I was cooking breakfast and stuffing lunch bags. The kids were at the counter. It’s birthday season in our house and I had been sharing memories about the arrival of my oldest child, 9 years ago. How sweet the day was, how excited I was to be his mom, and who was present at the hospital. It was all so amazing. I turned toward the sink and out of the blue I heard, “Mom, I think you should have another baby. It should be a boy so that James has a brother.” I almost choked on my freshly brewed french roast. I turned and faced my daughter. She looked serious. I smiled and sweetly explained that no, I am done having babies. Then my son tells her, “divorced moms can’t have babies!”
Ouch, okay. I froze. This was heading downhill. Maybe the kids could sort this out, so I stayed quiet.
My daughter persisted. “Could you have a baby mom? ” She stares me down. What exactly was she asking me? Now there were six bright brown eyes peering at me. It was 7:23am. I have only had one sip of coffee. I was ill-equipped. In my head I heard the wise voice of my well-paid counselor, ‘tell the truth Dana.’
So I did. Sort of.
“Sweetheart, three kids is just great for me. There won’t be any more kids. No more babies for me. I am so glad I have each of you, and gosh, three kids is just right, don’t you think? Remember Buddy Blue, the fish? He literally drowned in his scummy little tank because mommy just didn’t have time to care for him. I have all I can handle.”
The diversion seems to have worked. Poor Buddy. I called upon the painful memory of his loss to get out of this horrible conversation. The attention of two of my children shifted, but this middle child of mine was sharp. She eyed me sideways, her eyebrows furrowed in thought. She was not satisfied. In a shameless moment of panic I suggested she go check on our one remaining pet, her beloved hamster. Under her breath as she walked out of the room I heard, “I will pray for a baby!”
A week later we are all at dinner with my parents. It’s a lovely night and I’m grateful for the adult conversation. Dining with grown-ups is a luxury.
She is seven. I am chewing on an onion ring and it is loud inside my head. I ask for clarification on her previous statement.
She elaborates for the whole table to hear. “My boyfriend is Hank. I love him and I want to kiss him. Mom said I could have him over to play, but there can’t be any physical contact.” (Did I say that?!?!?!)
My dad drops his burger mid-bite. My daughter, smiles, blushes, and eyes her crowd. I’m dumbstruck. Nothing beats navigating a tough parenting moment with an audience. I say, “there will be no kissing until middle school.” Simultaneously my mother says “there is no kissing until high school!” I correct myself immediately, “Yes, high school, like Grammy said!”
My daughter starts to protest. She would like to elaborate on the qualities of her young suitor. I give my parents a wide eyed look of helplessness. I am hoping they will share some wisdom and guidance. Not so much. I suggest I would like to talk about something else. We all look down, rattled. The rest of the evening proceeds without incident.
Once the night is over and the kids go to bed, I do what any rational mother would do, I take to google. I need all the advice, tips, and wisdom that I can get my hands on. I’m scribbling down notes as I eat my dessert: have “the talk” with her, she’s fine, it’s normal, send her to an all girls school, forbid the relationship, kiss her more, scare her with a graphic germ discussion, get a book, get a video, get a professional. I’m overwhelmed.
In the morning I seize the opportunity to chat with her while I’m combing out her hair. I ask her to tell me more about this friend-who-is-a-boy, and why she wants to kiss him. She doesn’t share much, she’s not a morning person. Then I go for the shock factor, “What if I walked around kissing people?!?!” She gags, shudders, and squeels in disgust.
I gain momentum.
I explain germs, and boys, and spit and I don’t even know what else. She’s with me.
Then I talk about her heart, and how special she is, and about how special her body is, and about how some things (many things) must wait. I’m trying, and I’m fumbling for the right words and I’m sure I’m blowing it. I promise to give her all the kisses I can. She can hug her friends, and sometimes hold their hand. She may not kiss them. She agrees; she seems onboard for now. We hug for a long time, and then I resume breathing. Before she leaves she has one more question for me, “is it middle school or high school?”
I shake my head and walk away. I need coffee. I need help. I need to talk to my mother. I need to prepare my arsenal of speeches on such-things-of-which-I-am-not-prepared-to-speak-of. This child is coming for me.