Where do babies come from? I think when our children first utter these words, we instantly regret all our attempts at getting them to talk more clearly, sooner. What were we thinking? By encouraging speech, we invited upon ourselves midget interrogators who prefer to pose the most intricate questions while we are queuing in the supermarket waiting to pay for groceries.
I recently came across an article about a 22 year old Colombian woman who had inserted a potato into her vagina because her mother had told her it was a form of contraception. I gather lots of people are still uncomfortable discussing sex with their children.
As a mother of both boys and a girl, I cannot; without sowing mistrust and disrespect among the siblings, turn to the age old exhortations telling girls to guard their virtue while turning a blind eye to whatever boys might get up to as long as no one gets pregnant.
Frankly, the fact that there is still so much misinformation, awkwardness and bias in a topic as intrinsic as sex, boggles the mind. The moment we accept it for what it is and begin to teach our children about it honestly, I think we take the first steps to gender equality, freedom and wisdom.
When I was in secondary school, my chemistry teacher had the girls sit behind the boys because we were allegedly nine parts desire and if the boys were behind us, they’d be driven mad with lust. I’ve heard men call women cheap (and a lot worse) because they move in with their boyfriends though I have yet to hear those men excoriated. Single mums are given a wide berth yet birth control is taboo and inaccessible.
Examining the source of our embarrassment, distaste and censure is important. Religion and culture have a lot to answer for but our blind acceptance too. I call upon fellow parents to don the mantle of introspection and honesty for an hour and consider these questions; what do you truly want for children? Is there only one sure, path to arriving at this goal? Will straying do irreparable harm?
I want my children to be happy, alone or with a partner. I do not specify spouse because I believe marriage is optional. I know there are many paths to this happiness. And making detours, stops or U turns on the way is part of a meaningful life.
Though I had a boyfriend in secondary school, we broke up when I went away to University. I meet my (now) husband the day after I arrived and we married weeks after we graduated. We were 21. We had our first child at 24. In November, we will have been together for 17 years. It’s pretty fairy tale on the surface.
Look deeper and you will learn that I struggled to get reliable birth control (in Malaysia), I had premarital sex and I lived with my then boyfriend for years before we were married. Though I love my husband, I only agreed to marriage because we are of different nationalities and staying together in any country would be tough. I certainly did not stick to the straight and narrow.
The kids are now 7, 10 and 11. We are honest with them about sex. They know what a penis, testicles and sperm are; also uterus, period, vagina and womb. They understand how babies are made and they know that they are ways to prevent babies from being conceived. They have asked about abortion and rape. If they ask, I will tell them that sex can pleasurable.
The older two are on the cusp of puberty. The eldest is very nonchalant, as his journey seems very gradual and subtle. The same cannot be said for my daughter for she and her friends are bursting into pimples and their bodies are changing on a daily basis. Nevertheless, they are mentally and emotionally still children, make no mistake; her latest request was for Anna and Elsa dolls but the transition has begun.
To be honest, the youngest misses a lot of the technical bits. His major interest is persuading me that he really, truly needs at least 2 younger siblings, as being the youngest is not his cup of tea. But he understands that I have periods, and that I bleed. He gets the hot water bottle out and tells his dad to fill it up.
I’m convinced that we need to become more circumspect and see sex for what it is. Only then can we raise a generation of individuals who understand sex; not just the physical aspects but also everything else in between from being responsible, realistic, respectful and reasonable. By doing so, we may initiate progress for gender equality, which has far reaching implications for a myriad of issues from the spread of sexually transmitted disease, to population control and reduction of unwanted babies.
This is not a job for school or teachers. It’s your job as a parent, so stop blushing, stuttering and stammering. You owe it to your kids.