“Did Lois divorce Superman to marry Richard?”
Of course not. She didn’t. She didn’t even marry Superman. She was his friend.
“Girlfriend, you mean?”
Err, yes, something like that.
“You mean to say they didn’t get married? Then how could Jason be his son?”
How do you explain that to a seven-year-old? That they slept together? I can imagine the next question. What is sleeping together?
I knew I had to be ready for this day. Because the questions had started coming long back.
“Why am I not in your wedding pictures?” This was when he was three years old.
Very upset he was nowhere to be seen on mom and dad’s biggest day as he poured over the wedding albums. “See, you had a big party. Even Tani maashi called me for her wedding, but you didn’t call me for yours!”
Because you were not there, baby. “Where was I? You mean to say you left me at home?” The hurt showed on his little face as he scanned the other pictures, searching for who all he could locate. “Mama, kaku, dadu… even granny is there! You people left me home all alone?” His voice had taken a shrilly note and he was ready to burst into tears.
My heart went out to my little one as I stifled a grin and hugged him tight. You were not there because you were not born, beta.
And before there was another barrage of questions, I quickly explained babies were born only after two people got married. Sonny was small that time and it took little to satisfy his curiosity.
A year and a half later, it came again. “How was I born?”
His new-born photographs have always fascinated him. Once, when we were going through the old albums together again, he popped up the question. I took my time to reply. He wasn’t a child anymore, and it had become increasingly difficult to shut him off. One question, howsoever innocent, invariably led to another, till we were caught in an endless discussion on what he really wanted to know.
Once two people get married, when they wish for babies, they go to the hospital and get babies, I replied guardedly.
“I was born five years after your marriage? You mean to say you didn’t wish for me for five years?”
Explaining family planning and financial security to a kinder-garden student was hopeless. But we ploughed nevertheless: We wanted you very much, but there were very many reasons that you can’t understand right now — like we were posted out of Delhi, granny was not around and we were not ready for you. Once we were ready to bring you up, we got you.”
“Got me from where?”
From the hospital. Babies are born in hospitals.
“You mean they make them in hospitals? Are there babies on the shelf there? Did you pick me up from among lots of babies? What if you had decided to get another baby, then I wouldn’t be you child?” The torrent of questions threw me off balance.
It was at this point, my husband decided to take charge. No use filling his head with rubbish, he said as he prepared to explain the intricacies of child birth to the young one — there are something called sperms in men and eggs in women. When two people fall in love and get married, their sperm and the egg fuse and babies are made. “We didn’t choose you from a hospital shelf. Once our sperm and egg fused in your mother’s tummy, you stayed there for nine months. Only when you were big enough, doctors cut open her tummy and got you out. That’s how you were born.”
“Wow! So I was an egg or a sperm?” I laughed out loud, only to invite a stern look from my husband. “You were a zygote. When the egg and the sperm fuse, it is called a zygote which grows up to become a baby in nine months.”
I was almost expecting the next question — how do the egg and the sperm fuse. But it seemed all the gyan was too much for his four-and-half-year-old brain. Satisfied for the time being, he went off.
But the seeds of curiosity had been sown. He asked for book after book of human body and biology and poured over them. Buying science knowledge books as long as they didn’t get too graphic in terms of language and pictures was safe, we decided. He was growing up fast, and we thought we were doing a great job of bringing him up the honest, no-nonsense, scientific way. He learnt about sperms and where they were stored, about the uterus and ovaries, the nine-month process and how babies grew. He even learnt about the menstrual cycle and how to put it in perspective. He learnt about the foetus and the umbilical chord, often lying down next to me in the foetal position saying, “I have become a small baby again.”
Too early, said my mother. You are rushing him, said friends.
But we were sure this was the way. It was scientific, satisfied his curiosity, and hence the best way to do it. And we thought we had achieved our purpose.
That is till the other day I sat down to watch Superman Returns with him.
“Jason can’t be Superman’s son. I have seen all Superman movies. Lois didn’t marry him.” His dismissive tone put me off. But I was more interested in the movie.
“Well, did she marry him?” he egged on as I ignored his comment.
No, she didn’t.
“Then how is Jason Superman’s son?”
Because they were like boyfriend and girlfriend for a long time, even before Richard came along. That’s how they must have made Jason.
“But they didn’t MARRY.” The emphasis was obvious. “You said two people have to get married to produce babies. How did their sperm and egg fuse?”
You want to watch the movie or talk? If you don’t want to watch it, switch off the TV and go to bed.
That shut him off. As he turned his head back towards the TV, I felt guilty.
We have never told him to shut off, but tried to explain everything to him in the most detailed way his little brain could take in. This was one of the rare times that we were at a loss of words.
But how indeed?
I have searched the net, asked around. Even my husband is not sure how to explain it to him this time. I am still looking for an answer suitable for a seven year old.