You say you want an evolution

This week, Thalia damn near bowled me over when she looked up at me through those gorgeous lashes of hers over a bowl of pasta and asked, “Mommy? How was the first baby born?”

The uh…the what?

“How did the first baby get born?”

What makes you ask that honey?

“I was just thinking about babies being born and wondered how the first one got born.”

Did I mention Thalia is five?

Now after silently patting myself on the back for raising a supergenius critical-thinking kindergartener who would have the capacity to even ask a question like that (she gets it from Nate, trust me) I turned to the trusty internets. Because as amazing as her question was, my answer was damn near intelligible. Something about amoebas growing legs and walking out of the ocean and getting taller over thousands of years and inventing the wheel. I might have mentioned the Darwin Awards. And Woolly Mammoths.

“Hold on…” I said. Then I pulled out my laptop and clicked over to some dandy PBS videos about evolution.

Thalia sat there in awe, mouth agape, watching breathlessly as she learned about things like natural selection and the difference between relatives and ancestors; then asked me to replay the requisite animated sequence of the monkey morphing into a a man-like monkey about four times.

It was like watching someone’s brain explode. 

I liked it.

Then I realized, I got off easy. I didn’t have to talk to her about how babies get made. I’d imagine my answer would also be something about amoebas with legs. Which really, isn’t so far off from the truth.

What are the hard questions your kids have asked?


54 thoughts on “You say you want an evolution”

  1. We just had Remembrance Day in Canada, and my kindergartner had a lot of questions about war. And there ARE no good answers for those questions. 🙁

  2. You found a child-friendly link! My 9.5 year old announced last week that evolution was ridiculous and made no sense at all because the FACTS say that god invented the world (oh my, what ARE they teaching them in school these days?)! I ran frantically to the internet for backup (when he just laughed his head off at my feeble attempts at explaining) and the best I came up with was this, which tells the story quite well but was miles over his head…

    PBS, I should have known…

    My photography is available for purchase – visit Around the Island Photography and bring home something beautiful today!

  3. Thank you for sharing the link. I am bookmarking it and saving it for the day when my little genius asks me a similar question. But yeah, how the hell do you explain 'making' a baby to a five year old? I'm glad that my kid is only 19 months so I have a few years to lose sleep over it.

  4. Thanks for sharing the link. I'm afraid to tell you, though, that my daughter asked those same questions when she was five. I opted for the “God did it,” answer, but am looking forward to sharing the video with her.

    Luckily, she hasn't delved too deeply into how babies are made and has accepted my non-scientific answers about families and love. Have a good video for that one for a six year old?

    Have a great day!

  5. It was 6:30 AM and I had gotten up to pee, still half-asleep, when my 3-year-old nearly kicks down the door and asks why there are bad people in the world. Oy.

    I blanched, coughed and then spewed something about some people believing that what they wanted was more important than anybody else, and that they wanted it so much they would hurt people to get it. And hurting others is bad. (My kid was the biter at daycare for a time; I never miss an opportunity to preach keeping our teeth to ourselves.)

  6. “What happens after you die?” is the toughest one for me, a lapsed Catholic, who is not quite ready to say I think the whole thing is a sham.

    And thanks for the link! We will be checking it out.

  7. My kiddos are 3 and 1. Mostly the questions are “What's that.” But recently 3-year-old asked “What's Jesus?” Husband and I are lapsed Christians. I tried to explained he was a kind and good man who some believe went to heaven (oops.) Her next question “What's heaven?” It just went downhill from there.

  8. Can't wait to check out that link!

    My 5 year old has asked this question AND the “will humans get extinct like the dinosaurs?” I muddled through the first question and for the 2nd question, I told a lie, which made me feel bad because I do try to be honest on these things. I could not tell him that deep in my heart, I do think that humans will be extinct someday (probably not anytime soon, though)

    And yes, I have told him exactly how babies were made, but it went over his head. For now.

    The death questions are killing me because I am not religious (yes, Jesus is totally the Don Draper of death. The consummate salesman for it, actually) But, I did tell the truth on that one as well. Now, I have a 3 year old out of blue quietly declaring from the back of the car “Mama, I will miss you when you die.” I told her that it won't be for a long, long time. And then fervently hope I am not lying again.


