Every parent is faced with this question from their inquisitive and curious children at one point or another, and I'm sure it tends to pose an awkward situation unless you are already prepared for such an occasion. What story do you tell your little one? What explanation will suffice to quench the thirst for knowledge? Will they understand what you mumble with a red face? Or will they cease to believe you are the all-knowing parent? We all know the famous "birds and the bees" story, or at least the saying. Or perchance you choose the fable of the stork. There's always the "Mommy swallowed a seed" approach. And then there's the "When two people fall in love . . ." Here's a few thoughts and insights into all of these potential paths as well as my personal explanation for where the babies come from (for little children.)
The Birds and the Bees: I've heard this saying innumerable times, but I never really knew the meaning behind it all. So I did a bit of research, and this is what I discovered. This English-language idiomatic expression is used to explain the mechanics of how babies are made by referencing nature, i.e. bees depositing pollen and birds laying eggs. It's origins are vague, and the whole concept seems to me rather confusing for a young child to understand. But if it makes you feel better, by all means tell them this story.
The Stork. According to northern European legend, the stork is responsible for bringing a baby to new parents. An ancient legend, popularized by Hans Christian Andersen, tells that storks found the babies out in the wilderness and carried them to houses in a basket or held in their beaks. The folklore has spread from Germany and other European countries all the way to the Philippines and South America. In addition, Slavic mythology believes that storks carry unborn souls to Earth, which belief persists in the modern folk culture in the simplified children's tale of storks bringing children into the world. Regardless of where the myth originated, it's a pleasant story for children. One must be very careful, however, when explaining it because other questions will inevitably arise: Who brings the stork's babies? Why do you get so fat? Why don't I ever see the stork?
The watermelon seed. Yet another simple way of explaining away children's questions is the classic "Mommy swallowed a seed (watermelon; pumpkin; cherry. Take your pick.)" As your children get older, you can get into the whole truth of the matter regarding the sperm and the egg becoming the fruit of your loins.
Two people fall in love . . . This explanation is true, but it can be very confusing for young children. They may take the statement a bit too far. For example, two friends love each other; therefore, they are going to have a baby. Or if you simply say, "When you love someone, and they love you back, that's when there's a baby," you may end up having to explain that your beloved pet dog or cat and your child will not be having babies.
It's a gift from God. This is my favorite explanation. Children are a blessing from God. When two people fall in love and get married, they become one person in Christ. (A hard concept for kids, but it's a hard concept for anyone.) They take their love and their unity and, with God's divine assistance, they create a baby. This baby has to grow inside Mommy for about 9 months because it is too weak to survive in the world on its own before then.
When you're having a baby, and you have little children, it's always a nice idea (I think) to involve them in the process as much as possible. When your tiny child begins to kick, make sure your other children get to feel the life inside of you. Encourage them to talk to their baby brother or sister. Help them think of ways they can help out around the house and take care of their new sibling when he/she is born.
Returning to the "birds and the bees" topic, your child needs to have "the talk" at some point. You, as parents, are the ones best qualified to decide when and where that talk needs to happen. Whenever you decide, make sure that you present the marital act as the beautiful and sacred gift that it truly is. It is nothing to be ashamed of or hushed up. Rather, it should be glorified and celebrated as God's gift to man for procreation and the continuation of the human race. So, when you sit down to have the talk, if you're not embarrassed, your kids may be less embarrassed and shocked. Work through it together, giving them "need to know" information. But be ready to provide more in-depth answers should they (at a proper age) need more of a definition or explanation. In the meantime, for all your little ones, prepare your little speech ahead of time so that when your tiny tot opens his or her mouth with that question, you won't turn beet red or begin mumbling. You'll know exactly what to say. And if you have any experiences or suggestions, please feel free to post them!