One night a couple weeks ago, when Grandma brought Dan and Monika home, I welcomed them home with instructions to quickly get ready for bed because I had a surprise for them.
Kids love surprises, so it was good motivation for them to find their pajamas, brush their teeth and go potty.
"OK, Mom, we're ready! Where's the surprise?" Dan said excitedly as they came to join me at the kitchen table.
"The surprise is in my tummy," I told them.
"You ate the surprise?" Dan exclaimed in disbelief.
But his disbelief quickly turned to understanding.
"A baby? You have a baby in your tummy?" he asked.
Dan has been asking for months when I was going to have another baby in my tummy, so I was as excited as he was to answer, "Yes."
After the smiles and hurrays from both Dan and Monika, Dan's questions started.
"But how come your belly isn't big?"
I told him the baby was still very little yet and that my belly would get bigger as the baby grew.
"How did it get in there?" he asked next.
I knew that question would come eventually, but I didn't think it would be the second question, so I replied with the first thing I could think of:
"Someday we'll get a book from the library that explains how it happened."
He was satisfied with that answer - for awhile.
The next day he asked if I got the baby in my tummy from eating too much food and then, later, if God put the baby in my tummy.
I told him I didn't eat too much food and that, yes, in a way, God helped give us the baby.
As much time as Dan spends talking about being a big brother again, I'm sure there will be more questions about our baby's origin before it's born. My guess is, though, that we won't ever have to go to the library for the official explanation. As a farm kid, he's going to figure it out on his own - and sooner, rather than later.
I don't remember my parents ever having a talk with me about the birds and the bees, so reproduction must have been explained to me at a fairly young age or I just figured it out for myself by observing the animals on the farm.
I do remember one thing, though. The A.I. technician who bred our cows when I was a little girl always came late at night. He worked another full-time job during the day and then did A.I. work in the evenings. So, for the longest time, I thought the cows calved at night because they were bred at night.
I also remember the first time I had to explain A.I. to a young person. My cousin's 10-year-old daughter and her friend spent a week at our farm last summer. They helped us with everything cow-related while they were here.
One afternoon, Morgan asked, "Where are the bulls?"
I told her we didn't have any bulls.
"Well, how do your cows have calves if you don't have any bulls?" (My uncle has a herd of beef cows, so Morgan already had a good understanding of cattle reproduction.)
I gave the girls a basic explanation of artificial insemination and then let the demonstration the next day when a cow came in heat explain the rest. That night, when the girls called their mothers to report the days events, I knew the lessons had been well understood.
As farmers, I think we often take for granted the lessons our children learn on their own about the cycle of life. Or, because animal reproduction is a common topic of conversation, we don't realize how much we're teaching them when we answer their dozens of daily questions.
So I was pleasantly surprised when one of our good friends from St. Paul thanked me for the opportunity to have 'the talk' with her daughter while they were visiting our farm last fall.
She said she knew it was time to explain reproduction to her daughter, but hadn't been able to devise a good way to broach the subject. During their visit, a cow needed to be artificially inseminated. They were in the barn at the time and Chris said she thought to herself, "This is the perfect time." Later she told me several of her friends were envious that she had such a natural opportunity to explain reproduction to her daughter.
Here's to all the natural opportunities dairy farm kids have to learn about the biology of life.