I learned in 1st grade. I went to a private Catholic school. And – GASP! – our 1st grade teacher, also a NUN(!!) is the one who spilled the beans. I remember clearly her sending one of us out to the sand box to grab a tiny grain of sand. This grain of sand, dear children, was even bigger than an egg that resided in a woman. And then she proceeded to use dog puppets to show how a male dog would enter his member into a female dog so her egg could be turned into a baby. True story.
In 4th grade, our entire class divided into girls and boys and had private assemblies outlining the reproductive systems and explaining the changes we were to endure as we rapidly progressed towards puberty. My Mom attended with me; afterwards we sat in her car in the school parking lot. She calmly answered my questions about menstruation and Aunt Flo (this was all news to me, and unwelcome at that). She then asked if I had any questions about sex. I told her no, that Sister G. had already told us back in 1st grade. I understood the general concept, albeit doggie style. And that’s when I got to see my Mom’s “O” face. No, not that one; the one where her mouth makes the shape of the letter O as her chin hit the floor. Also a true story.
Fast forward many, many years to when I’m a parent myself with a 4th grade son. We hadn’t yet had “the” talk with any of our kids. Heck, they were 9, 5, and 1… so no worries, right? Sure, our 4-year-old caught us in bed once and admonished us for sleeping with our clothes off (and I quote, “No butts in bed, Mom, only panties!”) but we hadn’t seen the need to explain anything in greater detail.
Anyway, one night, we’re at our longtime friends’ house for dinner. The kids played upstairs like normal while the adults chatted downstairs. That night when we left, our son was quiet and solemn on the drive home. At bedtime, he asked if his Dad could tuck him in – alone. No girls allowed.
After tucking him in, I asked (OK, begged) my husband to share what was up. Turns out the boys were upstairs playing Minecraft. Haven’t heard of it? Just wait. If you have kids who like video games – husbands included – you will. I’m normally a fan of Minecraft; it’s all about creativity and building things. Sure, there’s some killing, but its killing fictional characters that are basically these weird green blobby-pixelated things. Anyway, I digress. So, turns out you can get add-ons to Minecraft. Like you pay some money and boom! you’ve got Santa who now runs around in Minecraft. Well, turns out there’s a SEX add-on. My friend’s son (alas, a 3rd grader!) had downloaded a sex add-on. I guess it makes the characters and creatures do a little sumpthin sumpthin.
Our son was horrified. He said it made him feel “weird” and he didn’t want to look at it anymore. (YES! That’s my boy!) My husband applauded him for his honesty and said no, he never had to look at that stuff and that it wasn’t appropriate. My husband asked if he had any questions and our son said he didn’t, yet. He just wanted to sleep.
The next morning, I had the fun of calling my dear friend and letting her know what our sons had been up to. She was horrified, especially that her son had been the introducer. She was grateful my son had spilled the beans and began her own plan of attack for sharing the birds and the bees.
Later that day, I found my son playing Legos (Legos! Sex talk! All in the same room! Talking about sex with my baby! UGH!) and asked if I could talk to him. I knew he felt this topic was man territory, but sheesh…I was his Mom. I’ve taught and nurtured him from day one and it certainly wouldn’t stop with talking about sex.
I confessed that his Dad had told me what happened the night before.
It was awkward.
I know I blushed.
He couldn’t look me in the eye.
I remember saying things like, “When I was a kid, we couldn’t see stuff like this online. There was no ‘online’!” and even better, “Promise me you’ll never look up sex online. We’ll get you books and magazines if you need them!” Yeah, it wasn’t a smooth delivery. What can I say, I hadn’t rehearsed.
In hindsight, parents, I guess we (with our two younger children, you with yours) need to consider introducing the subject of sex at a younger age than 4th grade. The chances of them stumbling upon it online, hearing about it at school, seeing glimpses on TV are astoundingly high. 4th grade is simply too late. Maybe 1st grade wasn’t so bad, after all, although I can’t imagine for the life of me trying to explain this to my now 1st grade daughter.
It’s one of those “I want to bury my head in the sand” kind of topics. I feel like a prude. But this is from the girl who refers to her son’s penis as a “Peetmutz” (means “little birdy” in kiddy German) and her daughter’s vagina as a “Tweeter” (I was going off the little bird theme and birds made a tweet sound, right? This was loooong before Twitter came around and I still giggle every time someone in Marketing says so and so is a really good Tweeter. Heh. Tweeter. I’m giggling as I type this.) Anyway, yeah, I’m all sorts of mature and having the sex talk with my kids is definitely not my forte.
We did, however, buy a few books written for children that explain things in detail. I’ve listed them below as good examples in case you find yourself in the situation of needing to explain “things” in the near future. Complete with illustrations.
Shortly after the Minecraft Escapade, we gave the books to our son. After he declined reading them together, we relented and encouraged him to read them on his own. I know he has. We’ve asked him several times if he had any questions. So far, he hasn’t. But just in case, I’m keeping a look out for dog puppets.
“Changing You!” by Dr. Gail Saltz. This one has less text and focuses more on illustrations. It covers body parts, progressive changes, how babies are made (the illustrations even have an egg with a face and a sperm with a face and they’re smitten to see one another). It’s the shortest of the three I’m recommending and might be the best one to start with.
“It’s Not the Stork!” by Robie H. Harris. This one says it’s acceptable for kids ages 4 and older. It talks about body parts of both boys and girls and also shows how they’ll look as they progress. It shows a Mom and Dad in bed making a baby, explains how a baby grows, and how a baby comes out. You know, I better show this one to my 1st grader. Yesterday she told me she never wanted to have a baby because she didn’t want a doctor sticking his fingers in her mouth to get the baby out. And in what responsible way did I handle this one? I changed the topic and asked if she wanted to watch a movie. I suck. Anyway, it’s a good one and even includes a section on Okay Touches and Not Okay Touches.
“What’s Happening To Me?” by Peter Mayle. Also illustrated, this one covers topics such as getting hair, voice changes, periods, masturbation, and wet dreams. (Yes, I’m turning red typing this. Prude. I’m such a prude). Anyway, this one is quite text heavy with supporting illustrations.
Hopefully one of these books will come in handy when you decide to have “the” talk with your children. Good luck, and if it helps, know that you’ll do a much better job than I did my first time around. I’m hoping that by child number 3, I’ll have it down pat.