broke out in a rather uncomfortable sweat.

“Oh,” I said, “It has something to do with Daddy’s and science, I really don’t know that much about it–” this is called lying, by the way. Only two months ago I told my eight-year-old that I know absolutely everything about sex it if he ever wants to talk.


“When you go to school your science teacher will explain it to you, it’s super complicated. Who wants cake?”

I might have side-stepped this topic for the moment, but next time I’m going to have to be more prepared.





  1. My wonderfully inquisitive 4 year old son asked me the same question earlier this year. My answer of “when a Mommy and Daddy are married and in love they make a baby” didn’t satisfy him. He wanted more. I told him a “Daddy puts a seed in a Mom’s belly and it grows into a baby”. Now with my older daughter that was satisfactory. Not so for my son. “HOW does he put it there, Mom?” was the next question I was served… I answered with “Well… uh… how do you think?” And he responded, “Through your mouth?” Ummmmm…. HAHA. Luckily I was saved by the two year old sitting next to him who thoroughly distracted him from finishing the conversation! 🙂 Although a week later while tucking him into bed he said, “Mom, I KNOW Dad doesn’t put a seed in your belly through your mouth. Just tell me how.” Oy vay!

  2. I think you should have the oral sex talk with her, next week.

  3. All ny kids have bought the line you handed June. If they hadn’t i am pretty sure I would have distracted them with cake also. My kids still think you need to be married to get a baby. I’ll keep that going as long as I can. I liked the science teacher bit. Four is a little young to feed them too many details. Even at 8 I am letting Brody ask the questions, not me leading the conversation. that’s a good pace for me!

  4. I think you are on the right track Annie . . . . . my philosophy was that when the questions were asked the answers were ready to be heard. When my 4 year old daughter asked the questions, I gave her the REAL answers and scared her to death. For years she would inform me that she was n.e.v.e.r e.v.e.r going to have babies! I should have taken things more slowly and lied a little bit.

  5. In a child development class I took in college, they taught us to be as vague as possible and if the kid needs more info they’ll ask more detailed questions. I remember the example they gave was about a litle boy who was about 7 and asked his mom where he came from. The well-prepared mom went ino a 5 minute scientifically-detailed lecture. Afterward, the son said ,”Oh, OK. I was just wondering because George from school is from Indiana.” I still think that’s funny. However, Junie is so inquisitive, I don’t know if that’ll work with her! Luckily I still haven’t had any detailed conversations, but I think Savannah’s getting close. I definitely want to talk with her before she learns too much from school or peers! Scary stuff….

  6. LOL. “Who wants cake?”

  7. Ha! I don’t know if this will help, but I’ll pass it along just in case. It’s old, but pretty solid principles:

  8. And I totally forgot to say how darn cute June’s prayer was! It had me giggling all day, I told the kids about it and they were laughing too. They kept saying, “Tell us what she said again, Mom!”