(The following post was inspired by one of my favorite bloggers, Christine at Naptime Writing. Read on to make yourself feel better about any successes or failures you may have with “the sex talk.”)
My mother was a nurse. And she had me in the 60’s. My dad wore a peace sign necklace and fashioned a dove with an olive branch out of coat hanger, wrapped lights around it and hung it in our living room window for the entire length of the Vietnam War.
I saw my parents naked. They didn’t parade around the home but when I slammed into that bathroom, pleading for more sunflower seeds and yogurt, they never covered up. They just told me, “No. You’ll spoil your dinner.”
They were very open about sex. And what it was/is. We never called our vaginas our hoo-hoos. A penis was a penis. My mother proudly tells the story about the time the babysitter got an earful from her (prodigy) 6 year old daughter of all the proper body parts and what sex really is. (I was nothing, if not a bit precocious.)
I’ve followed my parents open, free-minded example. I’ve done the same with all of my children. When the ultra-sound technician pointed out my son’s “winkie” on the screen my 10 year old daughter could not fight back the giggles. I was bouncing so much on the table trying to hold back the laughter, the tech had to stop the exam.
“What?” she asked. No one said a word. My husband and daughter just shrugged.
But in the car, all the way home? “Winkie?!? Doesn’t she know it’s a PENIS?!? What’s a winkie?!?” my daughter said over and over, cracking herself up every time.
My boys know a penis from a winkie. And they’re not afraid to let me know, either. “Mom? There’s something wrong with my penis!”, “Mom! My penis stands up by itself! Watch!” and “Mom. Did you know that sometimes my penis does stuff that I didn’t even tell it to do?”
But like the story my mother also likes to tell, I’m realizing that truly understanding sex and the significance of our private body parts is wholly dependent on brain development. And maturity. And 5th grade.
“Mom? Is this what sex REALLY is?” I proceed to explain, in fairly graphic detail, the sex act. My mother is surprised.
“Yes, that’s what sex is,” she responds, “We’ve talked to you about this before. And there’s that book we looked at together that explains everything (well, not everything) that we’ve looked through a number of times. Do you want to read it again together?”
“But you and Dad don’t do that, right?” I’m incredulous. I’m completely weirded out. And I remember this moment like it were yesterday.
“Well, when two people love each other…”
Her voice trails off. Because by now, I’ve screamed “Gross!” and run out of the room and slammed my bedroom door.
I couldn’t look my parents in the eye for a week. (My mom always cracks up at this part of the story.)
Just the other day, my youngest son (He’s 8 but so is his brother…for another few weeks, anyway. They’re 10 months apart in age. But that’s another biology lesson. Actually, it involves adoption but it was a fun tie-in, so work with me here.)….my youngest son is in the bathroom, about to hop in the shower. I set the water temp for him and insist that he hurry up and take off his clothes. We’re wasting water. He slaps his hands over his penis and says, “But you can see my penis. I need my privacy.”
Yes. This is the kid that grabs constantly so that we have to have a code word in public. (“Scratch” and then he’s supposed to bring his hands to his head and scratch behind his ear in order to move his hands away) This is the kid who discovers new things about his penis and has to share them with me, his dad, his brother. Not his sister, though. She put a stop to that early. This is the kid who bounds into the bathroom like clockwork after I have stepped into the shower to ask for: snacks, permission to play xBox or watch TV. Suddenly, HE needs his privacy.
You see? It’s all relative. It all depends on where your child is in his development. You can talk about it from the time they are wee-little ones, on and on. You can wait until they’re 10 and try to explain it then.
And their reaction, when they finally “get” what sex really is, will be the same.
Complete and total shock.
And when you least expect it.