from 'Wonderfully Made' (1967)

I used to think my education about sexuality and reproduction was sub-par, but this woman who wrote in to the advice column Ask Amy [Note: article not online anymore] takes the cake, cookies, and the whole damn tub of ice cream.

Dear Amy: My husband and I are devout Catholics. We have chosen to protect the innocence of our 7-year-old son by not educating him about the “facts of life” until he hits puberty.

We have told him that the Virgin Mary puts a baby on your doorstep if you pray for one. He is in a Catholic school, so we don’t have to worry about “sexual education.”

My sister knows about our choice, but she does not approve of it. She is pregnant. Recently, she wore a “Baby on Board” T-shirt when visiting.

Our son asked about it, but I did not know what to tell him! What should I do if a problem like this arises in the future?

— Worried Mom

My reaction:

And then I nearly peed myself.

This is ridiculous even for Catholics. This poor child—who will undoubtedly discover the magical powers of his penis before his parents even admit he has one—can only be defined as a victim. His parents’ efforts to shelter him from all knowledge and curiosity will fail miserably thanks to his friends, television, the internet, and print media. They may be Super Catholics™, but they don’t live in a bubble.

I can understand the desire to protect your children from the more crude and basic aspects of life as much as possible, but by blatantly lying about something as obvious as  Mary “the Stork” Mother of Jesus and the fact that babies grow in a mother’s womb they are also killing his trust in them later once he finds out they deceived him. Why should he listen to anything they have to say about sex or the bible when they lie about something so innocent?

One of the main thrusts of Catholic morality is to wait until marriage to have intercourse. If this boy doesn’t learn that babies are a natural consequence of intercourse, he will be even more likely to go out and have sex early on, won’t he? And what a surprise it would be to have a young girl pregnant and the parents hearing their son say, “But I didn’t pray to Mary for a baby. Why did she bring one?”

Don’t even get me started with the mother’s offense at a “Baby On Board” t-shirt.

Oh, but let’s not forget the columnist’s response! Here’s what Amy said [Note:article not online anymore]:

Dear Mom: You could ask your son’s teachers or clergy for guidance, but because you’re asking me, I’ll respond by asking you: Isn’t an essential element of the drama of Jesus’ birth that he was born of a human mother?

In the biblical version of “Baby on Board,” wasn’t Mary “great with child” when she and Joseph stumbled into Nazareth?

A baby isn’t a newspaper, left on the doorstep by an omnipotent delivery person.

All animals and humans give birth to babies, and even if you don’t want to explain how babies are conceived, it is both truthful and religiously defensible to tell your son that babies grow inside their mother’s bodies (or “tummies”) until they are born. If you want to fabricate the story of how they got there, go for it.

Bravo, and I hope she gets some sense knocked into her.

P.S. The image in this blog post is from Wonderfully Made—an amusing children’s book about families from the point of view of the 1960’s Catholic church. Check it out. Classic gold!

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14 thoughts on “Where Do Babies Come From?”

Roof Woofer · June 30, 2010 at 6:42 pm

It doesn’t happen that often, but I agree with you. The main fact about the parents isn’t that they’re Catholic, but that they don’t seam to be able to think things through.

    Godless Girl · June 30, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    I just think they’re scared and making unwise decisions based on that.

matt · June 30, 2010 at 8:03 pm

They should tell the kid that if you pray for a baby, Mary flies to your house on a giant stork in the middle of the night and manually inserts one into one’s uterus. The doorstep thing is creepy.

    Godless Girl · June 30, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    Holy smokies, can you imagine a baby getting shoved up your…. nevermind.

madness_dreams · June 30, 2010 at 10:14 pm

1. That is hilarious. And sad. And WTF.

2. I happen to have spent a lot of time the past few days talking to friends about the absolutely dismal sexual education I had. I find it hilarious now, but it caused me so much guilt and confusion as a kid/teenager.

My favorite story is the sex talk I got on a retreat. See, all Catholics know SEX is forbidden before marriage, but where the line is between OK and NOT OK isn’t really clear. The speaker’s [a priest] contribution to the question of “how far is too far” is that, once the the guy has “pitched a tent,” he is ready to “stay the night”. Once you have gotten a guy to “pitch a tent,” you have been unchaste. There were definite implications that 1) usually, the girl is largely the one responsible for controlling the guy’s arousal 2) the girls arousal is either nonexistent or unimportant 3) once you’ve gotten a guy hard, you pretty much owe it to him to let him finish. in fact, you can’t even blame a guy for pushing for sex at that point, because it’s just how his body works, poor thing. At the time, I was somewhat aware that this was a disproportionate amount of responsibility to place on the girl, but because I was completely inexperienced at this point, I was mostly glad to have a clear physical indicator for what “too far” was.

