The mothering quest and the construction of the maternal hero

Pregnant Woman Mother Character Super Hero Red Cape Chest Crest

You cannot understand the discourse around contemporary parenting in the US without understanding this central reality:

Every woman is the hero of her own mothering story.

That’s the essence of the mommy-wars. It has nothing to do with children, although children are ostensibly the focus; it has nothing to do with science, although science is often subverted for the purpose; it has everything to do with women and how they wish to see themselves, especially in comparison with other women.

The response to my piece in TIME about shaming of formula feeding mothers was notable for a total lack of regret that formula feeding mothers are feeling shamed by efforts to promote breastfeeding. Not a single person writing about the piece was moved to ask how lactivists might craft a message that promotes breastfeeding without shaming women who can’t or don’t wish to breastfeed. That’s hardly surprising, though, if you understand that one of the central motivations of lactivism in the US is to construct the breastfeeding mother as a hero flaunting her superiority in front of other, lesser mothers.

The mother as quest hero is at the heart of nearly all parenting movements based in part, or in whole, on pseudoscience.

The mommy wars are fights to the emotional death so that some mothers can claim heroic status while grinding other mothers into the dust.

Consider this description of a heroic quest:

  • The call to adventure: The hero is “called” by [her]self or others to complete a task that will take [her] away from [her] regular “role” in [her] own society.
  • The entry into the unknown: As a result of the call, the hero must leave the safety of [her] own known community and venture into a world of unknown dangers.
  • Facing tests and trials: The hero faces a number of challenges on [her] journey… Heroes are often tempted to give up or give in.
  • Sages: All heroes have guides to receive unexpected help on their journey…
  • A supreme ordeal: This is the MOST difficult challenge or obstacle that the hero faces. Completing and overcoming this “trial” marks the end of the “testing” stage where the hero had to prove [her] worth…
  • The return: The hero [her]self receives a reward of honour, acknowledgement, respect and perhaps love for [her] efforts…

Compare that to the classic “birth story” so beloved of birth bloggers and other natural childbirth advocates.

  • The mother is “called” to have an unmedicated vaginal birth and prepares by doing “her research.”
  • She leaves the safety and comforts of medicated hospital birth.
  • She faces tests and trials: refusal of standard preventive tests and interventions, arguments with relatives and friends about the wisdom of her choices, and the attitudes of hospital personnel who are nearly always constructed as unsupportive. She is tempted with offers of pain relief and C-section.
  • Her midwife and her doula are her sages who guide her on her quest.
  • The supreme ordeal is navigating labor (the longer and more excruciating the better; the best is to ignore calls that your child is at risk) and “achieving” an unmedicated vaginal birth (preferably with minimal or no vaginal tearing).
  • The hero receives honor, acknowledgment and respect for her achievement. Most importantly, she emerges “empowered.”

In other words, the mother is always the hero of her children’s birth stories, and by her heroism, she conveys her superiority over other mothers. Her heroic status rests on rather tenuous scientific grounds. In order for a mother to be a hero for having unmedicated vaginal birth, unmedicated vaginal birth must be vastly superior to the way most women give birth. It isn’t superior at all, so birth activists and birth industries (midwifery, doula care) must subvert science to pretend that it is.

The heroic mother myth is at the heart of contemporary lactivism, where the lactating mother faces pain, inadequate milk supply, and inconvenience, braves the temptation of formula feeding, is guided by a lactation consultant and achieves the quest of not a single drop of formula ever crossing her child’s lips. In order for a mother to be a hero for breastfeeding her child exclusively for months or even a year, breastmilk must be portrayed as vastly superior to infant formula. It isn’t vastly superior; in industrialized countries, the benefits are trivial, but lactivists subvert the scientific evidence to pretend that breastfeeding provides tremendous, lifelong benefits.

Even anti-vaccination advocacy depends on the quest trope. The mother goes on a journey of discovery by reading anti-vax screeds and websites, faces the pressures of relatives, friends and medical professionals, triumphantly refuses to vaccinate, and receives honor and acknowledgement in the anti-vax community for her heroism.

