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BERRY: Getting to answer the big question

• Sep 7, 2017 at 1:00 PM

My youngest daughter, Maggie, asked a question the other day that all parents expect but are still completely unprepared for when it happens. 

The question came like a peal of thunder on a clear day: "How are babies made?"

My 13-year-old daughter, Evien, quickly responded. "Oh, Maggie, you don't want to know. It's really gross!"

I looked at my wife, Amy. She looked at me. "Wanna field this one?" she asked.

"No," I said. "That's why I had girls, so I wouldn't have to do 'The Talk.'"

“But it's your turn," Amy said.

I looked down at my sweet, toe-headed little Maggie. She was peering back at me with wide eyes and an expectant grin. "Truth is,"  I said.  "Nobody really knows how babies are made. It has something to do with men at sea, female body parts that sound like they're named after flowers, and microscopic organisms that multiply. Scientists have been baffled for centuries."

“That is not true!"  Evien shouted, pointing an accusing finger at me. I thought about saying, "Well, you explain it, then!"  But I thought better of it.  Evien would explain procreation in such gruesome detail, the event would seem like a medieval jousting match held in a bedroom. Without horses, of course. And spectators.

Maggie was undaunted. She moved in closer with the same eyes and grin. Maggie is 11. She still plays with Barbie dolls, dresses up for Halloween and watches Disney animated movies. She's my youngest child. I want her to stay innocent. But I owe her an explanation for all those babies.

“Okay, Maggie,"  I said.  "Truth is, tiny silver fairies plant baby seeds in the cabbage patch. Angels come down from heaven to water and nurture the plants for nine months until the babies are fully developed and plump. When the mother's belly becomes big and painful, she knows it's time to go to the cabbage patch and pick out her baby."

“That is not true!"  Evien demanded, emphasizing it with another point of her finger. "If that were true, all the babies would get sunburned and eating broccoli would make me a cannibal!"

Calmly, Amy intervened. "Maggie," she said. "I have a book for you to read. It's short, but tells you everything you need to know. Afterwards, we can talk about it and I'll answer any questions you have."

Amy looked at me and from the corner of her mouth she whispered, "You really stink at this."

I pressed my fingertips into my chest and said, "Apparently, I have been lied too."

Before Amy gave the book to Maggie, she asked, "Why do you want to know about this stuff?" 

"Well," Maggie said shyly. "My friends are starting to talk about it."  

The book is called "Where Did I Come From" by (I am not making this up) Peter Mayle. If you put his first name last, his name would be...well, you figure it out.

Maggie read the book and handed it back to her mom. Evien said, "Told you it was gross."

Surprisingly, Maggie had few questions. I guess she just wanted to get some clarification, and to be in the loop with her friends. Her only comment was, "I didn't know all of that stuff happened. I just thought making babies involved a lot of kissing." 

I'm glad she read the book because I'd hate for her to grow up thinking she could get an STD from a casual lip-lock.

Later that evening, I decided to read the book for myself. In fact, I read it a few times. "Where Did I Come From" made copulation seem as mundane as weeding a cabbage patch. I'm glad the book didn't mention anything about backseats, dorm rooms or tents. That made it much easier to explain to Maggie that God created this process to be enjoyed by a husband and wife only.

I'm quite certain that the book's cartoonish illustrations swayed many good catholic girls towards the convent.

However, I must admit that I was a little offended by the depiction of the sperm cells. They all seemed to be swimming around wildly with no distinct destination. None of them were using a map and none of them would stop and ask for directions.

I'm glad I read Peter Mayle's book for myself. It cleared some things up and put me in the loop with the rest of the adult population. It was eye-opening. I'd often wondered why I didn't have roots dangling from my feet or leaves sprouting down my back.

— By Grant Berry, Tribune community columnist

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