The Birds and The Bees

Did you know that NONE of the kids’ books on bees or frogs or penguins or pandas mentions the father’s role in reproduction.  At first, I thought it was a fluke, but I’m starting to think it’s some kind of conspiracy.  It could be the much feared castrating feminists.  Or maybe it’s some segment of the Bible brigade, the one afraid that if we tell kids that bees copulate, they will all become crack-addicted teen parents.  Either way, it’s weird.

In these books, frogs lay eggs in the water and, poof, out come tadpoles. The mama panda goes off somewhere to have her baby.  And the queen bees and female penguins lay their eggs.  (Some books will mention that Papa Penguin helps to keep the egg warm, but none bother to say how the egg got fertilized.)

The only books I’ve seen that allow for any real “male” participation in reproductivity are about certain flowers.  And even there, the talk is more often of pollen, or stamen and pistils, than sperm and eggs.

We’ve been studying life cycles all semester; and all semester I’ve been wondering why I didn’t know how any of these animals, insects, or plants reproduced.  As we would read along, I remembered almost all of the information in the books.  But I was always left thinking, “Hey, wait, what happens to those lonely eggs?” Or “How did that panda, who lives its life alone, produce that gross pink thing that will someday become a cute panda?”

Then it hit me.  This is not the result of my bad education.  This is the result of my messed up industrial culture.  The same “progress” that moved death and funerals out of homes seems to have wiped reproduction out of sight as well.

As my sister was talking to Ezra today about the 10,000 bees that are on their way to our house (see yesterday’s post), I overheard his excited description of all things bee, including his passionate recounting of how the drone sacrifices its life to copulate with the queen. (Let’s just say it’s not pretty.  If people really wanted to keep teens from having sex, they need only explain to them what actually happens with the bees half of birds and bees.)

People who know Ezra might disagree, given some of the outrageous things he has been known to say, but I don’t think he’s suffered from our relatively open policy on reproductive information.  The fact that he has learned all of it at an age when the information is not accompanied by giggles and embarrassment is a plus.

Now let me be clear, I’m not interested a return to some imagined “good ole days.”  Nor do I think we all need to move back to farms, where kids would have no illusions about the sounds and sights of reproduction and birth.  And I have no interest in bunking down in a big family lodge where everyone is getting it on in front of the neighbors.  But seriously, since when did it become inappropriate to tell kids how most living things reproduce?

About Tara Edelschick

Right now, Tara is on sabbatical in Costa Rica. She is sleeping more, and exercising and flossing every day for the first time in her life. She is enjoying her husband, her boys, and Nafisa (the daughter she never had) more than she ever has. And she is learning to rest in the arms of the one who doesn't rank you based on how many things you can cross off your list at the end of the day. Follow her on Twitter@TaraWonders.

  • Andy

    The kids would like watching "March of the Penguins" — and it focuses a lot on the male role of protecting the eggs while the females go fatten themselves up.

    • tedelschick

      They watched it yesterday and loved it. Thanks for the recommendation.

  • http://boydsnest.org/news/ Ann Boyd

    I love it that you are open about the whole reproductive process with your kids. Jon and I have an "explain things appropriately and don't make a big deal out of it" policy, which is pretty good so far, but our almost-3-and-5-yr-old daughters haven't posed any true "how are babies made?" questions yet. Have you come across any books that you find helpful?

    We wrote an amusing little post a few weeks ago about our potty talk policy:
    http://boydsnest.org/news/2011/potty-jokes/ Potty talk can definitely be funny!

    • tedelschick

      My favorite book on the subject of human reproduction is called It's Not the Stork. It says that it's for ages 4-8. My four year old boys were not that interested in most of it until six, but they loved the pictures that label body parts and show how bodies change as we get older. Check it out and let me know what you think.

  • http://boydsnest.org/news/ Ann Boyd

    Hi Tara,

    Thanks for that book recommendation! I will definitely check it out. And the story you posted totally cracked me up, I'm still laughing days later. :)


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