Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sex Ed

I was never intimidated before. In kindergarten, I let everyone know babies were made by putting peanuts in the vagina. Apparently, the teacher called my mom to clear up the confusion. Just details, really.

In elementary school, I went through a couple rounds of sex ed programs. I nonchalantly shocked more than one family member with an encyclopedia of facts, such as the average length of an erect penis. Almost six inches . . . what’s the big deal?

There were the years I was responsible for a high school sex ed program. With lots of help from community speakers, I had no problem hitting the main points. Even those years when I was a live diagram for the reproductive cycle, I presented the facts and took all questions. On a couple occasions, a student raised a hand to say, “I know you’ve had sex at least once.” That’s not a question and not appropriate . . . next!

I was feeling confident in my ability to provide sex education to my own children. Not only am I a professional educator but HELLO . . . watch Oprah? Check! My kids have no worries. I will hook them up with all the non-embarrassing info they need.

This week, one of my daughters told me about an incident regarding another child who was in need of clearer boundaries around private parts. This is the second time I’ve confronted an incident of this nature as a parent. I knew it was time to have another talk with my girls. I have already established the concept of private parts with some basic terminology, but it was clearly time to further the conversation.

And suddenly, my mind went blank. I looked online. I still want to get a book – never underestimate the power of a visual aid - but I wanted some immediate advice on how to gently segue into the conversation without horrifying the kids. I’m not known for my smooth transitions. I found Planned Parenthood to be most helpful.

I liked the age-appropriate guidelines PP provides, but still, when was a good time? I decided to enter into the conversation on our way over the hill yesterday. Discussions with kids in the car can go really well. They often feel more comfortable opening up without concerned parent eyes burning holes into their faces.

Borrowing a line from PP, I asked, so you know why boys and girls look different? The car went silent and Daisy said in a low voice, “No.” Like I was describing the weather, I said, because it takes a man and a woman to make a baby. And also, when you touch your private parts, it feels good . . . and that’s normal . . . for everyone – even your grandparents (another line from PP and one that I thought might actually deter sexual activity). Do you have any questions? Daisy looked thoughtful, “Yes, before the woman becomes pregnant . . . is there? Does she have . . . um . . . um . . . does she have an egg?”

I was so relieved . . . yes! She has an egg but it’s really tiny. And she never sees it – I paused before rushing through the rest . . . and-the-egg-doesn’t-become-a-baby-without-sperm-from-a-penis. I glanced in the rearview mirror, trying not to look tense. Daisy looked embarrassed enough for both of us, “Mom! Please stop talking about this!” What do you mean? This is the truth. You can ask me anything at any time, and I’ll never get mad. No matter what. Your private parts are your private parts. No one else is allowed to touch them. But if that ever happens, even if they tell you nice things or mean things, you can always tell me and you’ll never be in trouble.

Daisy scolded me, “I know, Mom!” I repeated, any questions? Daisy emphatically shook her head no. But Violet piped up, “I have a question!” What’s your question? “Bwain!” OK but “brain” is not a question. Daisy, jumping to the defense of her younger sister, countered, “Your brain is a private part. You can’t see it. It’s totally private!” I found myself nodding my head . . . yeah, I guess you’re right.



  1. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant writing. This deserves an award.

  2. the new world sucks! Things were much better in the older days when kids knew nothing about their "parts" being private and getting a really good feel of a little girlspussy or getting her to rub it for me was easy