If the heroic mother fantasy affected only those who sought to make themselves mothering heroes, there would be no problem. Unfortunately, portraying themselves as mothering heroes comes at the expense of two vulnerable groups. The first, and by far the most important, are the children themselves. Unfortunately, they serve as little more than props in the quest story. They exist to be acted upon and their actual well being is irrelevant. Hence a natural childbirth aficionado will risk her child’s health and sometimes even her child’s life to complete her heroic quest. Lactivists will let babies cry desperately in hunger and even let them starve, sometimes nearly to death, in order to complete her lactation quest. Anti-vax parents live in a dream world unmoored from reality where the scientifically illiterate are heroically “knowledgeable.”

The other group affected by the fantasy of the heroic mothering quest is the women who don’t view mothering as a quest. They can and should ignore the women who are desperate to cast mothering as a quest and themselves as heroes, but that’s harder than you might think. Why? Because the quest mothers, in an effort to demonstrate their own superiority, have hijacked public health messages, particularly in the area of breastfeeding. The heroic quest appears to require shaming women who refuse to consider motherhood a quest. That’s why no one promoting World Breastfeeding Week thought to ask how the message of support for breastfeeding might be modified to minimize shaming of other mothers. They WANT other mothers to be ashamed; they’re HAPPY they are ashamed; the last thing they want to do is to mitigate that shame. If mothers who formula feed aren’t failures at the quest, how can the mothers who breastfeed be heroes?

Don’t be fooled. The mommy wars over childbirth, breastfeeding and even vaccination have NOTHING to do with children. The portrayal of mothering as a quest has NOTHING to do with actually mothering children. The desperate desire to create mommy heroes and mommy losers has NOTHING to do with science. The mommy wars are fights to the emotional death so that some mothers can claim heroic status while grinding other mothers into the dust. It’s ugly; it’s wrong; and the rest of us should refuse to countenance it.

  • Ani

    This supports my theory that these “Mama Heroes” actually hugely devalue motherhood and parenting. They have to assign mythical status to parenting in order to find meaning or reward in it. Because if they’re “just” raising kids like everyone else in human history, what’s the point?

  • Francesca Violi

    There is another analogy between the narrative of natural birth and many heroes’ tales: magic. Most heroes, especially in fairytales, are helped in their quest by magic and the supernatural: whether operated by sage guides -as for Cinderella- or embedded in magical objects – Aladdin’s lamp, the magic bean, red shoes, boots, capes, rings, talismans, you name it … In natural birth, the magic lies in Birth itself, you must evoke its Genie, like, worship and please him all along the pregnancy (feeding him organic groceries, yoga, etc.), and only so will he help you through the final ordeal.

  • Sadly, too many mother-heroines choose to fight the wrong villain. Instead of focussing their efforts on the real nemesis – they are distracted and drawn into recreating a kind of pre-adolescent social order where status is determined by a set of non-accomplishments.

  • Sue
    • Sue

      Oops – I think Amy just shared the same thing below.

    • FormerPhysicist

      That’s actually amusing and doesn’t feel like humblebragging to me.

  • Squillo

    I think the main difference is that, while most of us like to imagine ourselves the heroes in our own life stories, we also don’t imagine than anyone else is in the least interested.

  • its really alienating to be a new mother and you simultaneously go through a complete reordering of your life and a different body so its easy to want to latch onto something for security. Men do not generally do their share to help with any of this. theres the potential to have an inclusive movement of mothers supporting mothers.

  • Amy Tuteur, MD
  • Taysha

    Amusingly enough, all my heroes are broken, grumpy and cynical, pulling themselves back from the edge and trying not to bite other people’s heads off in the process.
    They also tend to sacrifice themselves quietly for others.

    Now guess my parenting style.

  • Sarah

    This sets so many mothers up for disappointment. I will admit that I fell into the “natural is better” “no epidural” “will breastfeed for as long as baby wants” crowd, and none of these things worked out for me. If I hadn’t gone into any of it thinking I was going to be a hero, I would have probably had a much better time taking the pitfalls that I came across (pre eclampsia, failed inducted at 36 weeks, two days of labor, no progress, c-section, IGT, uncontrolled blood pressure, second c-section). Instead, I had this idea of what my experience “should” have been, that my body “failed” me and I was some evolutionary experiment gone wrong. But now I know that adequate OB care *saved* me, my babies’ health and prosperity are my true achievements, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the setbacks I’ve experienced.

    Both of my kids are now past “infant” stage (although my 15 month old doesn’t want to walk on any surface that isn’t our bed >< ). I am no warrior. It's my Friday right now, and coffee is the real hero. I am its lowly servant.

