I’m someone who can’t hear the word “reproduction” without bursting into song: “Reproduction! Reproduction! Make my stamen go berserk, Reproduction! I don’t think they even know what a pistil is, I’ve got your pistil right here… (deep voice)…”where does the pollen go?” (from Grease 2, see the link at the bottom of this post. You’re welcome).
Last week the Unmumsy Mum shared a photo that I posted on my Facebook blog page and it ended up on the newsfeed of almost half a million of her Facebook followers. It was a photo I’d taken in my parents garden of a cut down tree that resembled Julia Donaldson’s Stick Man with a big willy. On hearing about my Facebook fame, my Dad went out into the garden the next day and chopped poor Dick Man into six pieces. I don’t think it’s quite what he had hoped for from his 43-year-old daughter.
The point is, I can be the most childish, puerile person when it comes to sex and bodily functions. But the one thing I’ve noticed amongst some otherwise open, intelligent parents is an embarrassment and fear of answering questions about where babies come from. I can’t help but feel that this is insane. We tell them that the Easter bunny brings eggs, a tiny fairy brings money for their teeth and a fat man in a cheap red velour suit brings presents down a chimney. And that’s before we’ve started on the tales that the church tell. We let them watch sheep give birth at farms and we marvel at pregnant spiders. But over the matter of how WE are created, of the miracle of reproduction, it’s shameful to reduce yourself to a quivering, embarrassed wreck. It’s the one time you need to step up.
An initial embarrassed or disapproving response to questions of sexuality and biological changes is perhaps natural, but it’s important to get a grip. I keep reading people’s blog posts or overhearing conversations in which parents are “dreading” the questions, or unable to think how to explain it all. You are parents. You DID it. Just tell it simply, biologically, and say it’s something grown ups do. With each other. Now is not the time to deny that your child has bits and bobs, winkies, foofs, willy-bobs, whatever you want to call them and that they are there for other reasons than to pee in a potty. Denial, shame or disapproval could shape how they feel about this fact. If sex is portrayed as a taboo, off-limits topic or even just plain embarrassing, what happens if a child is in danger of or actually being abused? Being told to keep a little secret is a LOT easier if the secret is something you know the adult carers in your life are themselves unhappy talking about.
I believe calmness and openness with a sprinkle of humour is the best way to keep your children happy, healthy and safe. WW took matters into his own hands recently and concocted something about fishes and eggs. The boy BUBs now constantly accuse one another of kicking each other in their little fish tanks.
The details will come out as they get older and the fundamentals can be spruced up with a dollop of fairytale. I think what’s important is how you respond to their funny, awkward little questions. They can be funny and awkward, you need to be a grown up. I aim to make them feel that they can ask me anything. I let them know it’s a perfectly normal part of life as an adult and until they get to that point in their life, something I am happy to talk about whenever they want to, and for whatever reason.
Rather than something to cough and splutter through, it might be the most important grown up conversation you ever have.
Now just sit back and enjoy this…