How Babies Are Made… And How To Fail at Sex Education

I have totally failed at Parenting Sex Education 101.

I’m no prude. I’m one of those dyed-in-the-wool pragmatists that insists on calling a penis a “penis”, a vagina a “vagina” and a vulva a “vagina”. Yes, I know that’s wrong. Roll your eyes all you like but I have two boys, and I figure that my three year old doesn’t need to know the comprehensive ins-and-outs of female flappy-bits just yet.

I generally pat myself on the back for the fact that we can drop the p-bomb and the v-bomb around here with aplomb, and without resorting to cutesy names like doodles, dongers, willies, flowers, fannies or front bums. However, the pats on the back seem to be somewhat premature because in every other way my pragmatic approach to age-appropriate sex education has been a monumental failure.

Here are some epic-fails from the archives:

FAIL #1: My kid thought I had a penis.

My eldest son brought this picture home from preschool when he was 4 years old. Like all mildly-attentive parents, I absent-mindedly quizzed him on the contents as I washed the dishes. 

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Hugzilla: Oh wow baby, that looks great! What is your drawing about?

Mr 4: (pointing) This is a rainbow, this is a butterfly, this is Daddy and this is you. I drew you with your penis out because you were weeing in the garden.

Hugzilla: (pauses) Oh. Ok. That’s… great. Why was I weeing in the garden?

Mr 4: Because you needed to go to the toilet.

FAIL #2: My kids thought I peed out of my bum.

I once overheard a conversation between my (then) 4 year old and 2 year old when they were in the bathroom.

Mr 4: See this? That’s my penis. I wee out of my penis. Mum doesn’t have a penis. Mum wees out of her bum. That’s why she sits down.

FAIL #3: My three year old STILL thinks that girls have penises.

I had an interesting discussion with my three year old last night.

Mr 3: Girls have penises.

Hugzilla: No they don’t.

Mr 3: Yes they do. I saw it in a book.

Hugzilla: They don’t.

Mr 3: They DO!

Don’t be fooled by the brevity of that conversation: the real thing went on much longer, and with a lot more sighing and harrumphing and wild gesticulating (all from me – my three year old steadfastly refused to entertain the notion he could possibly be wrong, with all the characteristic arrogance of a typical threenager).

I finally managed to work out the book he was talking about, a lift-the-flap guide to the human body. The picture in question was an illustration of a girl’s body with a line-drawing of her kidneys and ureter. To be fair, it totally looked like she had a penis.

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We clearly needed help.

That’s when I finally reached for “The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made” by Fiona Katauskas (yes, this is not just a self-lacerating review of my limited parenting skills, it’s also a book review).

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I’d been meaning to get around to it for a few weeks, but there was never a “good time”. I mean, when IS it a good time to have the dreaded “birds and the bees” talk? (Probably some time before he comes home at 16 with a “SURPRISE!” in the guise of a knocked-up girlfriend).

I guess I figured that my husband would be tasked with this responsibility, much like I would have been tasked with explaining the mechanics of menstruation, labour and birth if we’d had female children. I smugly thought that I’d dodged a bullet there, but I was clearly wrong.

Here we were: two kids with genital confusion and it was kind of my fault.

The book bills itself as “funny, frank and embarrassment-free”, and it opens by debunking some of the quirky myths about where babies come from before getting right down to business with the genital issue, straight up.

Boys have penises and girls have vaginas (lightbulb moment for my kids right there, and “ner frigging NER” to my three year old). It goes on to discuss puberty in an age-appropriate manner, and there is a rather fetching illustration of a clown with rainbow coloured pubic hair (rainbows seem to be a recurring theme, because the book also features same-sex couples).

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We get the kid-friendly lowdown on eggs, sperm, ovaries, fertilisation and sex. Breaking with the long-held tradition of dodgy illustrations in books of this nature, “The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made” is decidedly NON-creepy. The people look more or less like people, the anatomical drawings aren’t exaggerated caricatures and the picture of the baby crowning looks nothing like a Roman Polanski horror film.

Here’s the money shot.

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And here’s the other money shot.

