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How are you? Oh my gosh, it’s been months, and they’ve been crazy. You know this – you’re living it too. Pandemic + Economic Crisis + Kids at Home 24/7 is a wild ride.
I figure that if you have a job, you’re stretched trying to work while parenting, and if you don’t have a job, you’re stretched with that. Either way, you’re probably not looking for ways to stretch further, like taking on tough conversations with your kiddos. That’s why I haven’t been in your inbox much.
I’ve been focused on family for the last two months. A few people signed up for free consultations, but other than that, my little business has been quiet.
That’s ok. I think we’re all holding our breath a little bit, waiting to see what’s next.
Meanwhile, my daughter is about to turn 5, the ideal age for having The Talk. There were some other reasons to dive in right now, too, so I took the plunge last weekend.
Laying the groundwork
I’ve been slowly educating my daughter on the basics since she was 2 years old. We’ve read books on bodies and touch and the differences between (most) boys and girls. Books on gender, books on secrets. You can find them all on my recommended books list. I placed the ones she’s ready for on the bottom of my work bookshelf, and she pulls them out from time to time.
Before last Saturday, my daughter already knew about sperm and egg cells, about the fetus growing in the womb, about birth, anatomical names and private parts. She knew about menstruation and feminine hygiene products, including that tampons and menstrual cups go inside the vagina. That’s quite a bit for 4 years old.
She did not yet know about erections, penetration, sexual pleasure or pornography. That’s the ground we had yet to cover.
I followed the directions I share with others, curious to see how it would go with my own child. Happily, it was a breeze! With one book, in about an hour, we covered a lot of new territory. Not only that, it was comfortable for both of us, and the new knowledge is protective against adverse childhood experiences like exposure to pornography and child sexual abuse.
I showed her the new book, It’s Not the Stork, and asked if she’d like to read it. We settled in together on the couch. She enjoys comics, especially the Sunday comics with Grandpa, so she liked the bird and bee characters.
A lot of what’s covered in the book was review for her, but the part about erections and circumcision was new. She was a little confused and very curious about why and how the foreskin is removed. She asked what would have happened if she’d been a boy, and she was quite clear that she wouldn’t have wanted to be circumcised.
After several more pages, the book explained about penetration. At this part, her eyes went wide and she exclaimed, “I didn’t know that!” It had never occurred to her to wonder exactly how the sperm reached the egg. While many kids, older kids especially, have an “ew” reaction, she was not dismayed or grossed out at all. She wanted me to keep reading.
On the next page, she learned that there were many sperm vying for just one egg cell. That struck her as unfair. She wondered if twins came from two sperm entering one egg cell (nope), and we discussed how identical and fraternal twins actually happen.
The rest of the book was review. I thought about what needed to be said that wasn’t explicitly explained in the book. My daughter started jumping on the couch.
First, I pointed out sexual pleasure. I turned back to the page about penetration, which has a sweet picture of a man and woman hugging in bed, under the covers. I pointed to their faces and asked her how she thought they felt. She could see they were happy. I told her that sex feels good to an adult body, but sex is never for children.
“But it’s ok for me!” she said, bouncing up and down, because my child thinks she’s the exception to everything. In her imagination, she can fly, she can become invisible, she’s the strongest and fastest, sweets and movies never need to be limited because she can handle lots of them, even if other children can’t. No, I told her, sex is not ok for you either.
We talked about how if adults try to have sex with kids, it’s a mistake. It’s a mistake for kids to have sex with kids, too. Sex just isn’t safe for kids, even though it feels good to adult bodies. Children’s hearts and minds and bodies aren’t ready for sex. Her private parts are just for her, and no one should be asking to see or touch them. No one should be asking her to touch or look at theirs. If that happens, she’s to tell a trusted adult right away, even if she was told to keep it a secret.
Then we talked about pictures and movies, because it’s so easy to take pictures or make movies of anything. Just as sex isn’t for kids, neither are pictures or movies of sex. I asked her to close her eyes, push it away, and come tell me if she ever saw pornography.
By now, we’d been talking and reading for quite some time. It wasn’t until we were eating snack that I remembered to do the last piece – prevent the “sexplainer” on the playground (not that we’re visiting playgrounds these days, but there are some neighbor kids she sees regularly). We talked about how some kids might not have had this talk with their parents yet, and it’s not her job to answer their questions or tell them about sex. Instead, we rehearsed her saying that they should go ask their mom or dad.
One book, about an hour, and I was satisfied it was done
Whew! It’s a lot…at least, it felt like a lot to me. But I don’t think it felt like so much to her, maybe because she already knew most of it. My daughter zipped right off to play with her toys.
That day and the next, she had lots of questions about storks, why people had ever made up the story about storks delivering babies. I decided we’d watch the movie Storks. It’s been a while since I’d seen it, so I checked with Common Sense Media before hitting play. It wasn’t my daughter’s favorite, though my husband and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
That’s my story, and if you’ve had any opportunity in the last month or two to have a talk with your kid about sex, I say Bravo! Or, if there’s something getting in the way, I’m here for you. I love hearing from you. Thanks for reading all this – I’ve missed you, too!
Stay safe. Keep on with the hand washing and mask wearing and sheltering in place.
In support of you,
P.S. If you’ve got capacity for more, the video library is ready and waiting! Brush up on strategies for having the next talk with your child, whatever age they may be. It’s just $10 the first month, and I’m happy to point you to exactly where you can get your burning question answered.