Where’s Oprah when I need her? Talking to my kids about the birds and the bees.

| 27 Comments

The Birds and the Bees, by Norman Rockwell. (Image via pinterest)

The Birds and the Bees, by Norman Rockwell. (Image via pinterest)

When I was a kid, I remember being given a book that described how two large round cartoon people made a baby. I also remember that somewhere in the middle of the book it suggested that you ask your mom and dad to stand next to each other naked so that you could observe the differences in their bodies. Fortunately for me and for my parents, I had enough common sense to know that this was a terrible, terrible idea.

That book and its suggestion for how to get labelled the family pervert are what I remember from “the talk” with my mother. Now, I have kids of my own and the time has come to have “the talk” with them. As with most parenting milestones, I never thought much about it until I had to; I have always been too busy trying to survive whatever phase we were currently in to start planning how to get through the next one. When it comes to talking about sex, my approach has been, “I’ll wait till they ask me, and when they do I will be completely honest.” Turns out I only had half of that right.

A little over a week ago, a friend of mine asked me and a few of our other friends if we wanted to attend a talk held by a parenting educator named Alison Bower about how to talk to your kids about sex. I thought, well, my kids haven’t asked yet, but I guess it’d be helpful. Turns out, according to Alison, it is now recommended that kids start getting the facts when they are in preschool. PRESCHOOL, PEOPLE. And WE are the ones who are supposed to bring it up. I guess because we’re the adults or some such nonsense.

Despite the fact that my kids are a little bit behind in this, I still wasn’t worried. After all, I had a fairly active early twenties. I am totally cool and hip to the sex stuff, right?

Wrong…so, so wrong.

"Take the condom...TAKE IT." (image via digikidmedia)

“Take the condom…TAKE IT.” (image via digikidmedia)

That evening, when I gathered with my friends and much wine to talk about kindergarteners and sex, I was taken to a place of such incredible discomfort that if I still wore turtlenecks I would have pulled it up over my head like a humiliated turtle. Turns out I am totally cool about sex except when children are involved, something I normally consider a positive trait of mine except that when it comes to sex ed it could be a bit of a stumbling block.

My reaction had nothing to do with the presenter, who was terrific — it was the things I learned that other kids my kids’ age are doing. I heard about playground wood chips going places that they were most definitely never meant to go, about fingers inserted into a cat in a manner I can only describe as “distressing,” about children sniffing butts, and about fishing poles being used inappropriately. I swear, I should have brought my pearls so that I would have something to clutch all night.

At one point,  our presenter used the words, “soft” and “wet”, and I had such a strong physical reaction that she actually said, “Tell us, what’s going on for you right now?” And all I could say was, “I just…um…I mean…my kids don’t…”

I’m in trouble.

So now I need to figure out a way to talk to my kids about this whole sex thing without hiding my face behind a pillow while I’m doing it. I assume I’ll be the one having the talks with them, seeing how my husband doesn’t even want to be in the same building as someone using the words “penis” or “vagina.”

"Everybody have their herbal tea? Alright. Let's jam." (image via singlemindedwomen.com)

“Everybody have their herbal tea? Alright. Let’s jam.” (image via singlemindedwomen.com)

It won’t be a problem as long as the conversation goes like this:

Child: “Mom, where do babies come from?”

Me: “Here is my matter of fact answer.”

Child: “Oh. Thank you so much, mother. You have answered my question, and I think we’re all done here.”

If it goes much beyond that, I may need to find that very special episode of Punky Brewster where a kid gets stuck in a refrigerator and Punky has to revive her using CPR. Refrigerator safety is important, too, you know.

Despite my fears, a couple of days after the presentation I decided to be brave and broach the subject with my kids. Just before bedtime one night I said, “You know, if you’re ever curious about your body you can always ask me or your dad anything you want to know.”

And one of my kids said, “I AM curious.”

Crap, I thought. Here we go.

“What do you want to know, babe?”

My child paused and then said, “You know this part of your arm where it bends? How does it do that?”

Thank you, child. Thank you.