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(Note baby crowning in remarkably non-demonic fashion)

“The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made” is thoroughly modern: you can throw away those dog-eared copies of “Where Did I Come From?” because it covers multiple births, premature babies, IVF and egg/sperm donation in a matter-of-fact way that is age-appropriate and unambiguous. I rather enjoyed that section, because it presented the perfect opportunity to blow the mind of my IVF-conceived eldest child.

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Hugzilla: That’s how YOU were made. You were made in a science lab.

Mr 5: (wide-eyed) I DO NOT BELIEVE YOU.

Hugzilla: (sniggers)

(mentally adds exchange to my long list of parenting fails)

Aaaaaand, in the interests of full disclosure…

Here’s where I confess that I sneakily flicked past the sex page and went straight to fertilisation instead, inwardly breathing a sigh of relief that my kids were too young to notice my deception.


I’m so shit at this. Their dad can explain it to them when they’re older.

* * *

“The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made” by Fiona Katauskas is published by ABC Books, an imprint of Harper Collins. This is an unpaid review. If I could actually get paid to humiliate myself like this I would be bloody rich.

84 thoughts on “How Babies Are Made… And How To Fail at Sex Education

  1. Ha! Shall look into this book since my children are clear on the penis vagina distinction, though they do believe that a baby will spontaneously appear inside a woman when she is “really really really in love” with someone and wants a baby. Hmmm. Not the best sex ed for a girl. Thanks for the red hot tip!

  2. Oooo this looks great. Yeah I might skip the sex page for a bit too. Ha! So lame. We use penis and vagina without shame here too. We do also use pee pee and doodle though. I don’t know why. Maybe because as a boy he flops it out so often???? For no reason of course. I think my kid is going to be the drunk 18 year old streaking the football field. *sigh* We have 2 little girls next door and the kids often bath together so we get plenty of time to talk about it all. They cannot help themselves. Oh and my 3 year old totally went through a phase of drawing people pooping so you are not alone there. Kids! Boys in particular seem to love talking about the bodily functions. Mine farts and then hugs me!!! Don’t know where he learnt that one as it is not something his dad does at all!!!!

    • My kids are constantly talking about their respective penises so the additional vocab gets a workout too. But seriously, boys are obsessed with their dangly bits. I wish I had a girl so I could do a comparison. I always wonder if little girls are just as obsessed with their genitals or if it’s just a boy thing. PUT IT AWAY FOR GODSSAKE.

      • To answer your question with an anecdote, my girl child has no obsession with her vulva/vagina (or “bits”, as they are sometimes known), but definitely has a thing for her butt. Eeeeeverything is about butts these days. Farts, poop, being nude, etc, and her favourite dance move is to bend over and smack it repeatedly. Sigh.

      • Thank you!! I mean, butts are awesome so I’m not surprised. But the lack of genital interest is very telling, particularly related to the boyhood obsession with their own bits (which clearly extends to manhood as well….)

  3. My older kids got a thorough playground education- the man puts his thing on the lady’s thing and wiggles it. Is that right? Me:….yes. That’s exactly how it happens! It was age appropriate at the time and they know more now!! 😀

  4. I’m with your 3 year old son on this one, that totally looks like a penis! Hahaha. Thanks for the laugh! Your boys are just as hilarious as mine by the sounds of it and I’ll be doing the petri dish talk with my eldest who was also conceived by IVF – my husband can explain to the youngest how he was conceived 😉 #TeamIBOT

  5. What a great book! When you get to the ‘period’ discussion I can recommend ‘Cycling to Grandma’s’ house written by my friend Jac. I am going to buy the baby book for my nephew although he seems in an obsessed with death phase at the moment!

  6. This actually sounds like a really great book!
    I try to instill the correct name usage in my kids however my husband goes all Scottish and coy, and says ‘willy’ and ‘bits’. Drives me mental! My daughter corrected him the other day though and said “not bits dad, it’s a bagina.” Close enough 😉

  7. Need this book my kids are 10 and just turned 12 and I have failed so badly on this front. They do know the basics but recently it became clear how my avoidance of sex discussions was hurting them. Oldest thought showers were the main place to have sex and when I explained about beds miss 12 said “ew but then a boys thingy would touch my bed” miss 10 said miss 12 should get disposable sheets!

