5.04.2020

Because Toads Don't Get Married


We were on our way to Anna's weekly dance class. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring up the conversation. It was a sweet time with just the two of us, just us girls. At seven years old she craves this one-on-one time with her mama, and I don’t take for granted that maybe one day it won’t be as special to her. It’s only a 15-minute trip so I knew I needed to pose the question as soon as I put the car into drive. 

“So, Anna,”

“Yes,” she said expectantly. My heart skipped a beat. I couldn't believe we were about to have this conversation. The Conversation. I took a deep breath, reminding myself not everything has to be laid out in the next 15 minutes. 

A few weeks before, I sat in a room full of other parents listening to a woman talk about sex.


Yes, sex


With fear and trepidation I entered the church’s sanctuary wondering how many other parents felt the same way. We were all coming to Mary Flo Ridley’s seminar titled Birds and Bees. What advice would this woman give to equip and encourage parents to successfully share the story of life? An hour later I walked out feeling as if I had stood in front of a fire hydrant. While overwhelmed by all the helpful info, I was so grateful to the friend who told me about this seminar because I did feel empowered. Something so important to share with our children doesn’t need to feel so scary. 

Without getting into too many specifics—because if you’re really interested I highly recommend you check out her website—we learned that The Talk isn’t enough anymore. It’s an ongoing conversation that begins at a young age. One of the first steps after creating your family message is that the child should know the anatomically correct vocabulary. Check. Our kids have been saying penis and vagina since they could talk. We encourage them to use these words in the appropriate contexts but I have two boys so…Next steps would be to share the birth story, explain the beauty of reproduction, teach the design of conception, and then continue the conversation as they begin puberty and enter adolescence. 

Before I attended this seminar we realized if we weren’t the ones sharing this information then our kids would hear it elsewhere, sooner or later. We didn’t want that. We want to be the ones explaining how babies are born, the beauty of reproduction, God’s design for sex, and especially the dangers that are out there, like pornography. We want to be the ones building that foundation so that when they are surrounded by mixed messages from the outside world they will fall back on the truths they learned from the people who love them most. 

It’s been easy to share how babies are born. With all the babies being born these days in our church and out of our friends group, our kids have had so many questions and always right before bed. 

“But how does the baby come out of there again?” one will ask with each pregnancy announcement, unaware of how loaded his or her question is as we attempt to tuck them all under their covers. The other one will answer, making a point to use the anatomically correct terms to describe the delivery. They are amazed with what a woman’s body can actually do—as am I, even after three births! Then they will plead for us to share their own story again because they love hearing how we met for the first time, emerging into a cold, bright room to then being swaddled close to mama. As I retell their story, I snuggle them in my arms as if they were that small again remembering so vividly what it felt like to have them inside me not so long ago.

I knew it was maybe time to bring up “but how did the baby get in there” question when Anna started pretending her Barbie dolls were pregnant during her play and most of her drawings were of pregnant women. She hadn’t ever asked the question herself, but I could sense her confusion when during this past Christmas season she didn’t understand how Mary could have been pregnant and birthed Jesus all before she was married to Joseph.   

“The Holy Spirit put the baby inside her,” I responded hoping that would suffice. And it did, until we watched The Nativity movie where many of Mary’s family and friends were dismayed when they saw her pregnant.

“Don’t they know the Holy Spirit put Jesus inside of her?” she asked. 

Well…

So there we were on our way to the studio when I felt like that was as good of time as any to bring it up. Why not? It was really one of the only times in our week where it was just the two of us. The boys weren’t ready to engage in this conversation quite yet. I treaded lightly, a little nervous that whatever we discussed could be contemplated over throughout the hour and a half dance class. I didn’t want Anna to be distracted by thoughts of reproduction as she was turning pirouettes. 

“So, Anna,” I began.

“Yes.”

“You’ve been drawing a lot of pictures of pregnant women and a lot of your Barbies have been pregnant. I was wondering why?” 

“I don’t know,” she said innocently. She didn’t elaborate. I presented the question a little differently asking what her interest was in pregnant women. She didn’t know again.

“Well, you know how the babies come out, right? Right. Have you ever wondered how they got in there?” I asked cautiously.

“Hmm?” 

I could tell this wasn’t something she really considered before except with Mary and Jesus, and she knew that was the Holy Spirit’s doing. We haven’t come across too many families whose babies came before or outside of marriage so in her mind she assumed babies come after marriage (again, unless you’re Mary). First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby with the baby carriage. 

“You eat them. Like their eyes are blueberries,” She finally answered after a few thoughtful moments. 

