Birds and Bees and Butterflies

Petra’s been asking me lots of random, disconnected questions about making babies recently.

I mentioned that we need to get Pip neutered so that he can’t have puppies. And Petra smiled at me as if she thought I was making a joke, and said, “Mum, he’s a boy. He can’t make babies.” I had to explain that you need sperm from the dad to help make the mum’s egg grow. She was unconvinced, but humoured me.

She wanted to know why dogs get stuck with their bottoms together as well. The dog training book we bought has pictures. I punted on that one and just said that they got tangled up sometimes. She humoured me again. But she obviously had her doubts.

Today she asked me what it was like to have a baby. I had lots to say about that. Hard work, tiring, intense, fascinating and tremendously exciting because you finally get to meet the baby. She liked the idea of being welcomed into the world with excitement and love. Then she wanted to know how your body gets ready to have a baby. I talked about eggs implanting in my tummy and growing from tiny tiny cells into a whole person.

Deciding what information to provide is tricky. Petra has no idea that we’re talking about sex; her interest is scientific. How does life happen? How does it work? Those are the questions she wants answered. So that’s what I focus on.

Petra has lots of scope for her scientific inquiries at the moment, because we have a couple of monarch caterpillars and we’re watching them go through their amazing life cycle. The bigger of the caterpillars stopped eating today and has suspended itself, head down, from a leaf. We managed to see the process this year – last year, all the big transitions happened while we were sleeping or out – but this time, we saw the caterpillar secret a blob of white gummy stuff onto the underside of a leaf and then manoeuver itself into position. It hung on to the leaf until (I assume) the gum had hardened and then let itself slowly drop, one set of legs at a time, until it was hanging solely from the gum.

It’s fascinating and wonderful. Petra’s enthralled, and so am I.

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