Ellie: “I need you to sign a permission slip.”
Me: “Okay where is it?”
Ellie: “Well, I think it’s at dad’s. But I need it signed tomorrow or I can’t watch the movie.”
Me: “Like a PG movie or something?”
Ellie: …long pause… “No... I think it’s about babies.”
Me: …long pause… “Like how babies are made, or…?”
Ellie: “I don’t know! It’s health and it’s about babies!”
So there we were. Approaching the sex talk. My hand was forced by the powers that be (Hopkins School District) and my desire to have her learn about healthy bodies and sex from me rather than a teacher.
We always had a sort of accidental open-door policy in the bathroom when she was little. I raised her alone for so much of her toddlerhood that when I had to shit I’d set her in the empty bath tub with a coloring book to stay occupied. (Where is that Parent Of The Year trophy I’ve been waiting on?) When she was four we moved into a place where the bathroom door didn’t have a lock – which wasn’t really a problem since it was just the two of us. She noticed things. She’d ask questions about body hair and tampons. I’d give as much information as I felt the questioned needed.
Last winter she asked when she’d get boobs. Some of her classmates have them. I had to give her the very unfortunate news that she will likely not ever get boobs. SORRY KID, THEMS THE GENES. We talked about periods and puberty as we drove around looking at Christmas lights.
But the sex talk; we hadn’t had that one yet. I never had it with my parents. Church told me not to talk about sex. Girls at school called others sluts for knowing anything about male anatomy. So I wanted to set things straight with her. We talked about how sex works, the parts, and how babies are made. We didn’t talk about marriage but did talk about maturity. The next day, after she had mulled it over, she asked how gay couples have babies. Then we talked about surrogacy and adoption and IVF and freezing eggs and donating sperm and maybe I went a little too far but I can’t take it back now, so it’s all swimming around in her nine-year-old brain, sorry.
A few days later when I picked her up from school she mentioned that they watched the video. “Oh, how was it, did you have questions, what was it about, did I tell you everything, did your friends have questions, did you know more than everyone?” And then she said, “Well we just watched a lady push out a baby.”
Oh. Yeah. Cool. cool cool cool cool. So we didn’t need to talk about any of that stuff we talked about in detail last week? Cool cool.
So it turns out that the sex talk just needed to be a birth talk, but without the permission slip WHO COULD POSSIBLY KNOW THAT. The lesson here, folks, is to make sure you get the permission slip. And also to talk to your kids about what you think they’re ready to hear. She’s more comfortable asking questions about sex at age nine than I was at 19. And that’s a good thing. That’s how we raise humans who research birth control, and get to know and love their bodies, and understand what consent means.