Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Let's talk about sex. Or not.


When I was about eight years old or so, I asked my mother, "Mum, how do people make babies?"

She was looking through her wardrobe at the time, and I was lying across her bed on my stomach. I recall her suddenly looking very uncomfortable before answering, "I'll tell you when you're sixteen."

Yeah, right.

Before I'd even left primary school, I'd read Judy Blume's Forever under the desk one day when I was supposed to be at PE class. I can't remember who had brought it to school, but it was my introduction to sex. I remember feeling 'naughty' because I was reading it. It felt as though I was crossing over in to some forbidden territory.

Then there was a time that I disclosed to my niece (who is my age) on a sleepover at her place one night that when people make babies, they have to be naked. I still can't recall how I knew this vital information (possibly this happened after reading Forever). Certainly, my mother did not disclose this.

My niece replied, "What? They can't even wear their socks?" And I assured her they could not. (Of course, this is very untrue. The amount of clothing one wears depends on how much time one has, or how cold it is, right?)

The next day, my sister and brother-in-law were driving me home when my niece piped up with, "Mum, Jodie says that when people make babies they have to be NAKED." My sister was horrified and refused to make a comment other than, "I don't want to hear you talking about such things."

Anyway, eventually I found out all about 'it' on my own.

I remember vowing that things would be different with my kids. That I would most certainly have 'the talk' with them when the time was right.

In Eldest Son's Year 4 class last year, one of the Integrated Units (what the kids call 'the big question of the term') was on the Human Body. He started to ask about how women became pregnant - how did the baby actually get in there? How does the baby come out?

And you know what I did? I dodged every question. In fact, there may have even been a 'special cuddle' theory thrown about once or twice.

But here's the thing. At first, I thought this may have everything to do with the way my own parents dealt (or didn't deal) with the subject of sex with me. Although I think it is most definitely partly that, deep down I think I really do believe that when kids are nine or ten years of age, they are still so young. Perhaps too young yet to really take all this information on board?

I have a few concerns. Firstly, are my boys really old enough to treat this information with respect? Already the penis, poo and wee jokes are wearing thin. Wouldn't this information just give them more to work with? (Not to mention help them work out what the words to Flo Rida's Whistle song really means?)

Do they need to know the ins and outs (pardon the pun) of sex at such a young age? How does it benefit them to know about it at age eight, nine or even ten? For me, it just feels like this is yet another thing that parents feel they have to introduce early to their kids. Kids grow up so quickly these days, and we expect so much of their young minds. Is it possible this is just another thing we're rushing in to with them?

Lastly, will my boys look at Mr A and I differently when they find out what we've been up to? It's like ... we'll suddenly become more human to them, rather than their parents ... you know?

I think I understand the benefits of telling them sooner rather than later, and that is that they'll hear the correct information straight up. There would be no Chinese whispers between friends confusing or even scaring them. And mark my words ... I don't want to hide this information from them either. I don't want them to think that sex is dirty or wrong or embarrassing.

So, I wonder, if you're a parent, what age do you think it's appropriate to explain sex, pregnancy and birth to your kids? And how would you tackle (once again, pardon the pun) it?



  1. Great article Jodie! My kids are just a bit younger than yours so we're not quite there yet. They are very innocent though and I really don't want them growing up too fast. Your reasoning for not telling too much makes a lot of sense.

    I also thought I'd be much more open than my parents ever were. My 7 yo has shown no interest in it at all, but my 5 yo asked me a couple of questions a few weeks ago. The answer he got were 'God makes babies'. To be fair, he asked at 5:30 am on the way to the airport and in the Smaland line at Ikea!

    Your Judy Blume story also brought back memories - I remember reading it under my desk in year 6 and being told by the teacher that it was really inappropriate!


  2. I was actually chastised by a group of mothers last year when I said that we actually hadn't explained to Bluey (then five) what sex was and we weren't planning on it any time soon.

    So far my approach is leave it until he brings it up. I think that because he is six I can still roll with this but I am quite aware that the time is approaching far too quickly that we will need to have "the talk" and honestly, I handle this stuff much better than Mr Black. Geez I make parenting for him easy.