  • Mel

    I don’t like the birth warrior hero trope for a slightly different reason: it misses the real work.

    Raising a child is a long, drawn-out, tedious process that lasts two decades. Yeah, the kid has to leave the mother’s body and get fed – but that’s just the beginning of the road trip.

    It’s all good fun to pat yourself on the back for shoving a baby out without pain meds and having the luck of the draw to be able to breastfeed for 5 years – but holding yourself up as a heroine extraordinaire is premature.

    The kid hadn’t reached their full potential whatever that may be.

    For that reason, moms and dads who work diligently for decades so that their children who have special needs reach their full potential are my heroes. So are my former students who work to help their babies who were not born in the best of circumstances move into a more comfortable life.

  • Amy M

    The Hero’s Journey is one of the oldest narrative tropes out there. Many cultures’ mythology includes at least one hero’s journey. I see how the mothers are making themselves the heroes of the stories, fighting such adversaries as doctors and scientists, and having the True Knowledge, which either they aren’t “allowed” (by the adversaries) to distribute, or which the rank and file are too stupid/cowardly/brainwashed to understand.

    I also see a few differences–in most Hero’s Journey stories, the hero changes the world in some way (Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lyra Belaqua). Those heroes did not set out on their quests to serve their own needs, they found themselves called or destined to be the one to save everyone else. They start out reluctant to undertake the task and by the end, gain wisdom, maturity, and empowerment–but empowerment for others, not just themselves.

    Harry Potter’s quest was not to achieve a perfect Patronus whenever he needed it—his quest was to beat back darkness and evil, and he was the only one capable of taking on the adversary directly. Along the way, his mentor dies, he becomes isolated and/or rejected by friends and at the end, his world view is profoundly different and his innocence is lost.

    Breastfeeding, as the quest, is a poor imitation of a true hero’s journey. The lactivist mother gets the call—via constant societal messages. She is not usually reluctant, she wants to breastfeed. Even if she overcomes a variety of obstacles to do so, the only thing she achieves is nursing her child. I guess we could say she gained some wisdom, specifically, how to breastfeed. But she gains no maturity, and empowerment–not for herself and certainly not for anyone else. At the “end” of their journeys, these breastfeeders did not change the world, even a little bit, nor did they gain insight or a different world view.

    It’s too bad–I think the more accurate Hero’s Journey would be parenthood itself. People decide to be parents, they leave the safety and comfort of a child-free life, faces various trials along the way, and often have the mentor figure in their own parents—who will die someday, possibly before the children grow up. The difference is that there’s no set end for this journey, and you only know if you were successful when your children are grown, and then maybe you become the mentor.

    But, like Dr. Amy says, these people don’t seem too concerned about how the child fits in, only the image they present. A hero is known by her selfless actions though, not by the slogans she repeats.

    • Roadstergal

      “his quest was to beat back darkness and evil, and he was the only one capable of taking on the adversary directly. Along the way, his mentor dies, he becomes isolated and/or rejected by friends and at the end, his world view is profoundly different and his innocence is lost.”
      I think the HB/lactivist crowd appropriate this, too, however. They talk about how Society and their former friends reject them for their choices (the ever-present persecution complex), and they see it as their Difficult But Critical Calling to Take On The Man Directly and spread their knowledge about the risks the sheeple are taking on by using hospitals and bottles.

      • Young CC Prof

        They also tend to believe that modern children are in bad shape health-wise, and that they are warriors out to Save Them from the perils of vaccines, GMOs, individual drops of baby formula, and high fructose corn syrup.

        In fact, modern children in the first world are incredibly safe by most measures. The incidence of severe developmental disabilities is down, the hospitalization rate of children is down, child mortality is way down, and things are pretty great overall. (Obesity and allergies are up, but that’s probably a side effect of vastly improved nutrition and hygiene.)

        • Roadstergal

          I sometimes feel like blaming the increase in obesity and allergies since the ’70s on the increased rate of breastfeeding in the same timeframe. Because causalation is fun when it’s turned around.

          • Nick Sanders

            This is a great site for that kind of thing:
            http://www.tylervigen.com/spurious-correlations

          • Who?

            Like those darned organic veges and suvs causalating the overwhelming tide of austism that is overtaking our world.

            Eyeroll.

    • Gatita

      The benefit to the world is they are “saving” children from being fat, violent, contaminated by toxins and thereby somehow saving future generations from a terrible fate. So I think the hero’s journey trope still applies.

