Five-year-old curious about her sperm donor.

Q:

I am a single lesbian mother raising a five-year-old daughter. I used a donor to conceive, but now my daughter is telling people her dad died and that he is in heaven looking down at her. When she asks me, “Do I have a dad?” I tell her, “No.”

What next? Help!

A:

And you thought getting pregnant was going to be your biggest hurdle on the queer parenthood path.

Avoiding the issue of your daughter’s “father” has left her without adequate information to deal with the everyday questions children face when they come from “alternative” families. And now you are surprised that she is doing her best to fill in the blanks?

It is perfectly normal for a five year old to be curious about where she came from. Her peers are equally as curious. The majority of five-year-olds that come in contact with your daughter have been told that babies come from a man and a woman. They take this as absolute information, but notice that your daughter doesn’t have a father. No doubt they are asking her over and over again where her father is. When she tries telling them them she doesn’t have one, they say things along the lines of “that’s not possible. Everyone has to have a father.”

She is old enough to understand the basic concept that babies are created with an egg from a woman and sperm from a man. In her case, however, you wanted to be her mom so much that you went to a doctor who gave you the sperm of a man who wanted to help you make a baby. (I think using the word “bank” is confusing since little kids only know about one kind of bank.) Then help her find ways she is comfortable explaining it to her peers. Keep in mind that simply saying, “that’s personal information, and I don’t feel the need to share that” is perfectly acceptable. She will need to define her own boundaries about how much information she wants to share. But if she chooses to explain the details to her classmates, she will certainly not be the first young child of alternative insemination who held court on the playground or on the bus ride home while enlightening her peers about the science of reproduction.

Avoiding this will not make it any less complicated. Be open with her now, or face even worse misunderstandings about her biological father in the future. And if at all possible, help your daughter connect with other children who were created via alternative insemination. (Family Pride and COLAGE are great places to start in search of a group near you.) Helping your daughter understand that she is not the “only one” could make a big difference in how she feels about herself and her family.

4 thoughts on “Five-year-old curious about her sperm donor.”

  1. Right now, our 8 year old’s understanding of her “father” is that he’s the “Donor Dad Dude.” And that we’re really grateful and appreciative toward him for wanting to help other people have a baby when maybe they couldn’t otherwise. She knows that he’s got a South American background, so she can thank him for her olive skin that doesn’t burn like our super-fair complexions (you have to take a stab at genetic engineering when you have the chance).

    Giving kids information incrementally, and age-appropriately keeps their big questions answered, and as they get older, they can gradually have more details. In the mind of a child of 5, “not having a father,” could translate to dead. Or indicate some awful secret that isn’t actually there. Because it sounds like she already knows that she wasn’t quite a product of immaculate conception, no matter how sterile the surroundings.

  2. We have always been very honest with our children. We have a son, 9 and a daughter, 6. Both were conceived from the same donor sperm. We have used the correct terminology since birth. Words like insemination, sperm bank, adoption, lesbian, and gay should all be used like all other words. Our children are very comfortable with them and know what they mean! Our children know the difference between a “bank”, “blood bank” or “sperm bank”. Children are really smart and if told the truth in simple terms with the correct terminology they get it.

    If they tell their friends that they have no Dad and that child persists in questioning what happened to him, your child should be comfortable enough with the “words” to tell them they had a donor, even at five! Children can even add that it is like someone donating blood or organs you don’t know who it is it was just a very kind, gracious and unselfish person who helped my mom get me.

  3. We have 3.5 yr old. triplets ( 2 boys, 1 girl) from a known donor, a close Uncle. They are asking ? regarding FATHER and DADDY because they just started school and they see other kids with Fathers.
    We have not really acnknowledged the ? yet, and know that we are past due on doing it.
    My brother is very OK with them calling him Father and even being present at Father DAY at school etc …
    Need immediate advice on the conversation that is BEST for our kids developmentally and mentally the kids. HELP!!

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