02 May 2005

The birds and the bees

A sketch from our lives:

Last weekend my husband, four-and-a-half-year-young daughter, and I were all hanging out in the kitchen. On the chalkboard was written one of her recent questions that came up when we were talking about fruits and vegetables: "Are we part of the squash family?"

Our daughter, who is endlessly interested in babies, asked one of life's bigger questions: "Mama, how do babies get into their mamas' tummies?"

I was standing at the cutting board working on something and started rambling about how when mommies and daddies love each other they can make a baby, and my husband, smiling and listening but not saying a word, started picking up the newspaper.

"Put that newspaper down!" I demanded, laughing, and he grinned and complied.

Our daughter could see that I was uncomfortable -- I really don't think a graphic description of how sex works would have been the right thing at this time, but I was at a loss as to what exactly to tell her that would be appropriate.

I guess I'm just going to have to research and write that article I've been thinking about on how to talk to kids of different ages about sex, an idea I had after we pretty successfully dealt with her interest in masturbation, which started up around age 3. At that time, it was the first thing that made her interested in going in her room alone. I remember being a sexually aware kid (one who perhaps had a little too much exposure/information at too young an age but that is a whole different topic), so I didn't want to discourage her from exploring herself and her feelings. Right away, I set some really clear boundaries: You can do this at home, in your own room, in private. She tested my boundaries, trying to do it out in the living room where I could see her, but I insisted that she go in her room and close the door. Now, once in a long while, she'll say, "Mama, can I go in my room and do the privacy thing?" And I check on her every couple of minutes to make sure she isn't hurting herself. These days, "the privacy thing" tends to involve a couple of wipes and swim diapers or pull-ups, neither of which she uses any longer but which she still manages to find in the back of some drawer. And as far as I know, she's never tried to do this anywhere else, to my great relief.

But what do I tell her about the "birds and bees?"

Rock on,

No comments: