"But how does the sperm get to the egg?" he asked.
Our eight year old (yes, eight year old) wasn't going to settle for a generalized answer. A budding engineer, who was right by his daddy's side anytime something needed to be repaired, he knew if daddies carry the sperm, and mommies carry the egg, and the sperm and the egg make a baby, then somehow parents have to connect to make a baby. And his inquiring mind wouldn't rest until he knew how.
I looked at my husband. He looked back at me. Our eyes spoke the unspoken.
No, your turn.
No, really, Honey, you can answer that one. Go for it. (wink)
I honestly can't remember who answered, but aside from our desire to pass the ball on this one, we were so glad he asked--us.
Conversations about sex make parents sweat. But when we are uncomfortable discussing a topic, our kids pick up on it. They are experts at taking our emotional temperatures, and if we are uncomfortable, they will be uncomfortable. If they sense us avoiding a subject, they will avoid the subject. And they will find answers to their questions somewhere, and they may not be the correct answers--the answers you want them to have.
Sex Ed. 101, taught by parents, should begin early. It is a critical step in protecting our kids from sexual abuse. Instruction can begin in the bathtub when you're teaching your little ones self-care. As you teach them to wash their bodies, label the parts as you go--all the parts--with the correct names. A nose is a nose, a hand is a hand, a penis is a penis, and a vagina is a vagina. I know, I know, the last two don't roll off the tongue as easily as the first two, do they? But let me cheer you on. You can do it!!! Stand in front of the mirror and practice saying "those words" if you have to, but don't miss an opportunity to teach your kids. Why? Because kids who have knowledge are confident, and perpetrators avoid knowledgeable, confident kids. Why? Because kids who are knowledgeable and confident tell. And perpetrators don't want to get caught.
Let the heart aching words of a survivor of sexual abuse stir your heart into action: "How could I put into words something for which my ten year old vocabulary had no words?" I wept with her when she asked me that question. Her words still bring a lump to my throat. She had "no words." She was a victim, and she couldn't tell.
Let's give our kids the confidence. Let's give our kids the vocabulary. We don't need to fear the conversations.
Even though I can't remember whether it was my husband or me who responded to my son's question, I remember my son's response:
"So, you do that to have babies, right?"
"You guys are done having babies, right?"
I was glad for his sake, and for ours, that we were "done" having babies. And he, being satisfied with our answer, was done with our conversation and raced off to play.
Giving our kids confidence through giving them knowledge is our third step in protecting our kids from sexual abuse. Perpetrators avoid knowledgeable, confident kids (step three) who have a relationship with their parents (step two), especially those parents who refuse to ignore the epidemic of childhood sexual abuse (step one).
Here is a book series I recommend to parents for teaching their kids about sex. I'm using them with my foster daughters. God's Design for Sex Series: The Story of Me (Ages Three to Five), Before I Was Born (Ages Five to Eight), What's the Big Deal? Why God Cares About Sex (Ages Eight to Eleven), and Facing the Facts: The Truth About Sex and You (Ages Eleven to Fourteen).
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net