My girls (We’ll call them Marcia & Cindy) know that I’m studying sex at school. Actually, when you Marcia tell it, she says her mom is “studying people’s bodies”, which I guess is age-appropriate.
Anyway, I have a number of “school supplies” in my home and, because my focus is helping parents talk with their children about sex, I have a number of European kids’ books. Most of these cover simply reproductive biology (as Americans don’t talk about pleasure or fantasy as it relates to human sexuality for adults, teens, or children at all but i digress…). So you can imagine my surprise when, one day, my eight-year-old comes to me and asks,
“Mom, how do you have sex and not get pregnant?”
Well, don’t that beat all?! Not only did she skip the dreaded, “Mom, where did I come from?” but went straight for the throat. Not to mention she asked the question in a way that prevents me from answering, “Don’t have it.” (Clever girl, huh? She takes after her mother you know.) But seriously, my answer was that there are a couple ways. Keep in mind “Don’t have it” was not going to work as an answer because of what her question was.
My basic approach in answering on this topic is to answer as best I can IN ONE SENTENCE (a challenge believe me). I told her that women can get a pill from their doctor that prevents pregnancy but it doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections. She asked what those are and I explained that they were sicknesses a person may or may not even know they have that can make people contagious, sick, and/or even die. She asked, “What about the man? Does he have to take a pill?” I told her about condoms
and how they protect from pregnancy and STI’s. She asked how and I told her it was like a special sock for a man’s penis that protects both the man and the woman during sexual intercourse. She giggled a bit and wandered off.
Again, like the last interaction with her about the bullet vibrator, it was short and sweet and to the point and that was all she wanted to know. Of course there are lots of possible answers I could have given her but I wanted to give the best answers I could in as short an answer as possible. This keeps her from being overwhelmed and she can stop me whenever she wants.
I realized two things afterward.
1) That I didn’t ask her what she knew to start. I see that as an opportunity for every parent to gauge how much the child does already know and redirect any misinformation (which is RAMPANT!!! More to come on THAT topic), and
2) My answer was very hetero-centric. I hoped for another opportunity to fix that.