  9. Getting out is easy. It's how they get in there that keeps the wheels spinning! But easy at 5 yrs old, just wait til a bit older when all the pieces come together and they don't believe you! Or in high school when you desperately try to keep the pieces separate! good luck!

  10. Did the dinosaurs all die at once, or one at a time?

    If all the dinosaurs are dead, are they in heaven?

    Can I send letters to heaven?

    How long does it take to get to the moon?

    What's the highest a bird can fly?

    How did I get out of your tummy when I was a baby?

    How did I get *into* your tummy?

    Who is smarter, you or Daddy?

    … That last one is easy: MOMMY. The two before it, however, were redirected to Daddy.

    I should just do a whole list of these. Or maybe just a list of the ones that I couldn't/didn't answer.

  11. You've met Tacy. She's been asking confounding questions since she could string a sentence together. We've tackled religion, politics, war, gay marriage, racism, alcoholism, Santa Claus, and where babies come from.

  12. Considering mine is too little to strong more than 3 words together, I'll use the story from my DH's ad partner.

    So his daughter asks about the tooth fairy. He proceeds to explain it to her, but unlike you, he doesn't find an education link. Instead he finds this video:

    (which he doesn't preview before showing his 5 year old daughter!)

    Needless to say, she's now traumatized for life. So her mind was also blown, but not in a good way.

  13. The girls (4 and 5) recently asked me about where babies come from. It wasn't asked casually. They came looking for answers. They weren't going to be put off.

    So, I decided to tell them, the whole gory thing – penis, vagina – I spared nothing. As I was doing it, I couldn't believe it was coming out of my mouth. I kept talking, explaining. They looked at me mouths ajar. Then looked at each other. Then, they both fell out laughing. Like, on the floor, cackling.

    They thought I had made the whole thing up. Penis in the vagina, are you crazy?

    Two days later, they asked me to tell them the real story. They still don't believe me.

    Next time, I'm totally going for PBS.


  14. My favorite question was not to me. It was from one son to another in the backseat while I drove. (The 7yo had been reading all those DK science books.)

    5yo: What do you think the hardest part of being a parent is?

    7yo: Saying goodbye to your kids when they go to college.

    5yo: I think it's not crying when they sew you up after you have a baby.

    7yo: Yeah. I'm glad all I have to deliver is sperm.

    It was so hard to remain silent and not crack up, but it's those quiet moments in the car when they forget I'm there that the good stuff gets shared.

  15. The hardest question I have had to deal with thus far is “Will the other kids think I'm different because my skin is brown?”

    As an adoptive parent–that questions hits you right in the gut.

    He has asked tons of other “hard” questions but this is the one that has stuck with me. He asked it when he was 3.

  16. My daughter had already had sex ed and wanted to know MORE details. It wouldn't have been a problem as she was 11 except we were driving around with her 8 year old brother. After harassing me for about a half an hour about “how, but how” did the penis ACTUALLY find the vagina, I had no choice but to explain it in FRONT of my stricken son. The answer is the infamous “Tucker and the Turkey” conversation which since I just mentionednit, I guess I'll write it up now. It's known around these parts as the best birds and the bees explanation ever. BTW, Tucker is our dog.

  17. At least evolution makes sense, unlike creationism. I didn't have such a hard time being catholic until I had kids. I recently boiled down thousands of years into “fantastic stories about a cool guy designed to teach us important life lessons.” Eek.

  18. I've tried tackling my son's questions about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and about babies (my son is 6). But what I find much worse… trying to answer his questions about the surgery he had when he was 2, about his special doctors that he sees still once a year for now, and about ugly what-if scenarios. He doesn't ask very often, but when he does, the questions undo me.

  19. Funny! It never would have occurred to me to answer that question from the evolutionary standpoint – I would have spouted out something about eggs and seeds or something.

    We are a blended family, so the hardest questions we face are about two older children's dad (my ex-husband). My five year old has asked why he can't go live with his brother and sister's dad. Ouch!

  20. Flora has recently started asking about monkeys: how many types there are, where they live, what they eat. What makes this hard is simply the fact that I don't know. (Somehow this all started with spider monkeys somehow.) Maybe I'll see what PBS has to say about it.

