The Facts of Life by Jane Suter aka Plain Jane"Mom, how are babies made?”

I knew this day would come. In preparation, I read parenting books and pored over the latest research on how to have this particular conversation with my son. But, when it actually happened, I froze. I went totally blank. Did I mention I was driving?

That’s right. We were on our way to a birthday party when he asked me the question, and I almost wrecked my minivan. I could envision the aftermath: “Well officer, my son asked me about baby-making and that’s why I hit the car in front of me.”

Thankfully, there was no accident and I stammered the following reply to my 7-year-old, “P-p-pardon me? How are movies made?” Please, let it be movies. “No. How are babies made?” he said. Sigh. “Well, when you get older and after you get married; when two people love each other very much…” He stopped me cold. “No. I know that. I mean, how are they made?” Dear God, take me now.

With my palms sweating and face flushed, I calmly told him the truth. I even used the “v” word, which, by the way, I can’t even utter in front of my gynecologist. He seemed satisfied with my technical answer, while I silently prayed, “Please, no more.”

“Hey mom…” (I am now clutching the steering wheel, seriously having a nervous breakdown), “Do you think they’ll have a bounce house at the party?” I perked up. I could finally breathe. “Why yes, honey, I think they will.” I talked and talked for miles about inflatable structures—never giving him a chance to say another word, or ask one more question, until we reached the party. I was off the hook, for the moment.

Unmentionable Topics

In glaring contrast to all of this open and honest communication, I present you a snapshot of the late 1970s, when I learned about the birds and the bees. It was a time when you would never even think of asking your parents about such intimate issues. It was a strict don’t-ask-don’t-tell atmosphere. But, if something was really perplexing you, you asked the thug who sat in the back row of the school bus. He was the go-to guy when it came to such unmentionable topics. Although, it came at a price. For sacred knowledge such as this you had to offer him tribute; like, four Atomic Fireballs and a fist full of Zots. Then, you asked your question in a hushed tone, and you would hang on every syllable of his reply and take it all in as gospel.

That’s how I heard the facts of life. It’s also how I learned there were many different, super-gross types of kissing. That little gem cost me two packs of Pop Rocks, a sleeve of Razzles, and four sticks of Teaberry Gum. Totally worth it, because the gangster’s girlfriend also told me that Peppermint Lifesavers, when chewed in the dark, make sparks fly out of your mouth!

Sadly, those days are gone. Today’s parents have to know the intricacies of human anatomy and we have to be able to talk to our children like medical professionals. Maybe it’s better this way. We are saving our children from believing babies are chosen at a baby farm. We are also keeping sugary snacks out of the hands of hooligans.

In the coming years, I know I’ll have to have more uncomfortable conversations with my boys. And again, I’ll have to pretend to be totally okay with the whole thing and resist the urge to flee screaming out of the room (or car). Or maybe, just maybe, I can bribe my husband with some Red Hots and Jujubes to handle any future talks like this.

Jane Suter is one funny mom. To share some of your own parenting experiences with Jane, write to her at Illustration by Colleen Johnson.