Author: Meredith Bland

Meredith likes to write the funny at her blog, Pile of Babies (http://www.pileofbabies.com).

27 Comments

  1. Ah. I soooo empathize with your desire for a turtleneck moment! I’m really lucky that I have only one boy and my husband gave him the talk in 3rd grade. They also have some pretty detailed sex ed at school that covers a lot of stuff (which I don’t think is any replacement for parental discussion, but it’s more information).

    My son’s almost 13. We’ll be watching a television show and there’ll be a sex-themed joke or something. I’ll whisper to my husband “You might need to explain that one to him.” He’s always like, “He’s a 13-year-old boy. Trust me. He gets it.” And them I’m embarrassed. . .
    Sarah recently posted..My husband really doesn’t understand how compliments work.My Profile

  2. Mer, I totally get it. I just had our second version of “the talk” with my first grader. After our first version (in which I actually used the phrase “Special Hug,”) he felt empowered with knowledge, and announced to a very pregnant and humorless mom in his preschool class that his momma had told him she was gonna have that baby “right outta her butt!” Our second talk was necessitated by some confusion on Nathan’s part about “getting married” and, um, “knowing” someone, you know, Biblically. Turns out he was under the impression that a wedding was a big party where all your family and friends get together to watch you boink your beloved. Since we do not live in Game of Thrones, I felt obliged to correct him. This led to me deciding to use the phrase “Do Sex.” What can I say, I was hoping to be more precise. Mercifully, after about 30 seconds of me laboring through this distinction, my sweet six year old asked, “Mom, could you stop saying the word ‘sex’ now?” No problem, son.

  3. Oh I am so with you. Really? Preschool? I don’t think I was ever told by my parents anything. We had sex education in school in 5th grade. My mom thought that was too soon, and don’t do any of it was her sex talk

  4. I will DIE when this happens. DIE. Because…I mean…I just can’t. Oh lord.

  5. i don’t know what presentation that was, but we had one for the 5th graders to discuss puberty and they were very clear that even when talking about penis and vagina to 10 year-olds, it was purely clinical. matter of fact. this is what the body does, how it grows. in no way, is it associated with sex. they save that take for 7th grade.
    all that stuff is so far over a 5 year-old head, they couldn’t process it and wouldn’t want to. simple answers, only if they ask. and change subject. that’s what i’m going with.
    i love your ending.

  6. Sex talks are the WORST! But I LOVE the arm question!! The subject has been broached multiple times with my 8 year old, with multiple variations of success. The more unsuccessful times occurred when the questions came out of the blue at a bad time (because, duh. That’s when they happen). A simple dinner conversation about the difference between the eggs we eat and the eggs that end up as chicks ended up with a sex question and the worst case of changing the subject to ever occur in our house. But thankfully, the sex talk isn’t a one shot deal. Since then, I’ve had some good conversations with my daughter. And not to freak you out anymore, but I just heard a statistics that by the age of ten, almost all kids have seen some type of pornographic image. Age ten. I’d definitely hide my face in my turtleneck over that one.
    Kelly recently posted..Remember the Time…We Broke All the Rules?My Profile

  7. I will not, under any circumstance, discuss sex with my 6yo. If he asks a question, I will totally give him an honest, age-appropriate answer. I will give him precise information only pertaining directly to his question and nothing more.
    I don’t think little kids need to know this stuff. It’s important to preserve innocence, imo.

    I have had a talk with him about his body and good touch/bad touch stuff, but nothing more.
    When the time comes though, I’m pretty sure I’ll be ready. I hope.
    Karin recently posted..Lesions and Masses and Nodules. Oh, My.My Profile

  8. My mother was a labor and delivery nurse and Lamaze teacher. I used to play Barbie under the tables while she taught classes, so I was fairly well versed for a 5 year old. I always thought “the talk” with my own kids wouldn’t be that bad, but basically I just threw a box of condoms at my oldest son and yelled “use them or lose it” and ran. My daughter who is almost five now refers to her parts as her “butt” and her “front butt” because one day she asked me what it was and when she supplied her own answer, I just nodded weakly.
    Renee recently posted..It’s a disinfectant kind of day.My Profile