  8. Will have to get this book. I had to do the full disclosure, anatomically correct naming thing when my girls were about the same age, the neighbours came home with a baby and they wanted the full story! We did go through a time where penis was shouted out in the park playground and I got dirty looks from the other Mums but they go over that stage thankfully. My now 8 year old still thinks the bladder is involved somehow in having babies but the 6 year old is all over it and is apparently “never doing that” so we are all good!!!

    • Yeah, it’s weird hey? People cane be a bit funny when you use the correct terminology, like it’s a swear word or something. To be honest it’s something my husband had to get used to. He wasn’t keen on it at first but he got used to it as well. I guess a lot of us carry weird hang-ups about this kind of stuff.

  9. I am so happy to read that confession. I saw that money shot and thought, oh fuck no! I don’t want to talk about that. I’m not ready. I think I have a little more time up my sleeve, hopefully. This book looks great and I’m definitely going to get a copy.

    • LOL. I could only imagine the kinds of questions that would inspire from the five year old and I wasn’t quite ready for that either. I’ve had lots of practice “skipping” pages in books, so it came in really handy 😉

  10. Oh those pictures just crack me up!! I’m so not ready for ‘the talk’. I copped out with our eldest (my step-daughters) it was their biological mums job of course. And then I remember I have two more daughters that will need the talk. Miss almost 10 is ready. But I’m not. Soooo not! She’s starting to lose her molars so I’m thinking it is the beginning of the end. Oh God help me!!

  11. He he he. Looks awesome. I got a copy of Where Did I Come From? about a year ago but it’s actually kinda creepy. I think I might splash out for a copy of this one when the boys start getting interested again… (probably when our next close relative/friend/kinder teacher etc gets pregnant again!)

    • It’s really good – I edited some of it down because the boys are at the age where they have the attention span of gnats but I’ll be holding on to it as they get older. It’s really very good.

  12. I’ve gotta get a copy of this book, My kids are older and *cough* wiser, but oh my goodness the stuff kids come out with. Max calls it “sexing someone” so you can’t get close to people just in case they accidentally sex you. Um… x

  13. I had to sit down with my eleven-year-old last year and have the talk, before they did at school. She had some idea, but not a lot. I giggled the whole way through it because I am also eleven at heart.
    I would have skipped the sex page too. I don’t think little kids need to see that.

  14. I say penis too. Naturally it comes out of me, with out any embarrassment. Is anyone surprised? And I felt quite proud of myself for explaining all the lady bits to Dave’s little sisters too. The youngest being 13. That urethra gets them every fucking time. 3 holes bitches, not 2. I refrained from calling them bitches though. Will wait until they are all past the age of 18. See, I have a line I know not to cross. HA!
    I need to get this book you speak of. I just know my kid is going to overhear too many of mum’s cheap sex jokes and be asking many questions too early. Among them “why are your jokes so filthy, mum?”

  15. At 3, Mr TT is also a tad confused. He asked me last week when he was going to get big boobies like Mummy. Miss T also asked “where did I come from” recently. I recall saying something about how Daddy planted a seed in Mummy’s tummy and then changing the topic. I was not at all ready so I think I’ll have to get this book – although I am concerned about the clown. Clowns frighten me at the best of times but a clown with rainbow coloured pubic hair sounds perfectly terrifying.

  16. I’m shitter than you. Both my kids were IVF so they think all babies are made in a lab, which has saved me explaining the ins and outs, if you’ll pardon the pun, of how it’s meant to happen. We’ll get to it before sometime before they’re 34.

  17. Holy crap you are funny. And your kids are too. That picture of you and your penis, oh and your urine, is just so freaking funny. Lucky you are well endowed (according to your son anyway). When my son is old enough for the birds and bees talk, I will just get him to read this post. That will do.

    • Hahahahhaha! That was the single best thing my son has ever brought home from school EVER. I wish I knew what I did with it. Probably threw it away. Idiot. That was one for the 21st fo’ sure!

  18. I so need this book! My eldest keeps talking about things being ‘sexy’ and has eluded to very naive sex talk amongst six year old boys at school. I have been avoiding the conversation. Props will help. I’m Failing big time on this. You’re WAY ahead of me! x

    • All jokes aside, it is a seriously great book. Freaks me out to think that six year olds are even talking about this stuff. My kid is only five. I want him to stay innocent pretty much forever.