      • Amy M

        Yes, it does, at least to those women, but we know that they are doing no such thing, so their journey is built on false premises.

      • you know someone is class privileged when they freak out about kids being fat instead of how many of them don’t have food to eat to begin with

        • KarenJJ

          How many people with eating disorders end up as lactivists?

          • Young CC Prof

            Orthorexia and being anti-formula may indeed have something in common.

  • Riverside

    This has also revealed why so many movies are formulaic and predictable. And why this stuff dies down by grade school. Once kids can talk back it’s very hard to keep them as a silent prop or control the narrative. They can stop nursing and say they hate kale.

    • AirPlant

      An aquaintance of mine is hardcore into gentle parenting as a personal defining characteristic. Babyhood was a patchwork of “my children are learning godly behavior through mirroring my actions” and “violence is not innate, it is taught by subpar parents and it legitimately gives me joy to to witness her now elementary school aged little boys yelling, punching, and fighting just like every other child in the history of ever. Peak humor was definately achieved when after months of “my children take such joy in the act of worship” she started posting videos which were mostly her playing the guitar while trying to keep the oldest from peacing out and they youngest just sat sullenly and refuse to participate. I don’t think it will ever occur to her that her life would be so much easier if she just chilled out a bit with the Pinterest and let her boys be assholes in the back yard.

      • Young CC Prof

        Uh, no. Hitting comes naturally to children. We can either normalize it for them, or refuse to tolerate it and teach empathy.

        • Sarah

          Common conversation in my house: “Don’t hit.” “Why?” “Because it hurts. Would you like to be hit?” “No.” “Then you shouldn’t hit other people.” “Why?”

          This ‘why’ stage is going to make my head explode.

          • AirPlant

            It ends. I promise that it ends. I am a bad person though and my technique is to determine if the kid is curious or if they are just wasting my time. Most of the time when it is the latter I walk away from the question or tell them to ask Siri.

          • Dr Kitty

            My kid WILL NOT STOP until she has an answer.
            She’s six.
            We’ve ended up having interesting conversations about government and taxes (“Who pays my teacher?”) religion (“Why do we have a mezuzah and none of the neighbours have one?”) and equal marriage (“Why is everyone in town wearing rainbows today?”).

            Most of the time explaining stuff to her has really helped me think about my own views or preconceived notions.

            Although when we get to stuff like “What happens if you add infinity to infinity” I tend to give up and distract her with snacks and WiiU.

          • Amy M

            Mine are also 6, and one of them in particular questions everything. Most of the time, I don’t mind answering, or looking up an answer together if I don’t know, but other times, its really annoying.

          • AirPlant

            I like explaining things to kids who genuinely care, but my friend’s kid uses the “why” as an easy tool for wasting as much of your time as possible. You know he doesn’t give a shit when he says “why” before you even finish the explanation. Scientific curiosity is one thing, wanting to be the center of attention at inappropriate times is another.

          • Cobalt

            Try turning it around, if you have the patience for it.

            “Why are you asking (questions you don’t want the answers to)?”

            Or, if the kid is old enough,

            “Why are being deliberately obnoxious? What do you gain from it?”
            There is a point at which encouraging self awareness and reflecting on one’s behavior and it’s impacts on others is timely. And you might get a good answer.

          • AirPlant

            That is genius! I don’t think it would go over with his mom (her kid is a bit of a handful and it makes her defensive) but I will for sure try that the next time she isn’t looking.

          • Cobalt

            Sometimes you have to let them know you’re on to them and introduce the concept of “don’t push your luck”.

            Respect isn’t necessarily buffering everything. As they mature, you have to start on the less comfortable truths, like “if you are deliberately wasting people’s energy and efforts for your amusement people will respond poorly to you”. Then work on better amusements and respect for other people.

          • Julia

            My 4 year old asks the same questions over and over and over and over: “Why did Elsa freeze Anna’s heart?” “Why am I a boy?” “Why does the earth spin?”.

            I actually had to google the last one. It only came up because it’s the answer to “Why does the sun rise every morning?” – and it will definitely come up again later today…

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Actually, the answer to the “why does the earth spin” is pretty stupid, if you think about it. Why does the earth spin? Because there’s nothing holding it still.

            If you think about it, standing still in the middle of space is a lot harder to do than to spin.

