Jamie-Lynn Spears is expecting her baby any day. It feels longer than nine months that there were freaked out parents worrying about their children, for their children might ask questions, like "How did she get pregnant?" The mothers in the articles back then were saying they were hoping that their daughters wouldn't read the tabloids or ask those questions, because God knows what they will tell them. Well moms, I like to offer you some advice, a little late: Tell them the truth. Because years ago, I found out how babies were made, thanks to the late Michael Landon.
In 1981, one of my favorite shows was Little House on the Prairie. Although the Ingalls family had as much luck as Job, it was considered wholesome family entertainment. Even when Mary lost her baby in a fire, there was a lesson to be learned (Kids, don't smoke in a blind school!) And then I saw two episodes called "Sylvia" which would change my life.
Sylvia Webb is a new girl in Walnut Grove. She's fourteen, has pretty green eyes, long brown hair, and oh yeah, she has breasts. Of course, Willie Olseon and Albert Ingalls take a peak at her, and when her dad finds them, oh, there's trouble! Sylvia's dad scared me when I was a kid; he was tall and blustery, and spent most of the two episodes yelling at Sylvia, Albert, Charles Ingalls, just about the whole town of Walnut Grove.
Albert eventually feels guilty about peaking at Sylvia, and they start to have lunch together, then he carves their names on a tree with a big heart around it. Of course, everyone goes "Awww, that's sweet. Albert has a girlfriend!"
But then one day Sylvia goes to pick flowers. La la la, she's in love, all is good! And then she hears a strange noise. She turns around, trying to figure out what's going on. Oh, it was just some birds flying! But then someone puts his hand over Sylvia's mouth, and drags her away. Huh? What's going on?
We next see Sylvia beaten up and at her dad's doorstep. He yells at her again, and I thought "What did she do?" Then a couple of scenes later, Sylvia faints at school. They rush her over to Doc Baker's, where he tells Albert "She's with child, son." (I guess there was no patient confidentiality back in the 1800's)
Now this is where I became confused. How did Sylvia get pregnant? She wasn't married. Only married ladies got pregnant, and Sylvia wasn't married.
So I asked my mother. I was taking a bath and she was sitting by the tub. She thought for a minute. "Okay, you know we have vaginas, right?"
I nodded. "And boys have penises, right?" she added.
I nodded again. We already had the "girls have vaginas, boys have penises" talk
when I watched her best friend Missy change her son Ryan's diaper and I noticed that well, his bits were a lot different than mine.
"Well, if a boy puts his penis in a girl's vagina, and when it's the woman's time,
they can have a baby."
I looked at her. "I thought penises were for peeing."
"They are. But they can be used for making babies too."
Shortly after that, she got me the book Where Did I Come From? Co-written by Peter Mayle, it showed slightly overweight cartoon naked people making love and having a baby. The pictures made me giggle-hee, hee, they're naked! They're in the tub! And look! He's on top of her!
Of course, Sylvia does not end up well. Shunned by the town of Walnut Grove, being yelled at by her dad, she tells Albert what happened to her. They decide to run away and make a new start. But the rapist tracks her down and tries to rape her again, only to be killed by Mr. Webb. But it's too late for our Sylvia; after falling from a ladder, she dies after Albert promises her they'll get married.
Now my mother didn't have to tell me about how babies were made. She could've said "Don't talk about that" or "You will never watch that show again! Michael Landon is the Devil!" While "Sylvia" is a weird episode (it was much later that I put two and two together and realized Sylvia was raped) and it was proof that Little House was running out of ideas, because of that episode my mother and I had an honest discussion. She told me without hesitation. It was the truth. It wasn't the whole truth (because of Sylvia's rape) but it was enough for a nine year old to realize how babies were born.
When children ask questions about someone famous who screwed up, there's always that cry of "What about the children? What about the children?" Well, what about them? I'm no spokesperson for generation X, but my generation saw 900 bodies lying in state surrounding a vat of Kool Aid because someone told them to kill themselves. We saw our parents mourn for John Lennon. We saw the Challenger blow up on a beautiful January day. No one worried about us, and we turned out more or less all right.
I say, tell them the truth. It doesn't have to be the whole truth, but it can be enough. If my mother didn't tell me the truth about what happened with Sylvia, I might've thought that you could've gotten pregnant by men who wore clown masks. Lessons don't have to be learned in school. They can be learned in your supermarket where Jamie Lynn Spears' picture is on the cover. Watching her TV show. Or it can be in a bathroom, where a girl asks her mother a question about something that upset her. And without hesitation, the mother tells her daughter the truth. And then they move on.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries