Let's Talk About SexbySelena_Kitt©
My son asked me this week, "Mom, is sex a bad word?" Apparently, he was trying to tell someone at school how the baby got into mommy's tummy, and the teacher didn't appreciate the impromptu sex education lesson from my seven-year-old! I tried to explain why the teacher had told him "Not to say that in school," that often people get embarrassed when you talk about sex, and think that younger kids shouldn't know anything about it. ("But why?" Dang... that's the hardest question kids ever ask!) We talked about where it is and isn't appropriate to talk about certain things. Then, ironically, as my 1st grader is relaying this story over a cheese and crackers snack, my 5th grader chimes in and says, "We're learning about sex this year in school." So what's the difference? When is it ok for a child to know about reproduction? When they're old enough to know better than to talk about it in public?
I've been open with my kids about sex since they were very young. I taught them the correct anatomical names for their body parts (no "noodles" or "hoo-hoo's" here! I even taught my daughter the difference between her vagina and her vulva, so that she could differentiate just in case, god forbid, anything sexual ever did happen to her) and explained in terms I hoped they would understand (along with illustrated pictures from various age-appropriate texts) how babies are made. We're now having discussions about *when* babies can and should be made (i.e. after college, when you're married and financially and emotionally ready to be responsible for a baby!) since my daughter is entering those pre-teen years. Sex is a natural part of life, as far as I'm concerned, just as natural as the often resulting pregnancies and births, and sharing that with my children has been a joy rather than an embarrassment to me.
So what is the big deal about a seven-year-old knowing about sex? Is this just a generational thing? It seems to me that many of the members of older generations not only don't want children to know about it, they don't want to talk about or know anything about it themselves. My husband and I bought a video called Choices in Childbirth by Suzanne Arms so that his mother could see a natural home birth without medical intervention that might alleviate some of her anxiety about our home birth choice. We gave it to her over two months ago, but she still refuses to watch it. She won't even tell us anything about the births of her two children except that "They asked me if I wanted my husband in the delivery room and I said, "No! I don't think so!'" She turns red every time we talk about the birth in an open way.
Shame still seems to be an integral part of the process in our culture, from sex to pregnancy to birth. Even my sisters, who are about ten years older than I am, will shush my children if they talk too openly about it. (This might be a religious issue... they are both strict Baptists, but that is another topic for another day!) My parents are a little more open, although they still get embarrassed as well. I've heard other children talking with mine, telling them they have their facts wrong, that babies get into mommies' tummies through their belly buttons, or that babies are made from kissing! Why breed this kind of misinformation because we're ashamed of our bodies and our desires? It seems a natural process to me, something I'm willing to share with my children through open discussion, and they know they can always come to me with questions. I'd rather have them come to me than get wrong information from their friends who were told things by well-meaning adults who were too ashamed to tell them the truth.
For me this whole process, from getting pregnant to being pregnant, and ultimately giving birth and raising children, is one of life's profound joys. I can't imagine a more worthwhile pursuit at the moment, and I'm not going to be ashamed or embarrassed of any of it. I truly think there is an inherent beauty in the process, from beginning to end, and I want my children to be aware of it and to be able to recognize and acknowledge the power of it. The best I can do is to set an example myself, and live my own life as openly, honestly, and soulfully as I can, and give my children as much information as possible so that they can make intelligent choices and sound decisions for themselves later on.