I will never forget being in elementary school and my mother sitting me down to have the dreaded sex talk. I can still see her sitting in the brown chair of our living room and hear her speak those disturbing, scary words, like penis, vagina and babies coming out of it. Oh. My. God. Is she really saying these things? Make it stop, God, please, make it stop, I remember thinking.
So when my daughter asked me two years ago, at age 6, how babies are born, I took a deep breath, tried to de-flood my memories, and began a moderated explanation of how babies are made and born. And I mean the basics. We were in the car, where of course, the best discussions take place, and as I explained the minimal details, my then 3 year old son burst into tears because he just found out that he, as a male, could not bear children on his own. So after diffusing that meltdown, again, all in the car, went back to explaining the facts of life. And the inevitable question, “So you did that with Daddy twice?” I think I’m sweating at this point. “Yup.” I reply. No need to go further. Thankfully, when it came to the “any other questions?” portion of the discussion, they were satisfied with my response, or thoroughly confused.
A few weeks ago, the topic came up again, oddly enough, in the car. My daughter, now age 8, had some questions on how babies were born. This time, she wanted more detail. As I began my straight to the point, without having any idea how to pretty it up, explanation, I used the words penis and vagina. “What’s a vagina?” She asked. How on Earth does she not know what a vagina is (maybe because even as I write this, I am uncomfortable even saying it in my head). And then it dawned on me that if and when I have ever used the word, it was quickly said and with fleeting meaning. So I tell her it’s another word for her “privacy” as my husband so gently refers to our personal parts. “Oh, okay.” She is unfazed and uncaring, as it’s just another word to her. Just another word, just another explanation of life’s mysteries, no big thang.
So of course, because she is emotionally unfazed, I feel the need to go into detail on when grown ups have sex and why and limit the why to having babies and sharing love. I mean, why else would you do that? And that seemed to satisfy her. For now. Part of me wants her to ask more questions and the other part of me wants to put up a soundproof cabbie window between us to make it stop. But she has no other questions, it’s not an important part of her life. She just wanted to know.
So why is it so uncomfortable for me to have “the sex talk” with my kids? I have no problem sorting out every conversation they have with their friends and strangers, explaining the weight of their words and the way they say them, calling them out, and even myself out when we make mistakes. I have no problem singing in front of them (although I’m pretty sure I should) or walking around with my hair sticking straight up for hours in the morning and wearing the same clothes for an entire weekend when I simply don’t feel like showering. But talking to them about sex…..scary.
I think mostly its out of fear of making sure I say the right things. I want them to know the facts, but I want them to know the potential emotional impact of sharing your personal parts with another. I want them to understand the full meaning of respecting yourself and your body. I want them to understand the risks of STDs and unplanned pregnancy, but I don’t want them to be afraid either. And for the love of God, I don’t want them to look at me like a sexual being…I am their mother!! The same way I don’t want to think of my respected elders as being sexual beings. Ewww….
All in one conversation. Is this possible? Clearly, no.
The topic will come up again and hopefully many, many more times. I hope to be their trusted resource and if I’m not, I plan to be their forced resource. Being their primary educator, I know it’s my job to give them the facts and explain the emotional piece as best I can. They know me and they trust me. I have even been around the block…but only twice.
And perhaps I’ll start throwing around body part names more frequently. When my son said “wenis” at the dinner table the other night, I corrected him and said “penis.” and he instantaneously laughed so hard he fell off the bar stool height chair of our new dining room set. I mean hysterical. Which made the rest of us hysterical. Apparently, we have a long way to go.