            Granted, there are additional questions that come up. Like, why does it spin almost in line with the orbit? And why does it spin as fast as it does? Those are harder, but they are not relevant to the question of why the sun comes up every day (how long is a day, yes).

            There is also the question of why it spins as opposed to other things (twist and turn), but that is, again, because nothing is there to stop it (and conservation of momentum is easily demonstrated)

          • Kelly

            Thanks, now you are making my head spin.

          • Roadstergal

            Well, that depends on your frame of reference. Is your head spinning, or is it stationary and the rest of the universe spinning?

          • Sue

            So the answer to “why does the earth spin” is “because it can’t keep still! Love it! “Just like you, darling.”

          • Kelly

            Mine too. She wants to know what everyone is doing and an “I don’t know” answer does not work for her. I have no idea why that car is turning right or why that person is buying cheese. I don’t know these people.

          • SuperGDZ

            A relative overheard one such conversation between me and my 5 year old. She condescendingly told me that I shouldn’t be giving answers but asking “Why do you think x?” in order to encourage him to think for himself and use his “creativity”. So I did that the next time he asked a question and he turned to the kid next to him and said (eyes rolling) “She doesn’t know. This is embarrassing.”

          • KarenJJ

            Oh geez – I got the same advice once, so I tried it and ended up in an argument with my 4yo about what I do and don’t know and what she does and doesn’t know with an “but I’m just a kid” whine. Freaking frustrating…

          • Dr Kitty

            I admit that I did the “what do you think it is for?” when she was 3 and asked me what the purpose of her clitoris was.
            She thought it was to keep her pee pointing down into the toilet, so we went with that, because I was not mentally prepared for anything else that day!

            She’s asked a lot of questions about babies and sex and so on since she found out she was having a sibling, but I was more prepared to handle those, and I went for honest but simplified answers.

            At the moment her main concern is that the baby will come before the day we have picked and she will have to go to daycare as usual instead of spending the day with my parents as planned (they want to take her so that they can distract themselves from waiting and worrying) as they have lots of exciting activities planned.

            Every night she pats my tummy and tells the baby to be patient and wait a bit longer, and not to kick too hard and make the water leak out.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            A bit OT, perhaps, but I love that so many parents here seem to give honest-but-age-appropriate answers to their kids on the question of sex. While I’m not exactly looking forward to those conversations with my own kids, I’d rather talk to them myself than expect them to pick up the facts of life from their peers. (*shudders*) Nor do I want them to think that even asking about such things makes them bad/dirty/etc, the way my parents taught me.
            I will say this, though. *If* you have a sufficiently nerdy child, and *if* you’ve made it clear that the whole topic of human reproduction is disgusting/not acceptable/etc, you ought to consider yourself freaking lucky that the kid handles her own sex ed by pulling an encyclopedia off the shelf and reading “Pregnancy and Reproduction, Human” several times over with a dictionary to clarify the lesser-known words. *grins wryly*
            In retrospect, I imagine I was actually better-educated than most my peers on the subject. I still remember the look of utter horror on my mother’s face when I made some offhand, matter-of-fact comment about female genital mutilation a year or two after that…
            That having been said, methinks DH’s and my approach to sex ed will be a tad more personal and a good deal less shaming.

          • An Actual Attorney

            If you haven’t watched this talk about Julia Sweeny explaining sex to her own daughter, you really should. http://twentytwowords.com/julia-sweeney-tells-the-story-of-bumblingly-teaching-her-8-year-old-about-sex/

            Just make sure you aren’t at work, and you don’t have a full bladder. I cried from laughing so hard.

          • Amy M

            That’s awesome. My boys once had a fabulous conversation, when they were somewhere between 2 and 3. I wrote it down because its priceless. One had some kind of stomach ailment, which he must have heard us say “stomach bug.”

            Well Child: Why your stomach hurt? Did you eat too much food?
            Sick Child: No.
            Well Child: Did you eat a bug?
            Sick Child: Yes.
            Well Child: What kind of bug?
            Sick Child: A beetle. They don’t bite or sting.

            AND! they weren’t asking me why, why, why—one was asking the other! They still go to each other to discuss things, and they will make up total lies and tell each other, and believe each other. I get asking an adult—by the kids’ view, adults should know everything. But to ask another child who is the exact same age—where do they think that kid is getting his info from?

          • Roadstergal
          • Sarah

            I love him. Have you seen his “pig newtons” bit? It’s incredible.

