Where Do I Come From

Where Do I Come From?

Meri Wallace
Meri Wallace

Meri Wallace, LCSW, a parenting expert and child and family therapist for over thirty years, grew up in Coney Island, Brooklyn. Meri completed her Masters degree in Social Work at NYU, specializing in child development. Meri writes a blog for “Psychology Today”, and is the author of “Birth Order Blues” (Henry Holt and Co.) and “Keys to Parenting Your Four Year Old” (Barron's Educational Series.) She has been a columnist for Sesame Street Parents, New York Family Magazine,and Brooklyn Parent and has been a consultant to Children’s Television Workshop. She is frequently interviewed by national publications including Newsweek, Cosmopolitan, and Parents Magazine.

Young children are fascinated about how they were made

“Where did I come from?” four year old Molly asked her parents one morning at breakfast. Her parents glanced nervously at each other: Was the question finally being asked? They took a deep breath, and proceeded to relate to her the “Egg meets Sperm” story. Relieved that the dreaded telling was over, they asked Molly whether she had any questions. Looking bewildered, Molly repeated her initial query: “No, where do I come from? Samantha comes from Ohio.”

Young children are very curious about the way things work. They are particularly fascinated about how they were made. It is natural for parents to feel a little anxious about explaining the issue. But, parents can really relax. Birth is not an emotionally laden subject for a small child; nor is it sexual. For a child, it is the equivalent of inquiring, “How do you make pancakes?” Besides, the information can be broken down into simple, understandable parts and delivered over time.

If your child asks where she comes from, as Molly’s parents learned the hard way, it is best to inquire, “What are you trying to figure out?” before launching into a discussion. Then, once you are clear about what she is trying to understand, you can say, “Where do you think you came from?” to understand what her personal theory is.

Your child might tell you something that she has concluded on her own. Mommies swallow a tiny watermelon seed and it grows to be a baby. Listen non-critically to your child’s thoughts, and when she finishes, give her a short, clear, factual answer that will correct her perceptions. Long explanations will overwhelm her. Parents have historically offered the “agricultural theory” to their child: “Daddy planted a seed in Mommy.” Like the stork fantasy, this account confuses children and does not seem quite truthful.

A simple, straight forward answer to a child, tends to work best.

You can explain, “A tiny cell from the Daddy’s body, called a sperm, and a tiny cell from Mommy’s body, called an ovum, joined together to form a baby. You grew in a special place inside Mommy’s body, called a uterus.” You need not give your child any more details unless she inquires further. If you follow her questions as a guide, you will ensure that you are not giving her too much information.

If you maintain a relaxed attitude and an openness to discuss any part of this wondrous tale, your child will see birth as a truly remarkable part of life!