Family Matters

Where Do Babies Come From: Why a Super Bowl Ad Got It Wrong

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“Dad, where do babies come from?”

The opening line of Kia’s Super Bowl commercial doesn’t beat around the bush. The question spills forth during a car ride, making Dad’s eyes bug out before he quickly recovers and spins a fantastical story of a planet, Babylandia, from which newborns of every ilk originate. The mom plays a bit part, buckled in the passenger seat, silent and smiling — as if she doesn’t have the moxie to interrupt her husband’s psychobabble and give her son the 411 on how he got into her uterus and ultimately into the back seat of their new car.

The commercial itself is laugh-out-loud amusing, with cute babies (giraffes, pandas, humans) in space suits and parachutes, preparing for their journey from their planet to the earthly parents who await them. It pokes fun at the stereotypical way that moms and dads apparently seize up, hearts racing, palms sticky with sweat, when the matter of birds and bees comes up. (Me, I had no such qualms. My kids have known since they were 3 how babies were made.)

But rather than simply scoff over the improbability of it all, you might consider that Kia spot a teachable moment. “Things like this ad are a great opportunity to have the conversation,” says Susan Bartell, a parenting and child psychologist in Port Washington, N.Y. Where babies come from is one of the most common queries lobbed at parents, according to Bartell, who wrote The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask.

“When your kid asks you that question, your response should be, Tell me what you think,” says Bartell, who is also a contributor to BabyCenter.com. “Before you answer them, you want to elicit what they’ve heard. Kids hear so many things, and they are looking for you to confirm what they know already or rebut it.”

In the ad for Kia’s 2014 Sorento — part SUV, part minivan — the bespectacled father looks pretty pleased with himself as he winds up his procreation yarn. “And that, son, is where babies come from,” he pronounces. His son, however, protests: “But Jake said babies are made when mommies and daddies …” The dad hastily interrupts, commanding the Sorento’s entertainment system to kick into gear and play “Wheels on the Bus.” Mom and Dad join in lustily, accompanied by their boy, who appears to have completely forgotten about the sex convo, overcome as he is with joy at the childhood ditty. Kia’s tagline for the ad about its new crossover? “It has an answer for everything.”

(MORENew York City Mandates Sex Ed Classes for Public School Kids)

But is obfuscation the right answer? Bartell doesn’t think so. Certainly, 2-year-olds can’t handle a technical explanation of baby-making. But by the time children have a grasp of how boys differ from girls, parents can start the process of explaining the roots of biology. For a preschooler, that discussion may be as simple as babies coming about when moms and dads get close and love each other. “The more you tell them on this subject when they’re younger, the easier it is to talk about more difficult topics when they’re older,” says Bartell. “This is a gateway topic for being able to talk to your kids about sex, drugs, alcohol, all sorts of tough things.”

Kids, of course, are maturing earlier than ever these days, making parents’ queasiness over the conversation even more inadvisable. Dr. Claire McCarthy of Boston Children’s Hospital recently wrote a blog post on the hospital’s Thriving blog about parents’ reluctance — dads, in particular — to talk about sex.

“When it comes to sex, [parents] want to keep [their children] innocent,” says McCarthy. “They feel that if they have ‘the talk’ too early, it will make them more likely to have sex. Ninety percent of the time when I ask parents if they are talking with their kids about puberty around ages 9 or 10, they say no. Even when they get to be 16, they’re still not talking about it.”

When I watched the commercial with my kids, my 5-year-old was amazed but skeptical. “Is that really what happens?” she said, despite knowing the truth.

“You tell me,” I responded. “You know how babies are made.”

“I can’t explain,” she answered back. “It’s inappropriate.”

Her 8-year-old sister, meanwhile, took issue with the dad’s lie. She was worried about the little boy. “When he grows up, he’s going to wait for a baby to come from Babylandia,” she said. Then she added: “He’ll probably find out the truth from his wife because she won’t believe that.”

MORE: Nearly 1 in 3 Teens Sext, Study Says. Is This Cause for Worry?

14 comments
auronlu
auronlu

My parents gave me a beautifully illustrated kid's book showing everything "how a baby is made" from conception (just the egg and sperm coming together) through birth, with interesting pictures of the baby's growth at different stages of gestation. I read that book over and over for the pictures. They weren't gross; they were cleaned-up scientific illustrations, and it was really quite fascinating getting to "see inside"!

That gave me the basic idea that sperm + egg = baby without dwelling on sex. So all my parents had to do, a few years later, is tell me, "sex is what you do to get the sperm and egg in the same place," and I immediately grasped the corollary, "so don't have sex until you're ready to raise a baby." 



DewySay: On the other hand, I don't think you need to kill the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. There is a place for cultural mythology, and indeed, I think it's important to teach kids that there are ways of "telling stories" that can help get across an idea, or even make people feel strong emotions and be swept up in an experience -- and that's NOT necessarily bad, it's just that truths you share that way are in a separate category from fact.


