You know how I never talk about sex here? That’s about to change. Sort of. Hang on; let me rev up my spam filter, because I’m about to get slammed with a lot of spammy links for things that I’m desperately going to wish I could unsee. (Like, you know, yesterday’s thing. Apologies to those of you with delicate sensibilities.)
So I spend a lot of time lamenting the thing I do wrong as a parent or the things I think I ought to be able to fix as a parent, and it was pointed out to me that I really am not given to appropriately celebrating the things I do RIGHT as a parent. Today I thought I would simultaneously alienate my conservative readers AND totally congratulate myself on something I think I do really well.
And that thing is: I talk about sex. Extensively. With my kids. And I always have, and I always will. Because my feeling is that they can learn this stuff from me, or they can Frankenstein together indistinguishable facts and fiction from their peers, and I’d rather they at least have their information straight.
I can vividly recall an “argument” (I’m not sure I can even call it that; more like, a conversation in which I was completely gobsmacked) I had with my ex when we were still married, before we even became parents. My ex told me—without irony, in all seriousness—that he didn’t see a reason for parents to discuss sex with their children, ever. They would learn basic mechanics in school and then it was simply the parents’ job to reinforce the notion that the children should wait until they married. End of story. I recall at the time telling him that he could certainly take that position, but that I believed healthy, open communication is necessary and I planned to talk to our kids early and often.
(In retrospect, I maybe should’ve realized there was more to that conversation than us having a slightly different take on the situation. Ahem.)
Anyway. In a world where we have politicians trying to redefine rape and 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes and, heck, growing up is just weird and sometimes worrisome, I am not going to just pat my kids on the head and tell them not to worry their pretty little heads about it and that when the time comes they can just lie back and think of England. (Okay, I just made myself laugh out loud, thinking about what response that might evoke from my darling Literal Boy.) I have a history of tackling those hard facts-of-life talks whenever the situation warrants, even when it’s difficult.
So last night at the tail end of dinner I mentioned having clicked on a link that didn’t warn me it was going to be a picture of someone naked. WHOOPS! And at the end of that bit of conversation (consisting mostly of “… and that’s why we use parental controls on your computer, so you are not similarly scarred!”), I said, “Well, at least if I wanted to know whether or not that guy was circumcised, NOW I KNOW!”
“What’s circumcision?” asked Chickadee.
Otto dropped his head into his hands. He knows me well.
I offered that he could go back up to his office and leave us to do the dishes and discuss embarrassing things, and I’m not saying he RAN out of the kitchen, but while he was gathering up some stuff I turned to Chickie and said, “Okay—” and was immediately interrupted by him interjecting “WAIT!” He then flew up the stairs and yelled over his shoulder, “Okay!”
He’s so cute when he’s terrified.
My daughter and I retreated to my office, where a lengthy discussion of circumcision (the hows and whys and a line drawing I found online to illustrated the visual difference) led to a discussion of, um, male mechanics and slang terms for things boys like to talk about. And from there we decided to check out the female anatomy (line drawings, again, because as my daughter said, “I think I’m okay with a diagram but I would really rather not see any ACTUAL PEOPLE naked because EWWW”) and discussed that for a while and finally I pulled out a book I’d been saving for her and wrapped up with my standard disclaimer:
“You know you can come to me any time to ask ANYTHING. I’m always willing to talk about this stuff with you. It’s important for you not to be embarrassed about understanding these things. I’d rather we talk about it now when it’s all theoretical than for you to get older and not know what’s true and what’s something someone on the bus said that is totally wrong, and before you have some boy trying to convince you that hey baby, it’s all good.”
She nodded, and after a little more chit-chat it was time for her to go get ready for bed.
We may be enduring the stomp-stomp-SLAM ’round here more than I would like, and Monkey may still have some challenges ahead, but I’ll be damned if I raise kids who think their bodies are mysterious or shameful or that sex is some mystical thing that only happens between married people for the purpose of making babies.
Of course, there’s a fine line to walk, here. I’m not going to be making her wear a shirt that says, “I totally know what a clitoris is,” or anything.
I mean, as long as she behaves.