  9. OMG I had that same book as a child. And when I got pregnant a year ago and my then-4-year-old kept asking me how the baby got IN my belly, I ordered that book thinking I would read it to him. I don’t know what’s happened to me, but holy hell that book is SO graphic! No way am I reading it to my kindergartener! So, to my own embarrassment, I went with the “special hug” explanation. I don’t think he totally bought it, but once the baby was born he let it go.
    Crazed in the Kitchen recently posted..Thanks to CNN, I have rage in meMy Profile

  10. I am using books. I talk to much, so every time when a question comes up I fear I will drag it way beyond than I should. So I buy books that helps with the subject that are suitable for children. My husband is a better (brief) talker than me. So when it’s time to talk to my son (which should be right around the corner), that’ll be his job.
    As far as the timing goes, we also prefer to follow our children’s cues. if they bring it up, we talk. If not, we avoid :).
    Practical Mama recently posted..Rome with Children: Day 4 – Walking around the cityMy Profile

  11. OMG! Frickin’ hilarious!! Thank you, indeed, child. Just to be in the same sharing circle as you amazingly witty women, I’ll add my two cents. I’m surprised how on-going all conversations are with my son, who is just turned six. It’s just like anything else, I guess – he gets some information, processes it, comes back around full circle and wants to add a little more detail. So far I’ve stuck very clinically and precisely to the meeting and fusion of the egg and sperm. No discussion on how the two little packages of baby-to-be find their way to each other, thank goodness. Honest to pete, the other day, I found myself excitedly explaining how the sperm penetrates the egg, the egg shell hardens, and the exact nature of how a blastocyst forms and shapes. I think I’m inadvertently blasting him with so much detailed description of early fetal development that I bore him and he doesn’t even get to the question that might begin to involve penises and vaginas. I think I’ll just keep going on that tack until the winds shift.

  12. Just make one of my Beaver Babies, a Vag-u-cational tool used to explain the miracle of life in the most inappropriate way ever. Basically, you just throw it at them and run.
    Here’s the tutorial:
    http://www.oneclassymotha.com/2012/12/11/tip-for-tuesday-the-miracle-of-life-through-inappropriate-crafting

  13. That talk sounds really freaking disturbing. I’m a preschool teacher. If pre-k children are playing in a sexualized manner, or discussing things far beyond their years, it could be grounds for a CPS call. All kids explore their bodies, and they’re curious about differences, and they’ll have questions about where babies come from, and ‘why does HE have THAT and I have THIS?’ It’s best to answer questions in an age appropriate manner. That means you don’t need to provide more info than necessary; preschoolers should not be hearing the details of sex. Right now, their parts are for bodily functions. It’s also best to teach small children about private areas (while being careful to not make them feel ashamed of anything), and what’s appropriate in public, as well as the bad touch stuff as another comment mentioned.

    How much information to give older kids is a lot fuzzier, and I think it depends a lot on family values. I think answering on a question by question basis is a good idea until about 5th grade, when most schools do give the puberty talk. But make sure your kids have lots of access to books. I was so well-versed on not just the details of sex but the emotional aspects, by way of Judy Blume, Naylor’s Alice books, and anything else I picked up in the YA section, my parents never censored anything I wanted to read. I really think it helps a lot in creating young adults who make good choices. I was never actually given a sex talk, though my older brother was; my parents understood the differences in our personalities to know to talk with him and leave me to my own devices.

    I’m also a strong advocate of a ‘family computer’, in an easily viewable area, rather than private electronics for school-age kids and teens. There is far too much misinformation online, in regards to sex and relationships for sure, and a lot of content is degrading to women in particular.

    Wow, I’ll stop talking now. They definitely would have needed the smelling salts to revive me had I been at that meeting.

  14. Pingback: Paging Dr. Ruth, and a Thank You |

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.


CommentLuv badge

%d bloggers like this: