Remember back in September when Maxi first asked me about sex? Well, she never did get back to me about those finer details. She’s in a composite class with kids ranging from 8 to 12 year olds, so I figured they’re probably discussing sex amongst themselves. The subject didn’t come up naturally in conversation at home, and I couldn’t find a non-cringeworthy way to just broach the subject. So I finally pulled my finger out last month and sourced some books from the library to help:
“Let’s talk: about girls, boys, babies, bodies, families and friends”,;
“Let’s talk about where babies come from: a book about eggs, sperm, birth, babies and families” (same authors and publisher, from 2002). This was listed as roughly for ages 6-10.
The Boss and I read through them first to get an idea of what a pair of very well-researched books reckoned was about the right level of detail to explain to our 3 different minxes. I was deeply impressed with their straightforward content, the brilliant illustrations, their lightness of touch and whole approach. It all fitted very well with the no-nonsense way we (ok, I…) have been talking to the girls their whole lives about how their bodies will change at puberty, periods, and where and how babies grow. But I have to admit that The Boss and I still privately giggled over the books like a pair of immature schoolkids. We sniggered here and there, but I really creased up, laughing in shock, dismay and embarrassment, when I saw that the book for younger kids explicitly mentioned that sperm meet the egg because the man and woman get so close that his penis goes inside the woman’s vagina, and that it was called ‘having sex’. Oh… my… word! Yes, that’s a very straightforward explanation. Grand. So therefore we should be explaining in this much detail to Midi and Mini, too?! …Um, y’know, just hold on there a wee minute…
At that moment, I discovered just how old-fashioned and easily embarrassed I truly am. The mere thought of 7 year old Midi curling her lip in disgust at the idea of sex made me blush. Still, I could just about face my kids and give it a great shot of feigning ‘hey, this is no big deal, it’s just information about bodies and how you were made’. But I couldn’t face their friends’ parents hammering on our door, asking us to explain exactly why their little 3 year olds were running about shouting about penises: I absolutely, positively, definitely know that Mini would merrily spend the next 3 years telling the entire world (and his dog) all about what she’d learned. So I bottled it: I gave the first book to Maxi, asked her if she wanted to read it by herself, then said I’d ask her some questions when she’d finished.
The Boss and I stifled more nervous giggles while she read studiously. Putting on a face that was serious-but-nonchalant-and-a-bit-cool (well, it looked like that in the mirror when I practised – it probably just looked constipated), I asked her if there was anything in the book that was new information to her. She said she’d loved the ‘pretend x-rays’ that illustrated what people looked like inside. Hmmm, that’s not what I’d meant… I dived straight in and asked her if she’d known that sex was how sperm and eggs meet? I reminded her that a while ago she’d said that no, she hadn’t wanted me to tell her exactly what sex was. So was this new info to her? No, she said, she’d heard people talking about it ages ago. We chatted about the bits in the book she’d found interesting. Did she have any questions for me? Just one – could she read the second book?
She really enjoyed the older book. It didn’t go into sex in any more detail, other than that it was something only grown-ups did, but I’d already told her that.
I suggested that The Boss read the first book to Midi as a bedtime story. He suggested she read it herself when he was out of the house. I decided to put it all off for a wee while longer and chat about it with her in the summer holidays if the subject didn’t come up by itself in the meantime.
Anyway, fast-forward a month to this afternoon, on the drive home from swimming lessons.
Maxi: “Muuum, you know how babies are made and how sperm meets eggs? Like, exactly how the sperm meets the egg?”
I gripped the steering wheel a whole lot tighter. What timing, Maxi; what timing… “Yeeeeees”, I replied warily.
Maxi: “So you and Dad have done that 4 times?”
Me: “No: lots more times than that. Why?”
She looked at me in the rear view mirror, a look of abject horror contorting that beautiful little face. “Ewwwwwwww!!!!” she gasped.
Predictably, I sniggered. Well, it’s obviously my most eloquent answer to anything to do with sex, it seems.
Maxi: “Why would you ever want to do something like that?!”
Me: “Well, um, er, because actually it feels really nice”, to her disbelief. So I added: “But only when your body is completely mature and you’re a woman, not a girl. Otherwise, yeah, it would be pretty nasty”.
My cheeks burned. So did the back of my head, as my 9 year old stared at me in a strange mix of disgust and bemusement for the rest of the drive home.
I shared her observations with her Daddy later on, when just the 3 of us were in the kitchen. He laughed louder than she did, and agreed with me that every person who ever was, felt yucky about the thought of their parents having sex.
Oh boy… Oh well, at least that’s now broken the ice for future chats with Maxi about the emotional side of sex. One down, 2 even more disparaging daughters to go.