You think it's all going okay. Everything is normal. The kids are eating breakfast before school and watching Spongebob. And then ...
"Mommy? Do you have to try to make a baby or does it just happen?"
I was minding my own business, innocently making sandwiches for lunchboxes, when Colin dropped the bomb on me. My hand tightened around the peanut butter knife, gripping as though it were the only thing holding me up. My stomach decided it would be a great time to get all nervous. But despite my body's instinctive reactions, my brain kicked in with some rational thought (right after it screamed, Please don't ask me this right now!).
Try NOT to look like a deer in the headlights, it instructed me. How you react to this situation is going to set the tone for how comfortable he feels coming to you for sensitive information. Make your voice steady. Sound like it's no big deal, no different than any other question. Give him facts. And for Lord's sake, wipe that stupid look off your face.
I admit it: I should have been more prepared. He's going to be nine years old in a few days - I should have known this discussion was imminent. Especially with Colin, who asks more questions than a professional interrogator. I should have had a thoughtful answer all planned out.
Yet here I was, momentarily frozen, inwardly panicking.
I'm no prude, and I've always felt comfortable talking openly about sex ... with people who are not my kid. But that's where it gets difficult. It's a whole different ballgame when your child is the one who wants to talk about it. I want to see my babies as babies for as long as I can, not as sexually maturing individuals who will someday (oh my gawd I can hardly even type it) want to (gahhhhhh!), you know, do things with other sexually maturing individuals. And, you know .................... themselves.
*runs screaming down the hall*
Anyway, there I was. And since there's really no way to answer that question without addressing sex, I decided just to go for it. "Well - you have to have sex to make a baby. Do you know what sex is?"
Colin nodded, but I knew the information hadn't come from me - so I figured I might as well elaborate so I was sure he had the right idea. "It's where the penis goes into the vagina," I told him as nonchalantly as possible, even though my throat was threatening to choke me. And then - then - I showed him with my hands, in the universal finger-in-the-hole gesture.
I can't believe you just did that, said the logical part of my brain.
Shut up, I'm winging it here, said the motherly part.
"And then the sperm and egg get together," Colin chimed in, blessedly skipping the really awkward part. Thank goodness I'd already told him a little bit about that when he asked a few years ago, and that he's really into science so he's at least scanned the reproductive anatomy chapter in The Big Book of Knowledge.
"Yes," I said, relieved. "Sometimes you can try to make that happen, and it does. Other times, it happens when people don't mean for it to. That's why you should wait until you're a grownup to have sex - because when teenagers do it they risk having babies that they're not able to take care of."
"I'm never having sex," said Colin.
"Well, if you ever want to, make sure it's with someone you love. Because it's a very intimate thing," I told him. "And Colin? You're getting older, and soon your friends are going to start talking about sex. They might have their facts wrong, so when you have questions, I never want you to be afraid to ask Daddy or me. We will always tell you the truth about it. Okay?"
He nodded and resumed eating his cereal. Whew.
My stomach un-knotted itself. And I felt proud of my parenting, which usually doesn't happen when I'm, like, inadvertently teaching my kids curse words or letting them walk around with broken bones. I had calmly presented him with all the information he needed, without letting him know that I was like OMGWTFBBQ! on the inside.
Parenting win. For once.
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