Let’s Talk

We’ve always had an open door policy in our house, which can result in a lack of privacy sometimes, especially in the bathroom. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised, then, when just around three years old, my son wandered into the bathroom while I was changing a tampon, and immediately began questioning why I was bleeding

At first he thought I was hurt, so I quickly assuaged any fears, reassuring him that I was totally fine. But then, the questions began.  I had handled the first 3 years alright, so I figured I had a grip on most of the tough situations we’d encounter. But when faced with the reality, I found myself flummoxed for a moment or two.

And then? I improvised. I explained to my almost-three year old that every month my body prepared itself to maybe have a baby. But, when that didn’t happen, it got rid of the comfortable padding that would have held the baby, and that’s what the blood was. I let him know that it didn’t hurt me, and it was perfectly normal. He seemed satisfied with my response, and I gave myself a pat on the back for managing to come up with a pretty good answer.

A few weeks later, I somehow managed to get a bloody nose, and my son immediately started peppering me with questions.

“So, does this mean you aren’t growing a baby in your nose?”

I realized I had a bit more work to do on the topic. However, I continued to operate under the method that I would happily answer any question that he asked, providing answers in age-appropriate terms and detail.

Finally, the day I had mentally prepared myself for came. We were driving somewhere, when my son’s little voice piped up from the back.

“But, where do babies come from?” he asked, as if we had been having a conversation the whole time.

I hemmed and hawed, trying to find the best way to phrase it all. And this is what came out:

“Well. Moms have eggs inside of them. And dads have seeds inside of them. The dad gives the mom some seeds, and they plant themselves in the eggs. When they come together like that, a baby starts growing.”

My answer seemed to satisfy him, and with only a few follow up questions, he was good. But we were nowhere near finished.

A few days later he was hanging out in the bathtub, and started poking around at his scrotum, and began asking some earnest questions again.

“What is this?”

“Um, your scrotum.”

“What’s that.”

“It, uh…” My mind drew a blank, until I remembered our conversation we had in the car only days before.

“Remember how I said that guys have seeds that they use to help make babies? When you get older, that’s where your seeds are stored.”

He thought that was the most awesome thing in the world, and promptly set about creating a pretty fabulous song all about his “seed store.”

All the information I’ve imparted to him backfired a bit when he was 4, when we explained to him that we decided not to have another child. My son, who would love to be a big brother, fixed us with a stare before stating, “But I know dad has more seeds in him. He just needs to put them in your egg – what’s the problem?”

*

We’ve had numerous conversations since that first one, oh-so-many years ago, and I’ve done my best to answer questions like why his penis sometimes gets “so hard I can shut my bedroom door with it!” mostly with a straight face. I’m glad that he feels secure coming to me with these questions, and truthfully, I hope he always feels that comfortable.

While I know that five and a half is light years away from fifteen, I have to hope that by setting up the nonjudgmental and open groundwork now, we’ll be providing a safe space for him to come to us later with questions or concerns. All of these thoughts came barreling back when I reviewed the new, nationwide survey on teenagers, parents, and talking about sex, compiled by Planned Parenthood.

The results are truly enlightening. The bottom line is that “Half of All Teens Feel Uncomfortable Talking to Their Parents About Sex While Only 19 Percent of Parents Feel the Same.” The survey goes on to reveal that while parents think they are providing nuanced information, their children are only receiving simple directives. However, the good news is that the vast majority of  parents and teens talk to each other about sexuality. What really stood out to me was the data that revealed the importance of parent-teen communication. From the survey:

  • Forty-six percent of teens report that parents are the biggest influence on their decisions about sex, while only 20 percent say their biggest influence is their friends (Alpert, 2000).
  • Eighty percent of teens say it would be easier to delay sex if they could have more open conversations about it with their parents (Alpert, 2010).
  • Teens who report having good conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to delay sex, have fewer partners, and use condoms and other birth control when they do have sex (Guilamo-Ramos, 2010; Weinman, 2008).

One of the (many) helpful aspects to Planned Parenthood is the host of useful tools/tips for parents to use when talking to their teens about sex and sexuality.

While I may have some time before my son and I get into these types of conversations, I’m incredibly happy that we’re already laying the groundwork for them right now. What about you? Have you already been there/done that re: “the sex talk”? What challenges have you faced and how have you handled them?

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17 thoughts on “Let’s Talk

  1. Finally some statistics that aren’t too frightening….We recently had some conversations with our (slightly older) son when he informed us that he thought having sex meant ‘shaking your nuts.’ Despite some reddened cheeks on the part of Dad and son, hopefully he’ll go out into the world armed with correct information, if nothing else.

    • Ha! I know I shouldn’t laugh, but… And honestly, I’ve found that is my biggest challenge with all of this – maintaining my composure to be able to provide the actual information instead of wanting to giggle. I *am* the adult after all, right? ;)

  2. I try to be very self conscious of the importance of the groundwork in the early childhood myself. Everything we do shapes our children. As a graduate in early education I know that and as a mother I experience it when my little son, now 28 months old, acts like a mirror to me! Recently we were having a shower together when he started digging with his finger into his own bellybutton and then looked at mine, paused, did the same and said “when I was a baby I crawled inside your belly and I lived there”!!! He said it in German (daddy’s language) with this cute accent and I almost melted away right there…
    I think I’ll leave it at that for the moment and wait a bit until we have more serious talks!;-)

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  4. I am *so* glad you posted this. My older son just turned 4, and with it has come a laundry list of questions about everything from sex to death. And since I’m a SAHM I bear the brunt of most of the questions. Like you I do my best to be honest but age-appropriate in the hopes of laying down a solid foundation of trust and communication between us. But, here in the safety and comfort of other moms of boys, I can admit to sniggering behind his back when he refers to his penis as his “little fishy.”

    • Oh, dude – there is a LOT of laughter in this house about stuff like this. I mean, I totally do my best not to bust out in giggles when I speak with him/answers questions b/c I want him to feel comfortable talking to me and not feel shamed about his body at all. But when I’m relaying convos to my husband or good friend, you can bet there’s some laughter going on. Some of the stuff they come up with is amazing – like little fishy. Brilliant.

  5. Every time kidlet finds, or grabs, a tampon he hands it to me and says, “Here, mom, this goes in your vagina.”

    We gotta talk about this stuff with our kids. If we don’t, someone else will, and who the hell knows what they’ll learn then? Or worse, no one will talk about it and they’ll start to make stuff up.

    Informed is empowered and all that…

    • Truth. And, talking about stuff like that – especially with our sons – will make it more commonplace and normalized so they don’t get all “ew, girl stuff” when the subject of periods or whatever is brought up.

  6. Very interesting. My kids are twenty one, nineteen, and seventeen – boy, boy, girl. We have always been very open and honest about everything in our house. I wouldn’t say that we are like the movie “Wanderlust” necessarily, but we are all comfortable with our bodies and we all like to talk. I’ve found the kids are the ones who have taken themselves out of situations – when they started to hit the pre-teen years for example, the bathroom door would get closed, stuff like that. We’ve talked about sex lots, and they have each asked me (or my husband) questions individually as they’ve grown up, but I know they don’t tell me everything. I wouldn’t want to hear everything LOL! My daughter will even say, “I’m just not comfortable talking to you about that.” But then we talk about who she CAN talk to – a friend, the doctor, whomever. I feel like we just did what felt right for all of us and it has worked out fine. Great discussion!

    • I think that’s great, Fern – have the option to talk to you but knowing the reality that she might not always feel comfortable (despite all efforts to make it so) and providing other folks she can speak with. Definitely a great tool to add to my belt for when the kiddo is older. Thanks for chiming in!

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