  19. This is very funny. I don’t blame you on avoiding the actual sex bit and skipping over to fertilisation. I’ve always used the correct terms too, but hubby is annoying in that ‘boy farts’ way in the way he talks to our son, like it’s a secret penis club. I’ve done the ‘proper’ sex talk (not omitting the actual sex part) with our daughter, who was nonetheless rather mortified that she (and all the other girls) had to take pads to school camp with her recently, just in case.

  20. Oh that drawing is hilarious. I so need this book. Do you know where you can buy it from? Miss 6 has asked a few questions here and there, usually when we’re in public somewhere and I think I’ve hit the limit with saying “we’ll talk about it later” or ” Go ask your dad”. xx

    • One of the ladies on my Facebook feed mentioned that she saw it in Kmart, so worth trying there. “Go ask your Dad” is my favourite phrase in the English language. It solves so many problems!

  21. I think its pretty cool that it includes the IVF version because there’d be so many IVF babies these days. We nearly had to go that route for bub and might end up there for number 2 so its pretty cool they have a book for kids that explains it all.

    • I know, right? I thought the same thing. I love how it was able to distil something so complicated into clear and simple language for kids. Definitely time for the old manuals to be updated – so much has changed since then!

  22. That book looks awesome and I love that it has an IVF section. We haven’t yet mentioned that to our eldest as I didn’t know how to broach the subject and whether or not it’s even necessary although I’m sure that if we don’t some old relative will blurt it out down the track some time. Love that your son thought you peed out of your bum. I actually snorted. Great post.

    • Heh heh heh… I have to admit, it kind of shocked me to hear him say that, but when I thought about it it made perfect sense in the eyes of a 4 year old! I haven’t really given much thought to telling my eldest we had him through IVF because it has always seemed so far away, but now that he has started school I’m beginning to realise it probably isn’t that far off. Stop growing up so fast!

  23. I can’t stop laughing about mummy peeing out of her bottom. Classic. I haven’t even thought of sex ed books yet. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Sounds like a book I need to have on hand when we do have the conversation. (Oh and I’m commenting via Styled by Bec because my plumbette comments don’t always come up. x)

  24. A) I use the word doodle for penis and twinkle for vagina. One day one of my twins told a stranger in the park that my littlest baby “came out of mummy’s twinkle”.. I was somewhat pleased that if we had to have this conversation with a stranger that the word vagina was not involved. I never thought I’d use cutesy words for body parts… But vagina is just suchhhhh an ugly word lol

    B) about your penis. Don’t believe what they say.. Size doesn’t matter, it’s girth. Long and thin too far in.. Short and thick does the trick. You’re fine!

  25. I saw Fiona on the telly this morning talking about her book and she mentioned the clown pubes on air. Virginia Trioli took great delight in repeating the phrase to the horror of Michael Rowland. Good times. Meanwhile, I caught my 9yo playing minecraft the other day and mentioning the characters were having sex behind a door when love hearts appeared. WTF? I’ve had the talk with my eldest (11) but while I’ve had the “becoming a woman” talk with Miss 9, I haven’t yet talked all things sex. I suspect a parenting fail here somewhere….

  26. Haha I love that your kids think you pee from your bottom and everyone has a penis! The innocence of kids 🙂 That book is far less scary than that one from the 70’s. That pushing the baby out pic is a tad graphic for my liking.. I’m such a wuss!

  27. Oh this book is has THE best pictures!!!! I am so not ready to explain the birds and the bees, Me and my three yr old spend a lot of time discussing who has a doody (we go through the whole family – I try very hard not to picture this?!!) and girls don’t have a doody because they have boobies. My 5 year old has the memory of an elephant so I really must plan out my birds and bees talk. Currently he tells people “I don’t have a baby sister or brother because if we did we would stay home forever and never go on a holiday again because babies cost a lot of money” Whoops!

  28. Oh this book is has THE best pictures!!!! I am so not ready to explain the birds and the bees, Me and my three yr old spend a lot of time discussing who has a doody (we go through the whole family – I try very hard not to picture this?!!) and girls don’t have a doody because they have boobies. My 5 year old has the memory of an elephant so I really must plan out my birds and bees talk. Currently he tells people “I don’t have a baby sister or brother because if we did we would stay home forever and never go on a holiday again because babies cost a lot of money” Whoops!!!

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