I didn’t think I’d be explaining different relationships and how 2 adults of the same sex can have babies when N was only 4 years old. Given at that age a lot of children don’t know exactly how babies are made in the traditional way, I thought it would be something much later, around the age of 8 – which is when we were given a ‘how the body works’ book and told the birds and the bees.
I guess N’s always been aware that people are different. And more so now he’s at school, he’s asking more about what different people do in the family. So he knows that his godfather and eldest cousin has left school but is carrying on studying doing an apprenticeship.
He knows that there are a few children who don’t take part in assembly or church services despite it being a C of E school.
And he knows that people have different celebrations…although I have to admit it’s hard when you’re getting him to write Christmas cards for the class, and one is muslim. To write a card or not? We’ve gone for writing one because we don’t want him to miss out, but I don’t know what he and the family would rather.
But same sex families weren’t something I thought I’d have to explain in his first year in school.
N’s always been quite matter of fact about ‘older’ conversations. I’ve talked to him about how babies are made – in terms of the technical aspect of seed and egg coming together to make a baby. And that the man has seeds, the females have the eggs. He’s also aware of how babies come out in different ways. That most come out of a special hole the mummy has, with some being cut out like he was (‘because I didn’t want to come out Mummy’!).
One of the children in his class has 2 mums. They’re lovely, and it did make me laugh when one came round and told us at school pick up one day, that they were 2 mums and not friends/sisters or any other relationship. In these days, even in a small village, you’d probably be more likely to explain if you weren’t a couple than if you were.
So I knew the question would come up some day.
I was quite surprised that N didn’t ask why the child had 2 mums. He went straight for
‘How did he get made if there wasn’t a dad?’ No warning. Straight into that. And when there’s different potential answers, I could see it getting more complex than he probably needed to know.
‘Usually you have a mum and a dad, and that’s the usual or natural way to make a baby. But some people have babies using science. Sometimes doctors will take a donated seed and match it with the mummy’s eggs. Then the fertilised egg goes in the mummy’s tummy to grow into a baby. Sometimes the baby grows in a surrogate or different woman’s tummy for the mummy. Other times people adopt another person’s baby’. Phew, there’s now a lot of different options for having a baby.
‘But usually there’s a mum and a dad?’
‘Well the seed has to come from a man, to make the baby, but sometimes the mums aren’t with a man but still want to be a mummy and have a baby’.
By that stage, N seemed to be bored and had wondered off.
The next time there was a question was on our reception mums’ night out. N’s always interested in who’s going to babysit when the mum goes out. Yes, we still call it babysitting even when the OH does it. Even his dad refers to it as that.
‘Mummy, who’s going to look after X when all the mums go out? Are both of his mummies going out?’
‘Yes, I’m sure both his mummies will be out. I don’t know who’s babysitting. Maybe grandparents?’
‘Ah yes, probably his granddad – he’s nice’.
I find it amusing how four year old children are always so interested, but then get bored waiting for the answer. Or just decide on the answer themselves.
In a way it’s easier to explain different situations when children are younger. Then it’s just taken for granted that’s how things are. Also, I’d rather we explained life matters to N (well, me rather than the OH spouting rubbish) than waiting for school to do it and wondering what they say.
How’ve you explained situations like this to your children? What’s your experience been with school PSE lessons?