My boys are 5 and 7 and I’m proud to report that they now know that babies don’t come from mommy’s belly, but actually from mommy’s vagina. “Did it hurt?” asks Adam, my 5-year-old. “Hell yeah it did kid! But you two were so worth it.” They give me hugs and giggle amongst each other.
Growing up, we had an encyclopedia in our home which had very vivid illustrations of a man and woman in the nude with all of the names of their anatomy listed with indications of where parts were located. Terms like testicles, ovaries, and clitoris amongst others were familiar to me from an early age. My parents didn’t hand me the encyclopedia and open it to that page as some form of passive sex education, but I’ve always wondered if they knew that I was aware of its existence within the pages.
At 7 years old, I’m not really sure how (my guess is the page on vaginal delivery and the naked man a few pages prior had something to do with it) but I figured out how sex worked, and by golly, I was actually right. So that’s the gist of my sex education in a nutshell. No conversations with my parents, no adults guiding me on my changing body, raging hormones or sheer curiosity. Nope, I was on my own as were most children of Slavic families that I grew up with. We just didn’t talk about s-e-x.
My husband and I decided early on that we were going to use a different approach with our boys. They were going to hear about sex from us first and considering how young of an age curiosity can peak, the earlier the better. Theconversation.com reports
We recently learned through surveying college students that very few learned about sex from their parents, but those who did reported a more positive learning experience than from any other source, such as peers, the media and religious education.
I’d been telling the boys for several weeks that I was going to talk to them about some important topics soon so that they would be mentally prepared for some tough shit to go down. One night when my husband was out of town for work and I was putting the boys to bed, the conversation unraveled. I was never planning on killing Santa and talking about vaginas in the same evening, but that’s exactly what happened. I’d like to mention that I intentionally chose to not read anything on ‘how to talk to kids about sex’ before I went ahead with this conversation. I wanted to trust my intuition for guidance and it did not forsake me. There were six steps that I went through and the conversation took about 30 minutes overall. Here’s how I did it:
- Introduce the topic in an appealing manner. I asked “where do babies come from?” “Mommy’s belly” chimed in unison and I explained that “yes, that’s where babies grow, but did they get there when they were already big? Or did they start out small?” “Small!” I then chose to use a visual analogy that I knew my kids would respond to because they had some recent experience with this…
- Introduce chosen analogy. I went with seeds. I explained how mommies are like fertile soil and they need seeds to grow a baby, (they recently planted some seeds and I knew this would resound well with them) “but where do these seeds come from?” “Cow’s milk!” (I don’t know where that came from since none of us drink it in our household! I told them that if that was the case, stores would not be selling cow’s milk by the gallon.) I then asked them that “if mommies grow the babies, who did they think should supply these seeds?” “Papas! The papas go to the store and buy the seeds!” Haha, close, kid, close.
- Let them brainstorm. I started asking them if they could tell me some differences and similarities between mamas and papas. They rattled off some similarities, “eyes, ears, arms, legs” and then I asked if they both had boobies. Boobies turned out to be such a funny word that they ended up laughing so hard and peeing themselves a bit… INTERLUDE while we changed the sheets.
- Introduce basic anatomy. I chose to not use cutesy names for genitals or sex, I didn’t want to confuse them and it’s better that they understand human anatomy in proper terms to be empowered in their own bodies. I explained that males and females have different parts. “Boys have penises and girls have… different penises!” shouts my 5-year-old in great confidence. I explained how girls have a vagina (which they repeated to each other half a dozen times trying to get it right) and went into the fact that that’s where babies actually come out of… so that’s where the seeds must be planted.
- So what is sex? This was the guts of it all. I explained how people all need to connect and that we connect with many people in different ways. We meet up with friends to connect, we snuggle with our kids to connect and mommies and daddies like to talk, go on dates and they also do something called sex to connect. I explained that sex is when daddy will put his penis in mommy’s vagina from which the seeds come from and sometimes the seeds grow and other times, they don’t, but that’s how the seeds get planted. Capiche?
- Any questions? I asked if they had any questions or if they didn’t understand anything and they just clarified some of it which I confirmed. There was no disgust, shame, awkwardness or any weird stigma attached to any of the terms that I used. They were old enough to understand or to at least be open to starting the conversation, and still much too young to have been influenced by peers or pop culture. I thank my lucky stars for that!
Engaging in difficult conversations establishes trust and primes children to approach parents with future life challenges. Information about sex is best received from parents regardless of the possibly inadequate delivery. Parents are strong rivals of other information sources. Teaching about sex early and often contributes to a healthy sexual self-esteem. Parents may instill a realistic understanding of healthy intimate relationships.
I’m honored that I got to be a part of this very important conversation with my kids. I’m glad that they heard it from me first and the truth of the matter is, your kids will be curious and sex will be talked about; regardless of whether you’re in on the conversation or not. We are born as sexual beings and sexual desires are natural and healthy, there’s no shame in it! Teaching our children about their bodies equips them with the tools and knowledge to make better decisions with their bodies. I also believe that it opens the door to many other important topics to discuss such as drugs, alcohol, self-esteem, peer pressure and so on.
That’s all for now,