    Bluey does know that babies come out of a womans vagina (I wasn't ready to go into the talk about ceserians just yet, it would have only confused him more) but he is yet to ask how babies get in there.
    I do think that children these days will know much sooner than even I found out. It's everywhere, and honestly, I would rather my children feel they can come to me and ask the questions and I'd rather give them an honest answer than the schoolyard gossip and what their friends think they know.

    I think Bluey will know what sex is before leaving primary school. I do plan to hold it off for as long as possible though. I also plan to play it by ear on maturity wise for my kids. I will also tell them it's a piece of knowledge they keep to themselves and don't share with friends/siblings etc. unless I say it is ok. Last thing I need is his three years younger brother knowing all about it!

  3. My son's in grade 5 and he's getting lots of education from his mates! I've gone through the basics which I think he must have forgotten or just not got. He now realises that sexual intercourse is the same as sex. He knows what a boner is, what a wet dream is, and he knows what a period is. He tells me stuff he's been told at school and I discuss it with him. So your kids will bring it up. Just go with your instincts I reckon, but don't be afraid to discuss it.

  4. I remember very clearly the day I learned about sex. I was in Grade 3 and Robbie Anderson gleefully told us what our mums and dads get up to when the lights go off at night. I remember going into deep shock...there's no way my mum and dad would do THAT!? GROSS! So, I'm preparing myself that it's likely my kids will find out in the playground before I even attempt some kind of explanation. x

  5. I remember my mum sitting me down to tell me about menstruation and I already knew. They'd given us a talk and a little booklet about it at school.

    I agree the kids do grow up so fast these days. I wouldn't be surprised if the average 12 year old knows more about sex than me

    When my boys ask me I intend to try to give an age appropriate honest answer..but I'll probably end up dodging the issue...I don't know..

  6. I remember learning about where babies came from when my mother was pregnant herself! We had a special sex education thing at school and our parents came with us (I think it was meant to make us more comfortable? Or maybe make the parents more comfortable with what we were being told?) and my mum was with me and after we had all been told how people were made pregnant, everyone turned and stared at my mum because we knew that she was the one who'd done it most recently (this is what we thought - nobody ever taught us that sex was for purposes other than child creation) and I was SUPER embarrassed!!!

  7. Ha! My youngest asked me age FOUR. Aged FOUR! For goodness sake.

    I always swore, pre-parent, that I wouldn't lie to my children. But what on earth do you say to a four year old?

    I have a lovely book, my husband had bought me when I was pregnant, with beautiful photos of babies growing in the womb. It's meant for adults but I used it when talking to my daughter.

    I told her that the woman has an egg and the man has little tadpole type seeds that he gives (like a present) to the mummy. The seeds swim and swim and only the strongest one makes it to the egg and if it's really strong it makes it through the wall of the egg. Then the egg starts to divide into cells and after a little while the cells look more and more like a baby. Then I showed her the book and she was hooked. Actually, she studies it. Now a friend of ours had twins so I had to adapt the story somewhat (can be two eggs or two tadpoles that make it through the wall).
    So far, she hasn't asked me how the Papa GIVES the tadpoles to the Mama. But she has asked a lot of questions about homosexuals. AGED FOUR. She came to the conclusion that lady homosexuals only have eggs and eggs therefore no babies. And men homosexuals only have tadpoles and tadpoles therefore no babies. Which then led to the topic of adoption.

    I am sometimes very nervous what the future holds, in terms of questions!

  8. My theory has always been when my kids ask a question I give them an honest answer. It doesn't have to be all details, but it has to be the truth. I know when enough has been said because they lose interest in the topic.

    My children have had a picture build over the years about sex, babies and puberty, no one talk. It has been, and continues to be ongoing. Bodies start to change from as early as 8 or 9 in girls, they need some information before that begins to happen if you ask me. Often girls begin their period at 11 or 12 - same thing, they need information in advance. Boys, although often a little later in developing, still need to information.

    Kids get all kinds of misinformation at school, I wanted to be absolutely sure my kids had decent facts before they were being confronted with school yard talk.

    I want my children to have a healthy view of puberty and sexuality and for me that can only really be gained by lots on information and from me and their father being prepared to talk about it openly and honestly with them. You can still be innocent and know some facts of life.


Thanks for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts. J xox