The birds and the bees and things that fly


Leo doesn’t miss much.

So when I asked my mother what time Aunt Treasa and Uncle George were flying home from their honeymoon, I expected our 5-year-old’s ears to perk up. What surprised me was his question.

“Mama,” he said. “Will they have children?”

For a moment I thought Leo had joined the forces of those people who ask you constantly and inappropriately when you’re going to have a baby—a topic near and dear to my heart. And so I started saying, “Well, I’m sure they would like to someday….”

And then I realized what our son was asking.

He wasn’t asking some grand abstract question about the newlyweds’ hopes and dreams for their future life together. He wanted to know whether—since they were flying home on an airplane—they would be bringing a child home with them.

From his perspective, it was a perfectly rational question.

After all, months ago when he asked why they were getting married, we talked about how they loved each other. And we also talked about how Mama and Baba got married—and about how after Mama and Baba got married, we hoped we would have children. Now we have two sons. And Leo knows exactly how that happened.

We saw his picture. We climbed onto a plane, flew to China, met him, had a wonderful time in China, and flew back to the United States.

Then two years later we took another trip to China to adopt Daniel, and we flew home with him.

Leo’s question was absolutely logical. His aunt and uncle got married last weekend. Then they got onto an airplane, and now they’re flying home. Why would they come home empty-handed?

So I kept my answer serious and straightforward.

No, they won’t have a child with them when they get home from this trip, I told him. But maybe someday they will have children. And wouldn’t that be fun?

He listened to me briefly. Then we moved on to some other pressing topic, such as what was for dessert.

Earlier this year John and I were wondering whether Leo understood that people raised children they gave birth to—but I think we’ve talked about that enough that he gets that. Now some days he gives birth to his stuffed animals, and other days he flies to China and adopts them.

What I never thought to explain was that many people—at least people who aren’t his parents—fly on airplanes for a lot of different reasons. John and I? We only fly when we are going to China to adopt a child. But ordinary people fly all the time.

Still, I’m glad Leo asked the question before his aunt and uncle arrived home. We might have had one disappointed child burrowing through their luggage, looking for a new cousin.


Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.