Don’t we all have one of those stories? I had this one published about eighteen months ago. It’s funny how things change. Nowadays, my nine-year-old daughter still squirms whenever sex is mentioned. Especially given my overbearing insistence on asking if she has any questions. Anything at all??? Don’t you want to know something??
But no. She just gives me a look which is all, just-shut-up-now-mum. This is sad. Cos when she was little she was much more, shall we say, curious. As you will see.
Let’s Talk About Sex
I hate to misquote Alfred Tennyson, but it is indeed spring it appears my young man’s thoughts have turned to…. sex. By ‘young man’ I mean my six-year-old son, Levi and by ‘sex’ I mean…well, who knows really?
It all began last week when Levi sidled up to me and said, “Mummy, Ella said a bad word in the library today.” Ella is a sweet girl in Levi’s class – outgoing, bright and popular – I couldn’t imagine a bad word issuing from her innocent lips. So I asked Levi what the ‘bad’ word was.
I like to give my kids the chance to say ‘bad’ words in a safe environment – ‘safe’ meaning that they won’t get in trouble. I think it helps to demystify swearing for them, they get to try the words out without fear of punishment.
Levi came even closer. “She said…,” he leaned in for emphasis and whispered reverently, “sex”.
Considering the fact that I was anticipating a rather more shocking euphemism for that exact word, I almost laughed out loud. I was momentarily fazed but then I had a sort of mini-epiphany where I figured, here is a chance for Levi to avoid a future of sexual repression and years on a sex therapist’s couch.
“Sex isn’t really a bad word,” I began in my most earnest, ‘good mother’ voice. “It’s just not a word that kids need to use.” Emboldened by my liberalness Levi forged on, this time much more loudly. “She said she did it with her boyfriend – and he’s ten!”
This time I suffered a sort of psychological whiplash as the broad mind I had so prided myself on retracted instantaneously. I quickly glossed over the comment with some lame platitude about kids who make up stories, and moved abruptly on.
After I had recovered from my shock I felt I had missed a golden opportunity to talk about sex with my kids so, a little while later when we were all relaxing I said to Levi, “Remember what you told me that Ella said before?”
“That she did sex with her boyfriend?” he said eagerly.
“Yes. Do you know what she’s talking about.”
The innocence in his eyes confirmed his sheepish, “No.” He was obviously clueless as to what ‘sex’ might be.
But, in the background, I noticed a squirming seven-year-old girl – my daughter to be precise. Not wanting to let the same opportunity slip through my fingers twice in one day I turned to Indiana and said, “Do you know what she was talking about?” My darling simply blushed and said, “sort of” in a soft voice. It was at this moment that I went into schoolmarm mode. “Well, does anyone have any questions?” Ben 10 was on TV so Levi’s response was a short, sharp “no” while Indy shook her head and went back to her colouring-in.
I must admit I was a little startled by Indy’s obvious understanding of the topic and her accompanying embarrassment so later, when we were alone, I brought it up again – much to her chagrin. “So,” I soldiered in, “When we were talking about sex before I wondered if you had any questions.” She gave a little shake of her head. “Well, do they talk about it at school?” At this point I meant the teachers. “The boys always do!” she replied. Ah, so even at the age of seven.
“But what about your teachers? Do they teach you about it?”
“Well, you see a movie in Year 5… and everybody laughs.” She was obviously well-versed in playground folklore.
“Do you want to ask me anything?”
“No,” she said, but her unspoken subtext was deafening, “please Mum, just stop talking.”
Now I don’t know where this reticence has come from because Indy was conversant with the facts of life (well a version anyway) at quite an early age. It all started when she asked the usual ‘where do babies come from?’ question when she was about four. Luke and I saw fit to use a story about how the daddy has a seed which he puts inside the mummy where it grows into a baby – just like a tree.
Both kids accepted this version of events which was a relief because I had heard a story about a mum who had told her little one a similar story only to be asked, “But how does Daddy get the seed in? Does he have a magic wand?” Well, yes, he’d like to think so!
So we rested on our laurels – as we so often do – until a few months later when I fell pregnant with our third child, Sienna. Excited to share our news with the kids we told them that Mummy had a baby in her belly that would be their new little brother or sister.
“But how did it get there?” four-year-old Indy wanted to know.
“Well, sweetheart,” I explained patiently, convinced I’d already done the hard yards, “Remember how we told you the story about how the daddy puts a seed in the mummy and it grows into a baby? Well that’s what Daddy did to Mummy.”
“Oh,” she said, her crestfallen face accompanied by a tone of frustration and dismay, “I wanted to watch!”
Speechless doesn’t even come close.
How do you talk to your kids about sex? Have you had any embarrassing moments during the ‘sex talk’?