The “S” Word

by , posted on August 31st, 2015 in Features, Parenting, The Tween Years

talking to kids about sex
*Quick heads up: This post is about sex. Read at your own level of comfort.

I was 11 years old when George Michael told everyone he wanted our sex. I remember it clearly. As soon as George’s first note hit our car’s antenna, my mom turned the station. She was lighting fast. I still marvel at her reaction time. How did she know? But even with deft censoring, my curiosity was piqued. I had already heard the song somewhere—either at a friend’s or on the bus or anywhere pop music was played—so I wondered why my mom turned the station so fast. Why didn’t she want me to hear about wanting someone’s sex? And what was sex anyhow?

Experts agree we should start talking to our kids about sex at younger ages than we think. But how young are we talking here? My husband and I were forced to have the talk when our daughter heard from a kid on the bus how babies were made. “He said it’s when the mom and dad rub their private parts together.” She was in first grade. I know, some of you are feeling very uncomfortable right now.

I admit, I lean hippie dippy when it comes to talking to my kids about sex, but even I wasn’t ready for that. I immediately asked my friends with older kids what I should do. Their advice was swift. They had been there. “Answer her questions. For now, don’t give her more information than she requests. Don’t make her feel bad about asking. Oh and get her a book about sex, now.”

I purchased a copy of It’s Perfectly Normal and let it sit for a while. I did my best to answer my daughter’s questions in a clinical non-judgmental way. We looked up microscopic images of sperm and eggs and zygotes. I tried to hide how completely and totally freaked out I was. And her reaction? “Oh, okay.”

That was it. I had built up this moment in my head, knowing, as an adult, all the emotion and drama sex entails. But the kid? “Oh, so that’s what vaginas and penises are for. So two cells can join. Okay.”

All of us remember The Talk. We’re either scarred for life, assured “it’s perfectly normal,” or annoyed by its absence.

I think being on the other side of it is just as weird.

Note: As much as I love George, this post is actually inspired by another singer from my youth, and one I had a massive girl crush on, Chrissie Hynde. Hynde recently made public statements about victims of rape. My heart goes out to Hynde as a victim of rape. However, I found her comments about rape being the fault of the victim dangerous. Talking to kids about sexuality can help them understand what is and is not appropriate and may help prevent abuse. Click here for more information about how you can talk to your child about sexual abuse.

**An earlier version of this post said my daughter was in second grade when she heard about sex. Dave reminded me it was actually first.

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