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DIANNE KLEIN

Parents Take Flights of Fancy in Tales of Birds and the Bees

July 18, 1993|DIANNE KLEIN

The daughter, 6, asks her father, 42, directly.

"Dad," she says. "How do babies get inside their mother's stomach?"

"Uh," the father says. "Well, a man and a woman fall in love, and then they get married, and then they decide that they want to have a baby, and then they do."

" Nooo ," she says. "How does the baby get there? In her stomach?" This time the kid was looking him straight in the eye.

"Uh, well . . . " he says. "The mother takes a pill."

"Oh," she says. Then she goes on to something else.

Thank God I wasn't there. The father, my own husband, confessed later on.

"Well, she asked me point-blank," he tells me. "She was insistent ."

So this explains the Logic of Man. Or maybe it's not really a chromosomal thing, just too much TV. Maybe that's how the Jetsons' children were born. Or Dr. Spock?

By the time I told my daughter a vague version of the truth, I don't think she much cared. At 6, she has many more pressing matters on her mind. At 9, however, I've heard that kids might not be so easily put off.

My neighbor's son, for example, had a heart-to-heart with his father not too long ago. "What's a prostitute?" the boy wants to know. His friends had been joking about whatever a prostitute was.

"Well," says Dad. "Um, let's see . . . You know how the toaster oven starts getting warm and then it gets really hot?"

"Yeah," says his son.

"Well, that's what happens to men sometimes," Dad goes on. "And then . . . "

I couldn't make this up. I am not a man.

One thing I have noticed in these male stories of sex and procreation: They seem to be getting more high-tech. My own father told me way back when about a cabbage patch. That's where my sister and I came from.

(Of course, I was more inclined to believe the vegetable story than I was the truth that Melanie Hall whispered to me in the fifth grade. "Why would anybody do that ?" I said. But Melanie swore that it was true and she was my best friend at the time.)

Not that too many kids these days are waiting until the fifth grade to start harboring doubts about something like the probability of a cigar-smoking stork actually delivering baby Dumbo to his mom. Already in our house even the existence of the Tooth Fairy (!) has been questioned now and then.

Daughter, holding newly liberated baby tooth before bedtime: "Mom, Miles says there is no such thing as the Tooth Fairy."

Me: "That's ridiculous. Why would he say that? Maybe the Tooth Fairy just hasn't given Miles any money under his pillow. What do you think?"

Daughter: "Yeah. And she gave me 50 cents!"

Although, granted, this sexuality thing is a little more complicated than the Tooth Fairy's building plans. (Front teeth are just perfect for the doors to her castle. Molars are great for the base.)

The other day, for instance, my daughter asks, "Mom, what does gay mean?"

Me: "Gay? Um. Why, honey? Where did you hear that?"

So she tells me that her cousins, ages 9 and 10, had told her that she was gay. I felt like I was on "Seinfeld" then.

"No, you're not gay," I tell her. "Not that there's anything wrong with being gay . . . "

All of this is part of the reason why I've always been such a strong believer in sex education in the schools. Can you imagine what parents, probably fathers, will come up with next?

The Top 10 Answers to the Question, "Where Do Babies Come From, Dad?"

10. Dirty toilets

9. Drive-in movies

8. You know that bread-making machine that your mom has? Well, God has one of those too.

7. A shot. Only it doesn't hurt.

6. Slow dancing with your eyes closed after you're married.

5. A special X-ray machine only for moms.

4. You have to sign up for them where you get your marriage license.

3. Santa brings them if you're good.

2. Diamonds. That's why women always want them.

And the No. 1 Answer to the Question, "Where Do Babies Come From, Dad?"

1. Ed McMahon.

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