We love success stories! One parent shared with us this week how she became more comfortable talking with her children about sexuality. She admits that it was when she allowed her children’s questions to guide the discussion that everything changed. She believes that this one positive experience has opened the door to many future conversations in their home about the growing body, love, relationships, sex, intimacy, and even the dangers of pornography. Well done Kayley!
The Dreaded Talk
I don’t know about you but growing up we didn’t discuss sex much in our house. I do remember having a special talk with my mom when I was almost 12. It was a one-time, no-nonsense, dust-your-hands-off-and-we’re-done, kind of experience.
Despite the awkwardness of that moment, which is forever seared on my memory, I still somehow managed to discover love, get married and make a few adorable babies of my own. As these babies grew I began to question how I could improve upon my mother’s heroic attempt to teach me about sexuality. I knew I definitely wanted to have a more open relationship with my children.
I started to imagine myself becoming that totally chill mom who casually talks to her kids about puberty, sex and the dangers of pornography in a healthy and mature way … like, whenever. Of course, in this alternate reality my kids would frequently come to me with their own questions about sex and their maturing bodies because we were —just —that —cool.
Definition of Insanity: Doing the Same Thing, Expecting Different Results
One catch. When I wasn’t living in mommy dreamland I was clueless where to begin. I was still struggling to figure out how I could comfortably launch into a discussion about sex, in all its nitty gritty detail.
It was about 10 years into my parenting career when I realized I was hitting a major roadblock on my quest to be the hippest, most chill mom ever. My oldest daughter was mortified every time I brought up anything to do with puberty or sex. It got to the point where she would cover her ears and close her eyes anytime she sensed we were moving into the facts-of-life territory. I was clearly not building the relationship that I had so wished for. And worse, I didn’t know what I could do to change it. How was I ever going to get us past these inhibitions? Was I destined to perpetuate the tradition of awkward sex talks for generations to come??
Allowing Children to Take the Lead … So What if it’s by Accident?
It took my 6-year-old son to show me I had been going about this all backwards. He’s a kid that loves science. He questions everything! To encourage his curiosity, and as a compromise to his otherwise incessant interrogation of my brain, once daily we google science-y questions together.
On this particular evening he wanted to learn everything he could about cell division and mitosis. I opened my laptop and started to look for a suitable instructional video. His three sisters (ages 4, 8, and 10) were hanging around. So, the five of us hopped up onto my bed, and together we watched cells divide. The video was close captioned with no audio, so for the sake of my 4-year-old, I was reading each slide as it showed up.
Things were going just fine —thank you very much— and then suddenly, the video started to take a turn I had not considered … “But the most amazing cell division happens…” [next slide]. Oh my goodness, here we go! … “DURING SEX!” … Cue awkwardness!
Tempting as it was to stop my narration it would have been more awkward to do so. After all, the other three kids could read perfectly well. Thus, with great effort to stay cool, I kept on going. Next, I got to read aloud how sperm and ovum meet and form a new type of cell —one that divides and divides into the miracle of life!
Finally, the video ended and I mentally congratulated myself that I was, in fact, a pretty awesome mom. I didn’t get too flustered, did I? I got to the end without passing out, didn’t I? “Okay kids,” I said enthusiastically, in an effort to move on, “Let’s get ready for bed!” and with that snapped the laptop closed!
…But, oh, we were not done!
“Wait a second, how did the sperm get there?” asked my son.
“I’m sorry?” I replied, hoping that I wasn’t going to have to pursue this topic anymore.
“How did the sperm get there?” He asked again.
Facing your Fears: What’s All the Fuss About?
Time stood still for a second while I quickly decided whether or not this was a topic I wanted my 4-year-old listening to. Why IS all of this such a secret anyhow? I remember asking myself. Why do we go to such great lengths to hide what is so natural, and then hope that our kids somehow learn the difference between appropriate and inappropriate sexual relationships? I weighed pros and cons, and determined in that moment I was just going to go for it! I set it all out for my kids right there —every appropriate word and term I could think of.
I was totally squirming inside, but tried my very hardest to act as calm as possible! I thought of my oldest daughter, and couldn’t even look at her. I was just praying she was accepting my sex-talk offering, and not cringing at her super awkward mother. It only took a couple of minutes and I finished as best as I could with … “and that’s how the sperm gets to the egg! … BEDTIME!!”
Now it was my 8-year-old daughter’s turn:
“Woah, woah, woah. Wait a second. Wait a second…”
Oh my goodness!! I so need this to be done, I thought.
And there was another awkward silence until she finally said:
“You mean to tell me…that it’s VA-gina, not BA-gina!?!?!?”
I could have kissed her. Inside I was totally laughing. But, I looked around at all of my children, and noticed that each one of them was looking at me, extremely interested, and not ONE of them cringing. Not even my oldest daughter!! I realized it was me who had made this whole thing so awkward, not them!
“Yup”, I said, “It’s VA-GINA!!”
But the best part was that my oldest daughter chimed in, and shared with us all that she had learned that week in health class about puberty and periods. No awkwardness whatsoever! My son, the little scientist, was taking it all in as the normal facts that they were. Even the 4-year-old asked a few questions, and I think, really understood what we were talking about!
Being open that night has really opened up the topic of sexuality for our family. My kids have come up to me since then and asked additional questions as they put more of the puzzle together. We can talk about puberty, sexuality, and the dangers of pornography just like I had hoped, all thanks to a curious 6-year-old boy.
I do not regret for one minute that I was open and honest with them, and if I could do it again, I would have shared these things with my oldest daughter much sooner. Sexuality is a private discussion in our home, and we discuss it in the most respectful way possible, but we do discuss it now. That’s the point! And we are all learning together.
Photo credits: Donnie Ray Jones- Flickr