    I honestly don't mind the sex, death, religion questions. Not that they are not hard, but I like talking with my kids about them, at their level. (I'm weird I guess.)

    What surprises me at this point, is we've had several conversations about babies coming out of mommies, and as I am due ANY DAY NOW, KID, Flora is on top of the issue. But neither she nor her little sister has taken it upon themselves to ask me how the baby got in there in the first place.

  21. Last week my daugher (age 5) asked, “Mom, can we do something to help the turkeys at Thanksgiving?” (We are vegetarians, so it's not too crazy of a question.) I wasn't sure exactly how to respond, though….did she want me to plan a covert operation to bust turkeys out of a nearby farm? After some careful thought, I suggested making a donation at Thanksgiving to a farm animal sanctuary, which satisfied her. I would welcome questions about sex and/or evolution vs. creationism these days. The questions that catch me off guard are those about animals (what's up with roadkill, etc). Animal issues aside, I am truly dreading the day when she catches a glimpse of TV news and sees all of the atrocities that humans inflict on one another.

  22. Let's see:

    What is a gas chamber?
    Why do people kill other people?
    Why can't I tell people that you peed on mom (this followed the how to make a baby discussion. He didn't accept that boys can manufacture something other than 'pee.')
    What happens when you die?
    And from my daughter I received a fabulous question of “how big does it get?

    She was about 4 and had noticed that some boys get “excited” and decided that dad might be a good person to ask.

    Believe me, you don't want to have this discussion. I told her that some things were private and when that didn't work gave her a candy bar at 9 am in the morning.

    Better to deal with the sugar rush than that.

  23. 6 year old girl: Hey remember that thing we talked about how babies are made?
    Me: Yes.
    6 year old girl: I do have a question.
    Me: Okay, you know you can ask me anything.
    Very Ticklish 6 year old girl: Does is tickle
    Me: Nope
    6 year old girl: Does it feel kinda gross, because it seems like it would feel kinda gross.
    Me: It is gross to kids. It's not gross when you want a baby
    6 year old girl: Yeah, I've seen you do a ton of gross things like smell the baby's butt in church.

  24. One more: Tacy also knows what Lady Gaga is referring to in Poker Face when she sings about bluffin' with her muffin. We've requested that she not share such information with her classmates.

  25. My kids are too young for things like this yet, but my sister's daughter, at age 5, asked her how babies were made. “Mom, how did the baby get in your belly? And don't lie to me. I want to know the truth. I know birds don't drop them off. I'm not dumb. I want the real truth. Ok?”

    Yeah, that is my poor sister's 5 year old.

  26. my 2.5 year old asked my husband “why do we live on earth?” SO glad she asked him. . . I'm reserved for important questions, regarding location of toys, demands for juice boxes, etc.

  27. But how do they get in there…was possibly my least favorite question. Although the, you mean people REALLY do THAT?? Was pretty funny.

    Also the, what is suicide and what exactly happens when we die, top the charts. Oh and explaining the Holocaust was a joy too.

    Can't we just go back to talking about Elmo? Or why girls don't have weiners?

  28. My son was very sick as an infant, and required a bone marrow transplant at six months of age. His desire to eat dried up completely and he is still completely gtube dependent.
    The remnants of those dark days live with us still, in the form of these kinds of questions (and we aren't religious at all):

    Why did God do this to me, Mama?
    Why did God make me sick?
    Why does God let babies die sometimes?
    Why didn't God want me to be able to eat?
    Why does he want me to have this tubey in my belly forever?

    He's six now. He's been asking these questions for years.
    I still don't have any good answers for him. I'm always open to suggestions, though!

  29. My kids have never been exposed to the idea of God. My son can read, age 6, and we saw a bumper sticker recently that said something about God. Something sarcastic, I'm sure, as we live in Berkeley.

    I asked him “What is God? What does that mean?”

    He quickly recited the pledge of allegiance, saying UNDER GOD with great emphasis, demonstrating to me that he has no idea what God means, or the pledge which he practices at school each day.

    So, what hard questions has he asked? He's not asking! I'm waiting – wondering what the hell I'm going to say when he does ask.

    And also? The irony that the only place he's heard of God is at public school? Well, it just tickles me.

