Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Where Willy Went

* Warning this post will probably contain words like vagina. Don't read it if you don't want to read words like that*

So. ahem. The making of babies. The facts of life. The birds and the bees. And the discussion of the same with your children. What approach to take?

When I had my boys I understood that current thinking suggests the way forward is to answer questions when they arise as straightforwardly as possible.
I was up for that in principle.
And so I waited for those questions.
and I waited.
Last year, when Bill hit 7 and had still not asked any questions on the subject at all, I started to wonder whether it was time to start prodding around this subject area with a muddy stick as it were, to see if any questions came bubbling to the surface.
The need was brought to the fore by the experiences of a friend who, knowing that sex education lessons were looming on the horizon for her similarly unquestioning 9 year old finally bought him a proper book on the subject which managed to reduce him to hysterical tears of repulsion: '...but I can't do that! How will I ever have children now?' He was only comforted when they reached the chapter on IVF.

Now I have to admit I didn't want to rumble the Pool of Knowledge with my big stick very vigorously. I am British. I wanted understanding to settle in layers on my children with minimal effort or potential for embarrassment on my own part. (I was also chilled by the cautionary tale of another friend whose up front explanation of the process to her own daughters got the response; 'Cool! Can we watch next time you and Dad do it?')
I remembered the soothing book we had on the subject when I was growing up, which had nice 70's felt collage pictures on gentle lavender coloured pages showing first a flower making seeds, then a chicken laying eggs, then some puppies being born and finally a slightly oblique picture of a man and a woman under the covers of a double bed. Quite a lot of inference was required. That was fine. In my own time I inferred. I thought we'd start with something like that and looked around for books to skirt around the subject in a comfortingly veiled whilst definitely informative way.

It proved (unsurprisingly given my brief) difficult. There is Babette Cole's in theory marvellous 'Mummy Laid an Egg', but to my shame at my shame, although I loved the book when my children were merely abstract, I just couldn't envisage reading the 'these are some of the ways mummies and daddies fit together' page to them now they were real. It is a great book though if you can.

In the end I bought a copy of 'Where Willy Went' by Nicholas Allan which comes with a slightly lukewarm endorsement from the Daily Mail on its cover- "The best story of its sort".

It's not often that I find myself in agreement with the Daily Mail but I will also shower this book with qualified praise. "it's okay sort of if not exactly what I was after" Polly Faber, The Little Wooden Horse.

Little Willy is a sperm who must win the great swimming race to win the prize of a beautiful egg inside Mrs. Browne. There's some rather nice visualisation of life inside a testicle which includes, you'll be glad to discover school, cinema and sports club for sperm entertainment and Willy is an appealing sperm as sperm go. My problems with it are firstly the simple fact that he is called Willy- rather confusing for those that also have a willy and secondly that I think it could be a leetle more technical whilst still retaining its undoubted breezy charm. There are pictures of male and female anatomy presented as a treasure map and to be honest you could be forgiven for thinking that Willy swam into Mrs. Browne's tummy button looking at them. There's also no labelling and I'd be happy if we could call a testicle a testicle. Or indeed a spectacle or a tentacle if you're Eddie- close enough I reckon.

But the million pound question is did it work? Did the questions come? In short. No. It got read once and then never asked for again. Maybe we're just going to have to up the ante and stir a bit more deeply next time and risk the tears or show and tell demands, or we could just leave it to the school (comforting if irresponsible thought).

You'll enjoy this exchange with my oldest though.
Bill: "So Mum, Did I come out of your butt?
Me: "Don't say butt dear that's American, say bum. No. You came out of my vagina."
Bill:"Wow Mum! You must have an enormous vagina!"

He's just jealous.
Any other book suggestions in this area?

'Where Willy Went' by Nicholas Allan, pub. Red Fox, isbn 978-0-099-45648-3


  1. I don't know if it's because my girls are baby mad, but the questions started early for me! MG (5) is well aware of "the eggs we have inside our bodies" that we need to make babies, and that mummies and daddies do a "special cuddle" (she was 4, that's as far as the questioning went) and we have "Mummy Laid an Egg" on the shelves, but I can't do *that* page, so it's hidden behind some other books - still accessible for whenever they want to look at it... We've also had a steady stream of friends having babies so there's lots of asks and watching breastfeeding etc. They've seen a baby being born in a video online too! MG is fascinated, asks about how much it hurts having a baby etc. Not so interested in how they got there to be honest, but then she thinks she knows everything already ;-)

    1. Actually my two are also fine (bum/vagina confusion aside)on the coming out of a's the how it got in there in the first place they seem to take for granted!
      Glad its not just me wimping out on the Mummy Laid an Egg front.

  2. P.S. I was absolutely unquestioning as a young child too, and had actually covered it at school but wasn't really listening and was on the second book* my exasperated mum gave me to read age 11 before I twigged: "Mum! Look, what people do! Ergh!" Seeing as I'm the youngest of five, I think she probably already knew... ;-)
    (*Usborne's Facts of Life)

  3. How am I supposed to have this talk with my children if I cannot get through your blog post without laughing uproariously?

    1. Any good Japanese books on the subject? Actually I can see a MASSIVE perk of bilingualism would be buying all the books in your non-mother tongue and thus conveniently outsourcing to your partner...

  4. Great post Polly. What about getting a biology book and approaching it from a factual rather than fiction point of view. Annoyingly I can't think of any concrete examples right now - but I'd be looking for a non fiction book which is about more than "just" the facts of life so that it can be picked up without immediately being embarrassing.

    1. Good thinking Batman. We have the Usborne 'See Inside your Body' book- but that has no page on reproduction.