So you can imagine my surprise {and guilt} later when, during one of the first times I made out with my boyfriend, I felt him get hard up against me. Guilt from two directions too: on the one hand, I was being unchaste and a bad catholic, and on the other, I was getting my poor boyfriend excited and then not letting him get off. And in addition to all that, I was trying to deal with my own… frustration… following our intense makeout sessions, which was something I was completely unprepared for.

Of course, later said boyfriend and I had a discussion about the origins of my guilt about sexual activity, and he laughed and gently informed me that it doesn’t take much to give a young teenage guy an erection. In fact, if that was really my criteria for being “unchaste,” I had probably been unknowingly and unwillingly chaste with guys that had happened to brush up against me or get a good look at my cleavage.

But then, I suppose that’s what I get for getting relationship/sex advice from a single celibate dude.

    Godless Girl · July 1, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    The unreasonable responsibility placed upon women is something I struggled with too! You worded it so well. What was most frustrating to me was that female sexuality was always wrong, dirty, abnormal, and over the line…. but when men went too far, lusted, or had sex, it was an unfortunate byproduct of them “being male”. “Boys will be boys” was the spoken and unspoken rule of bad male behavior and mistakes. I and my fellow ladies took the blame even though we don’t control anyone else’s actions or thoughts.

    Ugh. I’m getting steamed up just thinking about how twisted my sexuality was for so long. I’m not even fully recovered from that yet.

Andrew Hall · June 30, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Dear Amy,

I tell my 8 year old that he came out of my wife’s belly and if he doesn’t behave we’ll send him back in.

Is that a problem?


Deranged Lunatic

Laura · July 1, 2010 at 11:30 pm

Ha, LOVED the Stewie clip! PERFECT response. Seriously, WTF are people thinking???

Christian H · July 2, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Probably TMI, but I can’t recall a time when I didn’t know what boys’ and girls’ reproductive organs were (general idea, not specifics) and what one did with them to make a baby (general idea, not specifics). It drove me nuts when my parents were so insistant on talking about these things, as it was so weird and gross and embarassing. Among other things, because I had no idea what was common knowledge and what wasn’t, I said stuff that was completely inappropriate to the context. For instance, in grade three, I used the word “vagina” when describing how I was born by C-section in a presentation in front of my classmates, much to the shock (or confusion) of all involved but me. I remember being asked to explain what a vagina was, but in retrospect that part of it could be confabulated.

Now I’m glad of this education, despite having turned out pretty tightly-wound anyway; most of my less-educated friends seem healthy, but you never know what’s going on behind closed doors.

My family is Christian, if that helps paint your picture of the situation a little better.

dartigen · July 3, 2010 at 7:35 am

Ahaha. Oh man. It’s never going to work if that kid is anywhere near proactive about his research. You can get medical books at most public libraries these days that will tell you everything you need to know (and more) – and they’re going to need a deity if they have an Internet connection, because he’s going to find out very quickly.

They’ll have to lock him in the basement. Wild horses couldn’t stop a curious child.

Roof Woofer · July 5, 2010 at 9:23 pm

@godlessgirl Did you get that “the girl has all the responsibility” from your upbringing?

    Godless Girl · July 6, 2010 at 9:22 am

    I suppose mostly, yes. But it’s still a message taught to adults–especially in more conservative and religious circles. Ideas like “she was asking for it” or “what did she expect?” in relation to abuse, harassment, and rape. And look at many Islamic nations where a woman is blamed and punished for causing a man to sin.

    Speaking of responsibility, I find that saying no to sex is often impressed upon women much more than men. Boys will try to have sex with you (because they’re just being boys!) but you have to be the strong one and say no! You have to stay pure because you’re a woman! And on and on…

MayB · July 21, 2010 at 3:45 am

I didn’t know you linked to my post on this. Awesome!

I feel bad for that poor kid. Really, there are age appropriate ways to talk to your kid about sex. No point in lying to them. Then you look like a tool.

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