We're pretty open with our 10-year-old daughter, but if I'm being honest, the topic of sex makes us all a little antsy. As real as I like to keep it, there's always that quest to strike the balance between maintaining some sense of childhood innocence and making sure our kids are armed with realistic information about how the world works. Conversations about sex and relationships have been swirling for the last couple of years, and for a long time my lame explanation about how God "just puts a baby in your body when you're ready" was working just fine. I knew it wouldn't last forever, but I was trying to buy time and preserve my little girl's naïve mindset before she turned into a full-fledged tween.
In all of our conversations about sex, we had not yet discussed the actual logistics of what happens. When it first came up, I used the old trick given to me by a psychologist who told me that when a child asks questions, particularly about the tough stuff, ask a question back instead of bombarding them with information from the start. For example, ours went like this:
"Mommy, what is sex?"
"What do you think it is, kiddo?"
"Making out naked?"
"You're not wrong."
My immediate gut reaction was one of anger mixed with sadness because I didn't get to handle this milestone conversation on my terms and on my timeline.
That was the beginning. The tip of the iceberg. She didn't want more info at that point, so I didn't push. I just told her that these were very important conversations and we would discuss it more whenever she wanted. She told me I was like the moms on TV who said things like, "You can come to me with anything." And I told her that is 100 percent correct (even though she meant it as a slight insult).
I'm not dumb. I know our kids know more than we think they do, and much earlier than we're prepared. But I wanted these conversations to be somewhat organic. There wasn't a serious sit down. No pre-planned birds and bees conversation using props or dolls. Instead, I decided to keep it low key, reinforce that the communication loop was open 24/7, and I would always be honest in answering any questions she brought to the table.
And then she went to a sleepover at a friend's house.
I'm sure there were movies and cookies and tons of giggles, as there usually are, but this time, there was something else that I was blindsided by. My daughter came home from the sleepover, and before we even got in the door, blurted out that she knows what sex is and how babies are made. Calmly (even though I kind of wanted to throw up), I asked her what she knew. Without pause and with undeniable confidence like she just solved one of life's greatest mysteries, she told me that the man and woman rub up on top of each other naked and the man's privates fit into the woman's privates and then they make a baby. She also added that if you didn't want to have a baby, you just "throw a towel over the man's privates."
I sat there stunned for a minute just trying to wrap my head around what just happened and where to start with my response, but she gave me no time. She asked if she was right and reminded me that I told her I would always be honest. So, in so many words, I told her she nailed it, except the towel part, which I explained and told her that this was the beginning of a much bigger conversation. When I asked how she came upon this new information, she told me that the girls at the sleepover had a book their parents bought them all about sex and having babies and they read it cover to cover. God knows how many times. I can seriously picture the look on her face and her little head exploding at this new discovery.
I'll be honest and tell you that my immediate gut reaction was one of anger mixed with sadness because I didn't get to handle this milestone conversation on my terms and on my timeline. But then, once I thought about it, I was a little bit thankful, actually. This very necessary conversation was pushed to the forefront and happened earlier than it would have if I did it my way. And since my daughter was the one initiating it, I think she was so much more engaged than if I had brought it up instead. I couldn't fault these parents for having a book in their home for their kids. It wasn't porn. It wasn't offensive. It was educational and age-appropriate and frankly, gave me the push I needed to address the topic of sex instead of hiding behind bullsh*t cover ups.
I don't know what's coming next, but I know that my daughter feels comfortable coming to me and all I can do is facilitate that feeling as she grows and enters more difficult territory. So, thank you to the parents who hosted the sleepover, but if you could give me a heads-up about what else is in that library so I can mentally prepare, that would be great!