Recently a video from the Break.com entitled "Parents Talk to Their Kids About The Birds and the Bees for the First Time" started making the rounds on the internet. It is HIGH-larious to watch both the kids attempt to answer basic biological questions and the parents CLEAR discomfort in discussing this topic with their children.
My favorite moment is the mom who presents a very straightforward biological explanation only to look at the camera and proclaim repeatedly, "I don't like that." Seriously, just watch it. I'll wait.
Once I stopped laughing, I realized I have taken a very different approach then most of these parents. Instead of one BIG talk, I prefer to handle questions as they come with an emphasis on matter-of-fact honesty.
I wish I could claim some type of greater enlightenment when it comes to sex but my attitude was influenced heavily - like everyone else - by how my parents, specifically my mom, talked to me about sex.
I have this theory that the three of the most important things in life - sex, money, and food - don't get enough direct, honest instruction by parents. They are difficult subjects fraught with emotion and gray areas that make straightforward rules difficult and force us to examine touchy subjects we'd really rather not think about.
Now, I won't say my mother did a fantastic job teaching me about nutrition or money but I will say this without hesitation. My mom NAILED IT when it came to teaching me about sex.
I remember vividly coming home from seeing Look Who's Talking, which means I would have been around 8 years old, and asking my mom what the HECK was going on with those tadpole things. She sat me down and used these royal blue health books to explain it all to me. She covered everything from sex to periods and I recall thinking, "I wish I didn't know this."
Everything felt different all of a sudden.
Even though it all began with one big talk, what my mom did differently, and what I try to replicate in my relationship with my own children, was continue the conversation. She was always approachable, never embarrassed, and unflinchingly honest.
The most infamous anecdote, which I think is both illustrative AND hilarious involved me approaching her with a question in middle school. My friends started talking about blow jobs, I ran to my mother for explanation. I don't remember any hesitation or embarrassment on her part. She just told me what it was and, when I exclaimed I thought that was disgusting, she responded, "You'll do it one day."
I remember my mother telling me about having to go on birth control if I decided to have sex, which would involve going to the doctor and putting my feet in stirrups. For some reason, in my mind, this involved a saddle and the doctor underneath you and I just decided I could wait on ALL that for a while. I remember my mother proclaiming over and over that sex was NOT like it was in the movies so I needed to let go of that notion quickly and move on.
There was no guilt or shame or hiding. My mother and I had (and still have) open and honest conversations about sex that have served me well throughout my entire life.
As a result, I am open and honest with my own children and don't shy away from the topic of biology or sex. Both Griffin and Amos know boys have pensises and girls have vaginas. Based on the advice of my absolute favorite child educator Pattie Fitzgerald, we use the proper biological terms every time.
Due to the impending arrival of their little brother, both boys know that the baby will come out of my vagina but that some babies also come out of their mommy's bellies. Griffin also has a basic understanding of periods and that when mommy isn't pregnant, she bleeds once a month to prepare her body for another baby.
This conversation came about because of my basic approach to this subject.
He asks. I answer.
I would much, much rather take 2-3 minute questions as they come and when he's ready to listen, then have to sit down and start from the beginning.
The only time I've hesitated is when Griffin asked, "How did you and Daddy get three babies?" I think I understood what he was asking. He was asking, "How did you make the babies?" but he doesn't quite have the vocabulary to express that yet. Until he does, I'm not risking that he's not actually asking what I think he's asking or volunteering information for which he's not ready.
Instead, I asked him if he wanted to know how we decided we wanted three babies instead of four or five. He nodded and we talked about how every family is different and decides for themselves how big they should be.
However, if the next time his question is clear, my answer will be also.
I don't believe sex is shameful or embarrassing and conversations about it shouldn't be either - even with your own children.
How do you approach the subject of sex with your kids?