27 july 2018
We decided that our child (about 2½ years old, currently) was ready ready to learn some of the basics about human reproduction, so we obtained this incredible picture book for her, called What Makes a Baby, by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth. It meets our needs in that it's very simple without being condescending, it describes some things she's ready to know (gametes, the human uterus) without overcomplicating things or contradicting the realities of her immediate family by introducing assumptions about the gender of anyone involved or conflating parenthood with biological parenthood. (Her biological parents are parents to her, but not her only parents.) And it manages to make human life sound… miraculous, or beautiful, without introducing a lot of obtuse metaphors. In the interest of simplicity of language, it does describe DNA as "so many stories about the body" that the gamete came from, and describes the fertilization process as a dance between sperm and egg, in which the sperm and egg tell each other their stories (share DNA) and ultimately become one thing (a zygote). She's fascinated with the book. She loves the part about "so many stories" and when I first read her the part about how a baby grows in a uterus, but not everybody has a uterus, she understood it enough to interject, "You have a uterus."
"Actually, I don't have a uterus, but Baba has a uterus," I said, referring to another of her parents. And now she has some idea what a uterus is, and she knows who in her immediate family has a uterus, and she knows that she can't tell just by looking at someone whether they have a uterus, and she knows approximately where in the body it is.
She has an intense curiosity about so many things, our child. She has a few board books from the Baby University series (Newtonian Physics for Babies, General Relativity for Babies, and Astrophysics for Babies). I was afraid they might be a little too abstract for her, but they're among her favorite books; she asks for them by name and has some of the text memorized, so she can "read" it aloud to us as we turn the pages.
She constantly asks about the composition of things she interacts with. About the foods we feed her, the music we share with her, the art she sees, she'll often ask, "What's in this?" I love it when she asks that.