I’m either a really awesome kick-ass mom or the stupidest woman on the face of the earth. With parenting, there is often such a fine line between the two that it can be hard to tell the difference sometimes.
I believe in being honest with my children. I believe in answering their questions openly, and as completely as I can given their level of maturity. My own mother made me feel so uncomfortable about anything related to sexuality or procreation that I didn’t even bother telling her when I got my first period. It wasn’t exactly that we weren’t allowed to talk about this stuff; rather it was just … icky. As much as I love my parents, and as much as I was (and am) close to them in a respectful, polite way, we’ve never been chummy, and sex and love are subjects best left to chums, as far as I can tell.
I am keenly aware of every similarity – and every difference – between my childhood and my motherhood, and being forthcoming about sometimes difficult topics is a difference of which I am proud. I want to start early with my kids, making them understand that nothing is off-limits, and that they can’t embarrass me into a silence that could one day prove harmful to them.
The problem with that approach is that when you start giving your children solid yet colourful little lego-blocks of information, you can never quite be sure what kind of elaborate and colossal structure you may be helping them build.
Yesterday, when my older daughter started asking (again) about where babies come from, I told her (again) about how a daddy plants a seed inside a mommy and the baby grows in the mommy’s tummy until it is ready to be born. None of that is earth-shattering; it’s all well-trodden ground around here.
So there we were, in the warm steamy moments after a long bath, wrapping up in big thirsty towels, when the jokes about expanding bellies travelled south to expanding vaginas. How does the baby get out? Hmmm. This is starting to get a little tricky, but I was determined to forge onward. I may have compared a vagina to a mouth or an earlobe to explain how it can stretch. I may have demonstrated the stretching, for a little comic relief. I may have even said (cringe) that mommies’ vaginas are bigger than little girl vaginas. And yet, bizarrely, at this point, I still thought I was in the running for mother of the year, keeping my cool, fielding the questions matter-of-factly, not sensationalizing any of it, but not lying or evading the topic either.
And then. Oh gosh, then she asked me straight up how the seed gets from the daddy’s penis into the mommy’s vagina.
These are things I could have said (now in the light of day and clarity of hindsight):
- “by a special kind of cuddle that is just for mommies and daddies”;
- “how do YOU think it happens?” (possibly THE BEST answer to any question, ever, by the way);
- “darling, I promise I will tell you all this when you are a little older”;
- “go put on your pyjamas”;
- “anyone want ice cream?”
This is what I actually said:
- “the daddy puts his penis in the mommy’s vagina.”
Did I mention that this girl is seven years old? (Almost?)
To be completely honest (since that seems to be my theme lately, and all) I don’t think I was completely wrong to tell her. If I had tried to avoid the question, or change the subject, or just flat-out tell her to come back and ask again when she’s thirty, I know it would have become her all-consuming pass-time to figure it out. I know this girl, I know how her mind works (incessantly) and I know that she has a keen eye and ear for bullshit. So, in a very personal decision regarding a very personal matter, I did what I thought was right in these circumstances for this child.
Frankly, I didn’t even worry too much about it until I heard myself recounting the story to some friends colleagues at work and saw the look of horror on their faces. Suddenly my biggest fear became that my daughter will go straight to school and blab to all the other little kids, scarring a great many of them along the way. I made it absolutely, 100% clear that this topic is for discussion in our house only, and that she is under no circumstances allowed to share this information with her friends. I told her that I will answer any questions she has (hell, what do I have to lose at this point), but that it is up to the other parents to share with their own children what and when they want. She looked at me solemnly and I *think* she got it…at least until she starts feeling unpopular at school and decides that this new-found and salacious information buys her a one-way ticket on the fame-train. (I can just imagine the note in her agenda the day that happens.)
Now, in the aftermath, I’m torn. A large part of me wants to revisit the subject, make sure she really understands that (first and foremost) she is NOT NOT NOT allowed to share this information, and also maybe make it a little more clear that the actual insertion of said daddy part into said mommy part is really just one aspect of a much bigger, much more important relationship, to be reserved for the person you really love and want to make babies with, and that our bodies are holy temples and don’t even start to get curious about putting things in there, especially penis things!!!
Then there’s this other part of me that wants to very carefully lay down this smoking gun and back away slowly, very slowly until I’m almost out of sight, then turn on my heel and run like crazy.