Wait, what?!

We had about two minutes until we arrived at the studio. That definitely would not be enough time to explain the entirety of reproduction, but I was quickly able to say no, babies do not come from the food women eat. I had to chuckle to myself though. It’s perfectly rational that one would think babies come from food. Their home for nine months sits right below the stomach. I couldn’t fault her for thinking that. But we had much to talk about still, and at that moment we were pulling into the parking lot. 

I watched from the car as Anna walked in by herself thinking how old and mature she was becoming. It was only a few weeks before that I was walking her in, helping her get her ballet slippers on, and encouraging her to place her belongings neatly in the class’s shared cubby. But now as I sat and considered the conversation we had not even five minutes before I realized just how naive and unsullied her little mind was. I grappled with introducing her to God’s design for sex. 

“Maybe we can wait a little longer,” I said as I relayed our conversation to Travis later that evening in the kitchen. We were preparing dinner as the kids played in the living room away from earshot.

“Telling her now won’t take away her innocence. If we wait and we leave it up to her friends to tell her they may say things that just aren’t true. That will be what takes it away.” 

He was right. I remembered the illustration in Mary Flo’s seminar about the sponge. We need to fill our children’s minds with the truth so when they hear outside voices it will just splash off. 

I repeated we need to be the ones, we need to be the ones, over and over in my head the rest of the night. I asked God to give me another opportunity soon to share where babies really do come from. 

***

A few weeks later we were invited to spend a few days with friends at their mountain cabin. We were surrounded by nature, deep in the woods with views of Table Rock as our backdrop. Spring was beginning to blossom and we were given the perfect opportunity to bring reproduction back to mind as we witnessed many things come to life. 

While we hiked around the nearby lake one of the afternoons we came upon a dock where Travis suggested to Theo they fish. Right away we noticed hundreds of toads along the shore. These toads were entwined in what looked like long coiled strings just sitting below the surface. I had never seen anything like it. It wasn’t until I Googled toads that I learned they were toad eggs! Upon further observation we saw many of the toads one on top of another. They were mating!

“What are they doing?” Anna and Theo both asked. Well, here goes, I thought to myself. I racked my brain trying to come up with something quick that was truthful but just enough to satisfy their curiosity. 

“They are getting married,” I finally blurted out. They seemed content enough to not push the issue but I was not totally happy with my response. Because toads don’t get married. 

As the kids played along the shore, careful to adhere to my warning of not disturbing the mating toads or their eggs my mind reeled with how I could continue the conversation with just Anna. I wasn’t sure if the discussion would lead to human reproduction, and I still didn’t think Theo was quite ready for that.

Thankfully Theo took an interest in Travis fishing further down the dock, so I had a chance to continue. Anna gently held a non-mating toad she had just caught allowing its legs to bounce lightly on her hand.

“Look mama, it’s a ballerina. It’s doing a pliĆ©!” she could not have been more precious, and I thought of our chat on our way to dance class. 

“Do you know what the married ones are really doing?” 

“What do you mean?” she looked at me quizzically. 

“Well, remember when we learned that God gave all living things either a seed or an egg?” I reminded her, referring to when we dissected flowers at the nature museum just a few weeks earlier. 

“Yes.”

“Well, the toad on top is the male, and he has the seed. And the female is on the bottom and she has the egg. The male is giving the female the seed and when the seed and egg meet life begins. By God's design they are making babies!” 

Phew! I got it out. 

I watched her eyes grow and glisten as she realized what I said and what that actually meant. I was petrified of what would come next but all she said was, “Wow! That is so cool!” Her face lit up and she giggled, full of wonder. I could tell she was truly amazed. As she gazed in astonishment at the mating toads poking out of the surface of the water she was satisfied, and so was I.

For the next few minutes I relished in her awe. Maybe this wouldn’t be as difficult as I have been making it out to be. Hopefully with every step we share with our children they will see the beauty and marvel of God’s design for life. Because it truly is beautiful and marvelous. And nothing God creates can be anything but full of those things.

4 comments:

  1. What a beautiful process God is leading you on to share the beauty of His design! Great job, walking in His courage and see Mama❣️

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  2. Thank you for sharing this! I'm just getting ready to have this talk with Norah too and this felt like a virtual "you got this" fist bump. I listened to a podcast with both of the women behind The Birds & the Bees website and loved their stuff! (Also, so fun to read your writing again!)

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    Replies
    1. Aren't their resources wonderful? Solidarity, sister! We got this! Miss you, Jodie <3

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