Wednesday, January 24, 2007

ready or not...

“Momma, what’s sex?” My eyebrows shoot up involuntarily as my heart skips a beat. As she is turned away from me in the dark and using her “I’m feeling really self-conscious” voice, I’m not sure I’ve heard her correctly. I silently hope I haven’t.

“What did you say, Bub?”

“What is sex?” She turns toward me and I see her questioning almost-eight-year-old eyes in the half-light of her bedroom. I heard her correctly. I silently hope aliens will abduct one of us, rescuing me from having to answer her earnest yet uncomfortable question. They do not.

I take a deep breath.

Fortunately, I am not completely unprepared for this conversation—the lucky side effect of being a slightly neurotic parent who worries about too much about too many things and has too many books but too little time to read them. My bookshelves and nightstand all contain, smattered among the memoirs and novels and books on writing, titles like How and When to Talk to Your Kids About Sex or How to Talk to Your Child About Sex or Talking to Your Kids About Sex. (Books on the topic are prolific—alas, creative titles are not.) I’ve even read parts of some of them. And underlined in them. I’ve been a good student. I just didn’t think the final exam would come for, oh, about another year. Or two. Or five.

I silently wish I’d studied harder.

This is not our first conversation, which further complicates the situation. She has been asking questions, albeit infrequently, for about six months now, and I have been answering them in honest but veiled answers, explaining that more information will come as she is older. The groundwork has been laid. But she has been less and less pacified by my responses. She is wanting more. But is she ready?

“Where did you hear that word?” I begin with an indirect route, trying to determine how she’s heard the word used and by whom, who is saying what, what does she really know. As the conversation continues, it becomes clear she is getting some very erroneous information from some very confident but VERY misguided second graders. I am going to have to answer her directly. She needs honest, accurate answers. I silently hope for the Second Coming.

I don’t remember learning about sex for the first time, but there is much I do remember. Awkward conversations, questions directed toward friends who were more “experienced” though not necessarily more knowledgeable, avoided conversations, lessons learned about the hard way. Shame, embarrassment, and confusion were the threads that wove together my knowledge of sexuality. They do not pull out easily. It is not what I want for my daughter.

And so, as carefully and simply as I can, I explain “sex” to my precious, precocious almost-eight-year-old.

“That’s weird,” she giggles, wrinkling her nose. I wrinkle mine back. “Yeah, it is kinda weird, isn’t it?” We have a good giggle and then talk for while longer, allowing her to empty her overflowing bucket of questions. I kiss her good night, reminding her that second graders are not the authority on such matters. I leave her, hopefully, with thoughts of sleepovers and birthday parties.

I silently hope I have done the right thing, at the right time, in the right way.


John said...

Um, okay. Was Pak one of the second graders? 'Cause I thought we'd explained it well.

Although when we were discussing a friend who got pregnant outside of marriage Pak asked, "So, she didn't have a boy to do that thing with -- I forget what it's called?"

We said, "Um, no. She did have sex with a boy. It wasn't a good choice, but she did."

I'd be interested in finding out what he actually thinks that thing that he forgot about really is about...

lorie said...

Okay John--laughing out loud!

No, not Pak. At least not in THESE particular conversations. Perhaps it would have been better had he been in on them--he could have set them ALMOST straight!

John said...

Oh, good.

I'd be really interested in what our kids really DO think about sex. That would be an interesting book -- "And Then the Daddy Puts Seeds on the Mommy: What Our Kids Know and Don't Know About Sex."

lorie said...

Now, see? THERE'S a creative title!

Beth said...

Can one of you guys come talk to MY kids about sex? With Abby, we've gotten up to the Mommy and Daddy (my eyes, my eyes!!) being naked together part, which was clearly PLENTY of info for her at this point (based, solely on the look in her eyes). I assured her that God created all of this to be very good and nice and that it would become more clear later. "Do you want to understand more about this right now," I asked. "Not really," she said. So....there it is.

John said...

Oh, my.

We didn't start out with mom and dad naked -- that probably would have ended the conversation right there.

We started months and months before with the egg and sperm thing; everything was abstract.

We had already talked about physical differences between boys and girls, and they knew where babies came out. The boys had been asking lots of questions, and I was scheduled to leave for Cambodia within a few weeks. Kori said, "I think you ought to talk with them before you go overseas."

So, I sat 'em down and asked them if they knew how babies were made. One of them said something about the eggs, and I asked if they knew how the sperm got from the man into the woman.

[Puzzled looks, no answer]

I said, "Well, you know about how men and women have different private parts..." I explained the basics, and asked if they had any questions. Nope.

(Oh, and we had also said before that "sex" refers to the difference between men and women, and that the "sex parts" were the parts that made boys different from girls.) So when we said that "sex" has to do with using those parts, it wasn't that big of a leap.

Not much drama, since we had kind of prepared them all along.

lorie said...

I've heard of a great book, Beth--it's called "And Then the Daddy Puts Seeds on the Mommy: What Our Kids Know and Don't Know About Sex." You should check it out!

Same for us, John--there has been a great deal of "back-story." It removed a lot of the drama and pressure.

I think the hardest thing for me is knowing that there is a certain amount of innocence lost--she has entered a new era and there is no turning back. She will never look at her own body, her brother's, mine, anyone's the same again. I'm a little sad to let go of my innocent baby girl.

Anonymous said...

Ohhh I haven't been here in a while. I can see I've been missing the good stuff. Almost Eight! That's twice the age mine was when she asked me. And she was in a Christian pre-school. (welcome to Columbus!)SHe was removed and
we home schooled for ten years and when she went back to public school, I discover she's attending with the grandson of none other than Larry Flint.How ironic...