          • Roadstergal

            Yes! He just does such insightful stuff… he has one of the most concise bits on white privilege I’ve ever come across.

          • sdsures

            My husband, an engineer, has the scientific answer all ready to go for the “why is the sky blue?” phase. I’m just a lowly linguist, so it’s handy having a science guy to balance things out.

          • Mel

            I enjoy giving the real answers to kids who are asking “why” to waste time. It kinda boggles their mind.

          • FormerPhysicist

            Oh, well, I do answer that one in scientific detail. But too often “Don’t hit your sibling” results in “because I said so”.

          • AirPlant

            I know it is not a popular opinion, but sometimes “because I said so” really and truly is the best possible response.

          • Amazed

            I recently had an exchange with a friend’s 9yo. After multiple “Do it PLEASE” on her side about a matter of safety I just got fed up, said, “R, come here NOW!” in my darkest voice and oh joy, he came over and let himself be safeguarded despite muttering that his mom didn’t have to do this, so why should he? Well, I know his mom is great on leading by example so she wouldn’t mind giving him coffee and alcohol, letting him stay up until 3 a.m. and going into the deep of the sea unaccompanied, right?

            Well, no. Unequal privileges for parents and children are a good thing… and “because I said so” is equally good sometimes.

          • sdsures

            I once saw a t-shirt with the phrase “Because I’m the Mommy, that’s why!” on it. 😀

          • lol there is a louis ck bit about that, super funny. like it devolves so far if you indulge that endlessly. I can’t do it justice but i swear it ends like
            “why?

            Things that aren’t can’t be!

            Why?

            Because you can’t have f***ing nothing isn’t!”

          • Roadstergal

            It’s the standup version. 🙂

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJlV49RDlLE

          • Kelly

            Exactly. Sometimes I hate driving my kids around because I am trapped and my oldest knows when to ask me the worst questions like, “where is the baby coming out” or “how does the baby get in your tummy?”

          • Cobalt

            “Birth canal”. Technically correct, totally non-sexual.

          • Kelly

            I wish I had thought of that. I have prepared myself for when she was a bit older. I did not think she would be thinking along those lines already. I was completely unprepared. I just told her the difference between boys and girls and that there are three holes and it comes out of the vagina. Then I told her that she is only allowed to talk about that with her mom and dad because I did not want her going around and telling everyone.

          • Cobalt

            “Then I told her that she is only allowed to talk about that with her mom and dad because I did not want her going around and telling everyone.”

            My parents forgot this part.

            There were phone calls from the school principal the next day.

            They handled “the talk” with my younger siblings much differently.

          • Gatita

            We got the principal call! My poor son was embarrassed and I was kind of pissed at the school for having such a big freakout. But I guess they don’t want to deal with pearl-clutchy parents.

          • Kelly

            That is ridiculous. While I do not want other kids teaching my children about sex or other things of that sort before I do, it happens a lot. I swear people think they can protect their kids from everything.

          • Cobalt

            My mother was completely mortified (my being the oldest, she was still capable of it; this trait lessened considerably over time and siblings).

            It’s now something we laugh about.

          • sdsures

            “Pearl-clutchy”! LOL, I don’t think I’ve ever heard that phrase before, but I totally get it.

          • Kelly

            I have heard the stories about other kids and she loves to talk to everyone and so I tried to head it off. I will see how long it will last.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
          • sdsures

            Love him! And Emma: “I’m not a policeman, I’M A PRINCESS!”

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Emma is awesome. “He has a mustache, and his head is so big that he can’t wear any hats”

            That is SO kindergarten. I love it.

          • Gatita

            We got this book for our son when he was in first grade. It’s pretty explicit in how it describes reproduction but in an age appropriate way with fun illustrations. It made talking to him about it much easier. Of course he then went to school and shared all that he learned and scandalized the teachers…ah well.

            http://www.amazon.com/Its-Not-Stork-Families-Friends/dp/0763633313

          • Kelly

            I like that Amazon has previews. That is probably the best book I have seen. There are some seriously creepy ones out there. Sorry, I am laughing that he shared all his knowledge at school because that would be my daughter. She remembers detailed things and loves to share everything she knows. Thankfully, she is three and not in proper school yet.

          • sdsures

            “Who is your daddy and what does he do?”

            “My daddy is a gynecologist and he looks at vaginas all day long.” (Kindergarten Cop) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nP2xnAMQ3HM

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            “My daddy is a gynecologist and he looks at vaginas all day long.”