  30. @Jembug's Mama, what a strong mama you must be. It's a great reminder that some questions are harder than others.

  31. The one that jumps to mind was when my oldest daughter wanted to know why it was okay for us to look at her baby brother's penis but not her dad's. I had to think about it a moment and told her that the baby was too young to keep himself clean properly, but that as soon as he was old enough to use the bathroom alone and take a shower, then it would be time to keep his penis private too. It's hard not to mingle naked body issues with issues about sex, so that always gets weird when talking to very small children.

  32. Wonderful! As a college biology professor I am so happy you showed her videos on evolution! Yay for Thalia to ask such awesome questions! 🙂

    My not-quite-three year old asked me how the baby got into my belly and wasn't satisfied with a run-around answer. I'm all for giving kids the truth, but I was really hoping to wait a bit longer to explain sex to her.

    kate C.

  33. Lololol. What a smart kid! And thank god for the internet. They really keep you on your toes. I remember being at a family funeral one evening and my 3 year old nephew asking me where they go when they die. Where is heaven and how come he can't see them. I had to do some quick story telling about you do see them…they are the brightest stars in the sky….so on and so forth. LOl

  34. Last week my daughter asked me who created deer as we were driving home, going past a local farm that has a huge herd of fallow deer. Not even thinking, I answered, “God made the deer”. Of course that was followed by, “Mommy, who's God?”. I stuttered something and did my best to change the subject. I'm just not ready for these questions, especially out of a 3.5 year old.

  35. Charlie's Playhouse makes games and toys that teach little kids about evolution in fun and scientifically accurate ways. I'm a mom and a scientist, and this business is my baby, launched after my own kids started asking these questions. Hope you'll take a look!

  36. Why did they fly the planes into the towers? They didn't do it on purpose…did they? Why did they want to do that? Could it ever happen again? Here? To me?

    These made “But HOW does it get from the penis to inside the vagina?” seem like nothing.

  37. My year-old daughter asked me, “Mommy, what does FUCK mean?” Try to answer that one without sounding like it completely shocks and appalls you. I told her it is the worst, meanest, ugliest word you can ever say. It makes people cry. She looked at me and said, “Okay. But what does it actually mean?” Then I said, ask your Dad. 😉

  38. Questions my 3-year old son asked:

    -Grandpa, why do you have a moustache?

    – (Before we set the clocks back): Why is it nighttime if it’s not dark out?

    – How do parrots wash themselves?

    – How do koalas wash themselves?

    – Where do seagulls have their nest?

    And my personal favorite:
    – Mama, what are those train tracks on your face?

  39. The big ones are easy for me. “Who's God?” Well, different people have different ideas, and I'll tell you some of them now, but we're unitarians so you get to make up your own mind… “How do babies get into mommy's tummies?” Mommies & daddies have a special kind of hug. My daughter is 3, and she has accepted all these answers so far.

    It's the smaller questions that I'm not prepared for. “Why do batteries run out?” I have no idea what makes some rechargeable and some not. “What makes thunder?” It's not quite clouds bumping together, I know, but what is it?

    See, I understand sex and God. I just don't understand science.

  40. my kids have recently been asking me if i'm old, if i'm almost old, am i going to die soon and then telling me they don't want me to get old and die. i guess we're going through a stage, but i can't tell if they are cute or pitiful.

    and i don't know how to answer the questions!

  41. My daughters have asked why their dad and I split up this spring – and I can't really answer as it involves mental illness (his, not acknowledged or treated) and a lot of pain and anger on my part. They seem more or less satisfied with my vague responses so far, but I'm not sure how long that will last (they're 6 and 8 right now). *sigh* Just one more crap aspect of an already crap year…

  42. PS I made the mistake of clicking on that tooth fairy link – O.M.G. Hideous! It traumatised ME, let alone a 5-year-old…

  43. My 9 year old daughter asked at dinner, after a conversation explaining that a friend's uncle had passed away, just after my husband had commented on the excellent chicken he was dining on, “Can you…um….eat…people?”
    To which I promptly hid my face behind a newspaper and my husband stammered, “No. Absolutely not. That is….um..frowned upon. It's called cannibalism. You just don't do it.” I about died!

Comments are closed.