In other words Socrates screwed up when he turned the Greek word "mythos," which meant "story, folktale, fable, metaphor, a tale we tell" into "pseudos," meaning "falsehood." They are NOT the same, and our world is poorer when people confuse the two. 

YesterdaysWine
YesterdaysWine

Was the author drunk? Stoned? On steroids? What would possess anyone to write this except to get paid? Uninformative, unimaginative, awkwardly written and utterly without a shred of a sense of humor. Hellllooooo? Editors?

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

This story brings up one of my major pet peeves about parenting and children - especially in today's world.  It's the lies we tell our kids in the mistaken notion that they're not mature enough to understand the truth (or for the reasons of tradition).

From where babies come from (I think the world would have been better off without the cabbage patch myth - and I knew the stork story was complete horse manure when I first heard it) to Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, these are all socially acceptable lies we tell our kids.  And at the same time, we laud the truth, punish THEM for lying, and expect them to believe in the bigger lies we tell ourselves (that there is a God, that someone - or something - is really in charge, that the government is here to help us, that the criminal justice system always works, that good guys always win, that cheaters never prosper, etc.).  Not only do our small lies undermine their trust in US, but it undermines the very validity of what we try to teach them.

How about equipping them with the "truth" for a change?  Will it "destroy their childhoods"?  No.  They're kids.  While they are, they'll play and have fun and have a childhood.  But we don't need to BS them at every turn.  Maybe they're not going to have the kind of childhood WE had, but maybe they'll grow up with more reasonable expectations and with far better coping skills than WE have now.

And not to belabor the obvious, but they're going to be adults and need to cope with an increasingly confusing world for a hell of a lot longer than they will be kids.  Unfortunately, it's when they ARE kids that they develop the skills that they'll NEED in order to cope.

People are so quick to point out that our children are our future.  Why, then, do so few actually tell them the truth about the world?  Is it a disservice to THEM to equip them, as they grow and become better able to understand the truth, with the knowledge of the way things really are?  I say it's more of a disservice to them to tell them lies, then tell them, "You know all that stuff we said about how the world words?  Just kidding!", and kick them out into an uncaring, merciless world without knowing what to believe, who to trust  and without properly preparing them to face it.

A little truth can go a long way, but a little lie does far more damage than people realize.

pendragon05
pendragon05

Babies do not belong in the Super Bowl - not the audience, not the ads. Let's get out of this baby-worship mindset as a nation.

RonKelly
RonKelly like.author.displayName 1 Like

I think the writer needs a sense of humour transplant.

bryanfred1
bryanfred1 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Why a Super Bowl Ad Got It Wrong:  Because It Was a Joke Stretched to Absurd Lengths for Effect

mrbomb13
mrbomb13 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Okay, TIME Magazine, there is a time and a place for everything.

That time and place is not during a Super Bowl commercial (where the companies are paying tens of millions of dollars for a 30-second spot).

Running a TV ad. that details the birds/bees conversation would have parents across the country in an uproar.  As parents, it's their job to have that kind of an intimate conversation with their children.  They do not need Corporate America or anyone else doing it for them.


DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@mrbomb13 The POINT, which you apparently missed, was that it's okay to correct the mistaken "information" the media gives to others when it's possibly confusing those others.  The advertising world tries to manipulate us into buying things.  Spendy Superbowl ads or Flomax commercials during the news, it's all about selling something.

This was NEVER about wanting the commercial to explain the birds and bees.  Perhaps you should actually try to read the article.

Having reverence or even respect for a commercial because of how much a company spent on it does not help your child cope with a bewildering world.  But using one as a catalyst for a long-overdue conversation, or to correct mistaken impressions, is certainly  appropriate.  And THAT was the point of the article.

ParaLethal
ParaLethal

Well since you wrote the commercial why don't you tell us what it was about and how it tried to sell me something. Yes it showed the car, it didn't go through a list of specs for me to drool over, it didn't mention gas mileage to get me excited to save money. All it did was make a joke and come up with a slogan. Your the type of person that makes everyone else shy away from enjoying things because you get bent out of shape at each little thing that makes its way across your face. Please do explain how you too from this article that the commercial was never about the birds and the bees?

You shouldn't give people hell for posting their opinion and if you do expect someone to ream you for yours.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

@DeweySayenoff @mrbomb13

First, thank you for your reply.  I agree that I missed the point of the article, and appreciate you lending your perspective.  It was key in getting me to view the article from a different angle.

Thank you.

glennra3
glennra3

Are we still in the 1950s?


Are parents really still getting nervous over this basic question of biology?

StephenAbbott
StephenAbbott

@glennra3 No, it's not the 1950s. And even in 2013, we're not going to have explicit sexual descriptions in our CAR ADS! And "Are we still in the 1950s" is SUCH an outdated put-down. How 1990s of you.

wandmdave
wandmdave

@glennra3 thats what I said.  Granted my son hasn't gotten old enough to even ask questions yet but I'm planning on just laying it all out there.

Even if parents arent nervous these days its obvious we all still know the stereotypical reaction so the commercial works.