Speaking of wood, Kid D is about due for The Talk. Yes, I mean THE Talk. He is in the third grade. Too young, you say? Seriously, have you ridden on a public school bus? Have you watched a rerun of Friends on television? Have you heard of a little thing called the internet?
S-E-X is everywhere. And it has basically been motor boating my son since he was born. He just wasn’t aware that boobs could be used as anything but food or a soft pillow until now. And he has questions… I can see them trying to escape from his little boy mouth. Mostly I see them now when I am showering and he lingers for a fraction of a second too long in my bathroom. Then he leaves quickly, muttering, “…nevermind…” because his little boy brain doesn’t yet know the words he wants to use for the things he wants to ask. And his body will be changing soon and his friends will be saying things. And I don’t want him to feel like he is an alien growing a fifth limb.
“Erections sometimes don’t know when they’re not wanted.” – from “What’s Happening to Me, ” written by Peter Mayle and illustrated by Arthur Robins
I have several options about how I can handle this. I can leave some brochures and books on his nightstand for him to peruse at his leisure. But that seems so isolating and scary, and likely the pages would get stuck together before long. I could ignore the issue and let him find out on his own, in a more organic way. But what if he gets the wrong information or has questions or it freaks him out? At that point, he likely won’t feel comfortable enough to come to me with questions because I never approached him with the facts in the first place. Then sex becomes a dirty little secret in our house. And those are NOT feelings that I want my kids to associate with sex, ever (well, the dirty part can be acceptable, but that’s a much more advanced lesson for later).
I learned about sex in a combination of all of the ways listed above. I regularly organized my mom’s walk-in-closet (honestly, she had a ton of clothes that always ended up on the floor, and it gave me tremendous peace to fold them or hang them back up), and she conveniently left a copy of “What’s Happening to Me?” on a shelf for me to “find” when I was about eleven or twelve. Little did she know that my cousin, now a lesbian for what that’s worth, had told me all about the nitty gritty when I was at her house for a sleepover. I was nine. Any other facts about body development or intercourse or STDs trickled in over the years via sex education classes, Seventeen magazine quizzes, and my friend McWorm, who explained to me in the 7th grade that Dexy’s Midnight Runners most definitely did not want Eileen to hurry up.
Taking what I learned from my own experiences, I went into my own parenting wasteland wishing to make a complete 180 when it came to talking to and teaching my kids about sex. I’m not judging my parents for not talking to me. I know firsthand how hard it is to have The Talk, for both the parents AND the kids. And honestly, my parents didn’t get The Talk from their parents either. So the dirty little secret is all they knew. But I was adamant that I would try to make it, if not easy, than at least a smidge easier for my kids to talk to me about all things related to sex. I would start being open when they were very young and we could build trust from there. I thought it was a good plan.
When the girls were little, I drove a minivan. A silver Mazda MPV, pre-sliding doors, but it was still super convenient for the car seat-toting set. It was also the place where we had some of our best sex talks when they were young. I was laying the groundwork. For example:
One morning on the way to carpool, Kid A, who was in 1st grade at the time, asked what I’d be doing while she and her sisters were in school all day. I took a deep breath and said that I had a doctor’s appointment.
“A well visit, Mommy? Do you have to get a shot?” asked a very curious Kid B, who was in preschool. She was used to her own pediatrician.
“Um, no, actually. I am going to a mommy doctor called an OB/GYN.” I steadied my nerves and looked straight ahead at the road (talks in the car were most awesome because there was never any eye contact involved). “The OB stands for ‘obstetrician,’ and that’s a doctor who delivers babies. I am not pregnant, so I’m not going for that.”
“Whew,” said a smartass Kid A, “‘Cause you’re usually pregnant a lot.”
“No, I am not pregnant right now. So I am going for the GYN part – the ‘gynecologist…’ ” I took a very deep breath. “…and that is a doctor who takes care of your vagina.”
If the girls had brake pedals, we would have skidded out right there in the middle of the road.
“Whaaaaaaaaaat?” squealed both of the older kids. Kid C toddler-giggled at their reaction.
“There is a doctor just for your your cha-china?” More giggles from the backseat.
“Yes, ” I answered, determined to be calm and cool and all NBD about sex. “He will check my weight and my blood pressure and ask me medical questions and do a check to make sure my vagina is all healthy and good. ”
“Well, that’s just like a well visit, Mommy, ” Kid A pointed out.
I was so proud for being straightforward and honest and open about sex with my daughters. They understood. I was making progress. Change is good! And then Kid B broke me.
“But what about if you make a stinker out of your vagina when the doctor is checking you. What happens then, Mommy? If you make a stinker? Out of your vagina?”
I slammed on the brakes at that point, both figuratively on the conversation and literally on the minivan. Fortunately, we had just pulled in to the school drop off. “Have a good day, girls!” I fake-smiled and waved and completely ignored the final, utterly unnerving question about S-E-X. I was actually shaking in my seat. Where was that kid from?
Kids are evil. They are ornery. Kids are put on this earth to pulverize their parents’ best intentions into dust particles and then throw them into our faces. Groundwork, shmoundwork.
Now that I think about it, I’ll wait just a little while longer before I give Kid D The Talk. He can learn about S-E-X like everybody else, the old-fashioned way… from a Victoria’s Secret catalog.
Wish me luck for tomorrow…