Wednesday, January 25, 2012

That S-word.

The Princess (my 5-year-old daughter) has been exhibiting some curiosity about some things. You might remember this post, where I employed classic distraction techniques to smoothly avoid the "how are babies made" question.

Folks? It's getting worse. I blame TV. And school. And billboards. And music.

Awhile back she heard and retained the word "sex" from somewhere. She asked what it was. I reached into my vast mental catalog of parenting wisdom and tried to be "honest but age-appropriate" and "literal" and "tell her the truth but no more than she's explicitly asking for." Ummm. So I told her that when a man and a woman love each other and get married (yeah, that's right), sex is a special way for them to show their love, kind of like hugging and kissing but different, and more private, and it's only for grownups.

Her reply: "Is that when grownups take off their clothes and kiss NAKED?"

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

"What? Where did you hear that?"

"Mom. I saw it on TV one time."

Look, we are not watching HBO with her or anything, and we're actually very careful about what she watches. But yeah, I guess, really, scenes like that, or scenes which are clearly leading up to that, appear almost everywhere these days, right? The word sex and images relating to it are rampant in our society. And my little girl? She's smart. She's very, very observant, and very, very verbal. She gets what words mean and uses context clues to fill in the holes. She associates words with images and actions and she puts it all together.

So, yes. I told her the truth. "Yes. It involves two grownups who are in love and married taking their clothes off."

"Gross."

And that was the end of that.

Until yesterday.

"Mom? Remember that s-word, the one that's private and not for kids to say?"

"....you mean sex?"

"Yeah."

"What about it?"

"What IS that? I mean what do grownups DO when they do sex?"

"......"

"Mom?"

"Why do you want to know this?"

"I don't know. I just want to know."

"Was somebody talking about it to you?"

"No. Well, Freddy in my class has been singing a song with that word in it."

"What song?"

"I'm not supposed to say that word! It's not for kids!"

"It's ok to say it to me. You can say it and I won't be mad. How does the song go?"

She eyed me suspiciously for a moment and then rolled her eyes and said, "I'm sexy and I know it. You MADE me say it!"

"Oh. Ok. I know that song. But why did that make you ask me these questions?"

"I just remembered that word and I remembered you told me it was private and something grownups do but I don't understand what they DO."

"Maybe you don't need to understand what they do just yet."

"Mom. Just tell me, ok?"

Sigh. Honestly? I felt we'd reached the point of no return. I don't want to give her the idea that sex is dirty or shameful. I also don't want to wait until the porn-saturated society she lives in fills her head with ideas about sex. I want her first impressions of sex to come from me, so she can remember it as a normal, natural, beautiful thing that is waiting for her to enjoy when she grows up. 

I think back to history and realize that 100, 200 years ago? Kids knew all about sex. They saw animals do it. They shared bedrooms with their parents. It was part of life. 

Today our kids are insulated from these "normal" aspects of sex, but overly exposed to commercialization and exploitative images of sex; raunchiness becomes their framework for what is normal. Sex isn't what I don't want her to be exposed to; it's the corruption and cheapening of it that happens in our culture. 

So I believe it's my job to normalize it and set a foundation that might help to combat the information she's going to come up against as she grows up.

So.

I told her.

I told her exactly what happens, in the simplest and most basic terms. When she asked "why" anybody would EVER do something like that, I told her that it's how God designed us, and how we make babies (which then led to a brief explanation of "eggs" and "seeds"), and yes, I told her we do it because it feels nice.

She asked if I'd ever done that with her father. I said yes. "When?" she asked. I hesitated. "For sure before you and Monster were born, of course." 

"No, I mean when? At night when I'm asleep?"

"Oh. Well, yes." 

"In your BED?"

"Yes..." Now, I admit, I'm starting to feel weird about this line of questioning.

"Oh."

And then she was satisfied, and the conversation was over. 

And I felt a little sad that my baby has reached this moment in her life. And a little apprehensive that maybe she really is too young to know these things. But mostly I felt relieved, and a little proud. I felt like I'd handled it the way I always wanted to handle it. Calmly, rationally, with no shame or guilt or embarrassment. I stressed that it's for grownups, and it's private, and she doesn't need to talk to anybody else about it and if somebody tries to talk to HER about it, she should tell me.  But that she can always come to Mommy and ask questions, and I will always answer them.

What do you think? How old were your kids when you told them the facts of life? And did I do ok??



Linking up today with Yeah Write #41 (formerly LoveLinks)

7 comments:

  1. I'm ashamed to say my recently turned 8 year old still doesn't know any of this. She has a major problem with social filters and over-sharing (bad enough that she's about to start getting professional help) and I know it would cause me more trouble to tell her than not telling her right now would be. She hasn't asked, and I don't think she will for a while yet. Luckily. I'm dreading it.

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  2. Mine is curious, he would ask where babies came from but I could usually put him off with him coming out of my belly and that he was a gift from God. Around age 8 he expected an answer. I even wrote about it in my blog. I thought I was handling it so well. Lol kids will get you every time. http://overcomingbeingoverwhelmed.blogspot.com/2011/05/animal-planet-and-bird-and-bees.html?m=0

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