            That’s “cynogologist”

          • Cobalt

            Because you don’t like being in time out (or whatever), and that’s what happens when you hit.

          • Young CC Prof

            So far I’m going with “Because people won’t want to play with you when you hit.” He doesn’t yet have the vocabulary to discuss the matter further.

          • SuperGDZ

            He doesn’t need it. The reply is “Why?” (per my own 5 year old).

          • KarenJJ

            When does it stop? I’ve had three years of it with one of mine and it’s driving us all nuts (from 3yo to 6yo). I never thought I’d tell my children “mummy can’t answer any more questions today because her brain is too tired”.

          • Cobalt

            It got better with mine once they were old enough to start using other sources well. I had to deflect some of the questioning or get driven bonkers, so a lot of my answers became “That’s a good question for the (doctor, librarian, mechanic, vet, dictionary, etc). Let’s ask them when we see them.” It took a little of the pressure of off me and introduced the concepts of good sources.

            And I got driven a bit bonkers anyway. My ears took a lot of “naps”.

          • Mac Sherbert

            Ha! I did that too. It was a great tatic until he actually started asking all those people his questions! Then it got a little embarrassing. So just FYI and be prepared.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Nah, just do like Calvin’s dad in Calvin and Hobbes and just make shit up. That will distract them long enough until they forget about it.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Like this

          • Amy M

            “Where does the sun go when it sets?

            “The sun sets in the west. In Arizona actually, near Flagstaff.”

            “Doesn’t the sun crush the whole state when it lands?”

            “Ha ha, of course not. Hold a quarter up. See, the sun’s just about the same size.”

          • The Bofa on the Sofa
          • Mac Sherbert

            Mine NEVER forgets! Google is my friend now that he can.

        • AirPlant

          I am filing that delusion in the same place that I file my person belief that my kids will not eat junk food. Beautiful optimism grounded in an alternate reality where the sky is green and my bills pay themselves.

        • DiomedesV

          Empathy is overrated as an instructive tool.

          It is entirely possible to empathize with the pain of others and still wish to inflict that pain.

          Children are human and humans are shit.

          Some kids will buy into the empathy argument and never ask why they should care. But it definitely won’t work for every kid.

      • Mel

        Personally, I’m the congregant who likes the spunky toddler who is trying to make escape routes during church. A kid who is sitting quietly for times way beyond age appropriate limits makes me concerned.

        • AirPlant

          My neices. They have by all measures impeccible public behavior and it scares the snot out of me. They don’t whine, they don’t run around, they don’t speak out of turn and it kind of makes me wonder if they are just meek spirited or if there is something going on there. It is great for when you want to just have a nice dinner, but It is such a surreal visual to see those perfectly tidy little girls sitting quietly side by side on the couch playing independantly. I just want to find them some pants and throw them into a mud puddle.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            They have by all measures impeccible public behavior and it scares the snot out of me.

            That’s because they remind you of this

            “Come play with us, Aunt AirPlant. Forever and ever and ever….”

        • demodocus

          You’ve met my son! 😉

          • Mel

            On Sunday, I went to an outdoor brunch with two of my practice nephews ages 5 and 3. They spent at least 20 minutes tossing a muddy tennis ball into my raised bed full of parsnips so the blue heeler/Aussie shepherd mix would climb up into the bed, snuffle around, retrieve the ball and come back.

            At one point, maybe 5 minutes in, their mom was going to stop them. I asked her not to because a) it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen, b) the dog was doing the perfect combination of aeration and compaction of the beds needed for parsnip growth (yeah, I made that up…) and c) these are the stories I get to tell at their HS open house…..

            They stopped when their dad told them that wasn’t appropriate. The look of utter innocence on the two boys and the dog’s face were priceless. Based on their facial expression, the true story was that the tennis ball flew -of its own volition – into the bed while the boys were playing in another county and at the exact same time, a cat…no, a huge rat….no, a possum was climbing around in the bed that just happened to look like the dog.

        • Kelly

          Only because it is not your child. If it is someone else’s child, I think it is hilarious. If it is my child…

        • DiomedesV

          Yeah, that’s my kid. And for the record, it has always concerned me. But when it’s useful, I’m not going to complain. I just try not to reinforce it too much.

      • Daleth

        Oh god, I’m sorry for her kids!