Yo-Yo was washing the dishes, his forearms resting on the edge of the sink, his washcloth slowly swishing over the supper plates. I was cleaning up the kitchen, wiping the tables and scrubbing the stove, suddenly deeply grateful that I had an activity to busy my hands with.
“It’s called ‘having sex’ when you are talking about people mating. Only animals mate,” I corrected him. (I thought I had explained the terminology to him before, but maybe I had missed that part.) “How long does it take? Well, it depends, but anywhere from a couple minutes to twenty minutes or so.”
“But how does the sperm get into the woman?” Now I knew I had explained that many, many times. We’ve read books, watched The Miracle of Life movie (the kids cheered when the little spermie finally reached the egg), and I’ve explained everything, ever since they were little. In fact, Yo-Yo’s first official sex talk came about when he was just a toddler. He asked my father, a science teacher, how babies were made, or at least that’s what my father thought Yo-Yo asked. My father promptly gave him the Jr. Version of the Sex Talk, complete with all the correct terminology, and then Yo-Yo pattered on out to the kitchen where my mother and I were talking and asked my mom the very same thing. Without missing a beat in our conversation, my mother pulled out a handkerchief and began folding it this way and that way till she ended up with a little hanky baby lying in a hanky hammock, one of the many games she kept stuffed up her sleeve to entertain the kiddies; this one happened to be called—you guessed it—“Making A Baby.” As my father observed the baby making demo, it dawned on him that Yo-Yo hadn't been asking how babies were made—all he wanted was for Dad to make him a doll baby out of a hanky (which Dad didn’t know how to do)!
Even though the Facts of Life had been explained to Yo-Yo repeatedly, I also knew that it takes awhile for information to sink in. What he gleans from the sex talk at age two is very different from what he gleans at age six, or age nine. So I explained again. Briefly.
“Does it feel good?”
At times like this I try not to think too hard; I just talk, letting the words spill out, making me sound more confident even if I’m not feeling particularly confident. “Oh yes, it feels good.”
As I made my laps around the kitchen table, I could see Mr. Handsome standing by the bathroom sink, his ears straining to catch every word of our conversation.
“How often do you have to mate, I mean, have sex?”
“People do it all the time, not just to make babies.”
“Do you and Papa still do it?”
“Of course! People do it even when they can’t have children anymore. Grandmommy and Granddaddy still have sex!”
Yo-Yo was silent, pondering this incredible piece of information. Mr. Handsome had moved into the hallway and had seemingly frozen in place. He was staring fixedly out the window in the classic I-don’t-see-you-so-you-don’t-see-me pose, hardly breathing. As for me, I was starting to get a little concerned. I had just told my pre-pubescent son that sex felt good and that everyone did it, not the exact message I was aiming for. But then Yo-Yo said, “Is it scary the first time you have sex? Isn’t it weird?”
Ah-ha! Just the lead I was needing. “Yes, in some ways it is. But see, sex is meant to be for a husband and wife, two people who love each other very much. It’s not just something that you do with anybody because then it can be weird, and hurtful. When it’s with your spouse though, your best friend, it’s something special that you share with no one else. I have lots of friends, but I don’t have sex with any of them, only with Papa and he’s my best friend. It’s one of the very special things about our relationship.” I had a feeling this conversation would bear repeating, many times over.
“Does it seem weird to you, this sex thing?” I asked Yo-Yo.
“No, not really,” he paused, and then, “Yeah, a little bit...”
“You’re still young,” I said. “But you’ll soon start to think about it a lot. It’s perfectly normal for boys to wonder about it and think about it.”
Mr. Handsome had retreated to the bathroom again. Later he told me that Miss Becca Boo, who had been quietly listening as Yo-Yo and I talked, entered the bathroom and asked Mr. Handsome, a mischievous grin on her face, “Papa, does mating feel good?” Mr. Handsome tried to evade her question, but after she asked him for the third time, he mumbled yes, and fled.
Talking about sex comes easily (for the most part) to me, not because of the amount of sexual experiences I’ve had, but because of how my parents talked about it, calmly and candidly. When I was growing up, we all walked around in the buff, parents included. Body changes were noted and celebrated. We have a photo marking my brother’s first shave, and my father brought me a red rose when I got my period. I was thrilled with that rose, but its specialness grew over time as I learned from my peers how unusual and totally cool it was for my father to give me a gift commemorating a key step in the awkward transformation from girlchild to woman.
I don’t remember ever not knowing about sex. It was never a mystery. I mean, I didn’t know know about it (in fact, I was quite innocent), but the biological facts were made clear, and because of my wealth of information, I unintentionally found myself taking the role of sex teacher among my girlfriends.
Even as an adult, I find myself enlightening people in matters regarding sexuality, not because I’m any more enlightened than the next person, but because I have a knack for opening my mouth and matter-of-factly spewing forth all sorts of hush-hush information. I’ve read books on dating and sex out loud to my teenage foster daughters and to my little sister (through Big Brother Big Sister). I’ve taught a Sunday school class on sexuality to a bunch of girls (didn’t go over so well, thanks to some difficult personalities). Heck, I even gave a talk on Valentine’s Day to an auditorium filled with highschool students, and at one point in my speech, I had one of the students deliver a black “Red Hot Lover” balloon with red chili peppers on it to a flustered Mr. Handsome!
Perhaps the most involved, the most personal, I’ve been when it comes to sharing about sexuality was with the group of highschool girls that I mentored for about four years. We met at my home every other week, lit candles, ate dessert, and spent hours talking about life, sex, boys, relationships, and love. It wasn’t always easy to say the things I needed to say, but I did it anyway, because the girls wanted—needed—me to. They were respectful and deeply appreciative (as were their parents), and that helped ease my discomfort.
Talking to my own children is a new twist on the same old sex talk, but even for me, a person who has talked her fool head off on the subject, there is still some of that classic nervousness, that tightening of the chest, that pit in the stomach.
However, the fact is, if kids don’t learn about sex from their parents, then they’ll learn it somewhere else. I don’t know about you, but when I stop to think who the other teachers might possibly be, I realize that I better speak up, and quick, regardless of how much I might blush and stutter.
That’s my approach, anyway. What’s yours?
About One Year Ago: Alfredo Sauce.