Parenting. It’s not easy. And what bigger challenge is there than talking birds and the bees? Feast your eyes and lolz on a selection of mothers who had to think fast on their feet and whose children came out relatively unharmed.
“What’re THOSE?” asked Chickadee.
“They’re called maxi-pads. They’re for grown-up ladies.” Monkey stopped what he was doing and craned his neck to peek into the bathroom. Seeing only an unremarkable pink bag, he went back to his Legos.
“What do you do with them?”
“They, um, well. It’s sort of complicated. Do you really want to know?” I swear to you, her little face just lit up when I said it was complicated. This is what she loves, is complicated. Tomorrow night I’m hoping we can cover some Euclidean geometry.
“Yes! Tell me!”
I took a deep breath.
“Well, when you’re a grown up lady, your body makes an egg every month.” Her jaw dropped open. “Um, not an egg like a chicken egg. It’s teeny tiny, and it’s inside the ovaries, which are in here—” I pointed to my hipbones “—unless you’ve had surgery, like me, to have them taken out. I don’t make eggs anymore, because when I had my surgery to take out my uterus, they took my ovaries, too.”
She was fascinated. Hey, this was actually kind of fun.
“Anyway, each month an egg gets made, and if it gets fertilized by a man it grows a baby.”
“Yeah, you know, like we have to add special stuff to the plants to make them grow. You know that you need something from both a woman AND a man to make a baby, right?” She nodded. “So each month, unless you get that special something from a man and a baby starts to grow, the egg needs to be flushed out of your body.”
I glanced past Chickadee, out the doorway, to see Monkey dangling off the end of my bed, completely transfixed. Hooboy. Okay, well, two birds, one stone.
“So, um, if the egg doesn’t get used, your body’s been getting ready for a baby by making the baby-holding place, the uterus, all warm and cozy, and if the egg doesn’t get fertilized, the uterus has to get rid of the lining it’s built up, and the egg that didn’t get used. So you, uh, bleed a little.”
Two sets of eyes went as big as saucers. I rushed on.
“So that’s what these are for,” I clutched a sack of maxi-pads to my chest like a shield. “When you have that bleeding, it’s called menstruating, or having your period. And you have to put one of these into your undies to catch the blood.”
“You bleed from your VAGINA? Yuck.” Monkey rolled off the bed and leapt to the floor like a cat, returning to his Legos because clearly, this story wasn’t going anywhere he needed to be. Chickadee was still gaping.
“Yes, women bleed from their vaginas.” I looked down at my lap and contemplated having some turn-of-the-century Tylenol I’d found a little while before.
“Mama?” Chickadee had been sitting very still, and barely seemed to move, even now.
“Yes, sweetie?” I found the hardware to a towel bar. I was trying to decide whether to save it or admit that the bar was never going back up and throw it away.
“You said that for an egg to grow into a baby it needs fertilizer from a man.” Crap. “How does THAT happen?” Crap crap crap.
Read the rest to hear how this mom explained sex to her kids. Kids as a blank slate, that’s one thing. What about dealing with the misinformation that kids pick in the playground?
It starts with an e-mail.
Franklin told me that he and Monkey came up with a secret language today at school. Among other things, they now have one for “having sex.” Ask him to show you what it is!
I asked Franklin where he heard about this? And what does it mean? He said they talked about it Sat night, and Monkey said what it was, and then Franklin and TheZ just faked knowing what it was. And what is sex, according to Monkey? When a boy pees in a girl’s butt.
Needless to say, this is not the sort of email that fills a mother’s heart with joy.
I was MORTIFIED. Particularly as I’m pretty sure that Monkey actually understands the facts, and it seemed weird to me that he would say something like that. I was plotting my heartfelt apology when she sent me a second email, asking if perhaps my son was educating all the boys on the playground, and maybe the girls, too!
Monkey is a lot of things, but covert (and confused!) sex-ed educator isn’t one of them. (At least, I didn’t think so.) Clearly I needed to get to the bottom of this.
“Monkey!” I called.
“What did I do?” he called back, which made me think that I really need to work on my tone of voice. He came into the room warily, and I had to laugh.
“You didn’t do anything,” I said, making a spot for him to sit down. “At least, I don’t think you did. I just want to talk to you, okay?” He nodded. “So, I got a funny email from Franklin’s mom. Something about you guys coming up with a secret language with a sign for having sex?” Immediately his face got the oh-crap-I’m-in-trouble look. “It’s FINE, honey, you’re not in trouble. I just wanted to talk to you about it.”
“We were just fooling around and being silly,” he offered.
“Okay,” I said. “Monkey, can you tell me what sex is?” He looked stricken. “It’s not a trick question. Can you tell me what sexual intercourse involves?”
Will he get it right? And what about kids who learn the facts from television despite parents’ efforts to keep their exposure to such things at a minimum?
I was quietly working at my desk, my son was lazily watching the Discovery Channel. I was listening but not too closely. Type type type type goes Mom.
“… and the horse will need to ejaculate into this artificial vagina …”
“Wow, he’s really going to town!”
Get up quickly walk over to bed and TV. I look at the TV. Look at my son’s WIDE AS SAUCER EYES and then watch him roll over in bed and fake that he’s not watching.
“Honey, do you want to talk about what you just saw? Do you have any questions?”
I’m panicking right now. Do I talk about this with him RIGHT NOW? Is he too young? Will he understand? Of course he will understand. Will he GET IT and then, you know, try to do it? Oh, sweet Mary Mother of God WHAT do I do? IF ONLY I COULD USE TEH GOOGLE TO HELP ME NOW.
“So you saw that the horse used his penis to do something, right?”
“Well, that’s how people work too. Except usually the boy puts his penis in a girl’s vagina. A real one. Not like the fake one the horse used.”
Son looks up at me with a “huh” on his face.
“And this is only when you are a grown up. And when you are really really in love.”
Do I say married? Should I? I don’t really believe that. Maybe I should just say it so he thinks that’s really far away. No… moment has passed. I won’t.
Son starts playing with a scab on his arm. I can’t tell if he’s still paying attention to me.
“You know, that’s what Mommies and Daddies do to make babies. Then you were in my belly and your sister was in my belly.”
For some reason I left out the “YOUR mommy and daddy did this” language. I have no idea why. It was like admitting the obvious outloud. Yes, Your Dad put HIS penis in MY vagina. Why I couldn’t say this, exactly, is just stupid. I mean, I had already said that’s how it worked. Why couldn’t I take that extra step?
Read the rest for the full story. Ah, sex. What tangles it gets us into.
Header image by Becky F.