Monday, December 14, 2009

Birds, Bees & Ogres

The Scene: it is Sunday night. I am doing Viva’s hair, a long process of sectioning and oiling and combing through each section and twisting each section down into one long plait, secured with a barrette. Because this is a long process, we generally watch a movie while it’s going on. It doesn’t take me the whole movie to finish her hair, but it’s a nice ritual involving microwave popcorn and lemonade.

The Movie: we are watching Shrek the Third. There is a point at which (spoilers ahead! For a movie that’s at least a couple of years old!) Shrek (the ogre, in case you’ve been living under a rock) is leaving on a quest in a large ship going out of the harbor. His wife Fiona is on shore and she calls out, “I’m pregnant!” Shrek is completely freaked out, and as the boat pulls away, the following conversation takes place:

Shrek: I can't believe I'm going to be a father. How did this happen?

Puss In Boots: Allow me to explain. When a man falls in love with a woman, he is overcome with powerful urges—

Shrek [yelling]: I know how it happened! I just can't believe it. [stomps off]

Donkey [to Puss]: How *does* it happen?

Viva [to me]: How *does* it happen?

Mama: Oh, well – you know, we’ve talked about this a little before. You know the daddy kind of plants a seed in the mommy and it grows into a baby.

Viva: But HOW does he do it?

Mama [biting the bullet]: Well, the daddy puts his [clinical term] into the mommy’s [clinical term] and—

Viva: Oh my GOD.

Mama: Yeah, that’s pretty much everyone’s reaction when they first find out. It sounds unbelievable, but that’s how it happens.

Viva: That is WEIRD.

Mama: Well, when two people love each other, it’s kind of like – it’s a very special kind of hugging that they do.

Viva: You mean a very WEIRD kind of hugging.

Mama: Okay then.

And by then we were on to the scene where Shrek is having nightmares about ogre babies projectile vomiting and crying and having multiple near-accidents, and that was the end of that.

I’ve shared this story with a few people since then, and the reaction seems to be: “Wow, I can’t believe you straight out told her like that.”

I’m really not sure what else I was expected to do. She asked me a question and I answered honestly in a spur-of-the-moment way that I hope was age-appropriate. I want her to feel she can ask me anything, and I don’t want her to feel like the Big Topics are off-limits. And it seems to me that 6 is a pretty reasonable age for her to be curious about where babies come from, and that now I can go ahead and get a book like this, or this, or this, for us to read together and talk if she wants to. (I think when I was little I read this. I wonder if it’s held up over the years or if it’s dated.)

At any rate, I would love to hear from you about your experiences talking with your own kids, or your own “birds and the bees” talk with your parent(s), if you ever had The Talk. My mom was always very frank with me and my sister, and I’d like to be the same way with my kids. Curious to hear other people's experiences! PG only please!


Molly said...

I answered honestly and succinctly- and just sufficiently- when asked questions, then scheduled the Big Talk for when they turned eight. I figure it's widely considered the age of accountability, it's (hopefully) right before the age when her friends will start volunteering questionable information, and, as you said, it introduces open communication about the subject so when they do get some lovely piece of misinformation at school, they feel it is an open topic to discuss with me. I would say that some kids might need to hear it a little sooner, depending on their level of curiosity, some a little later. My second daughter has been eight for a few months, but hasn't asked me many questions at all. As a result, I keep forgetting to schedule The Talk. OUr approach is to make it a special day where we give them this beautiful information and express to them the sacred nature of the process. Hopefully that will help them see it as such, instead of a dirty, uncomfortable thing that shouldn't be talked about with Mom and Dad, or a frivolous thing to be taken lightly and engaged in inappropriately. My oldest is only 10, so we shall see. So far, it has kept the communication open, though.

Bridget said...

I've gone over this with my older daughter, who is now 12, when she was in fourth grade (now getting ready for the younger daughter). I just did the basics and I approached it much like you did. Since we have animals sometimes it comes up because of them so it's sort of "this is nature, this is the living world" but with the human element of appropriateness. I'm hoping that it's a good way to keep the dialogue going.

And how timely that you should post this because they have their sex ed class TODAY in middle school. I'll see what she retains because having 'the talk' early I've noticed that they forget some of the specifics. It's a topic that will probably get covered many times, I'm sure.

Bridget said...

PS To answer your question about our own experiences, I remember the talk about periods but not the one about sex. I think my mom gave me a book but I don't really remember. Weird, huh (to quote Viva)? Maybe I just blocked it all out? ;-)

Nerd Girl said...

Mine hasn't asked yet (she's 5) but I'm sure she will soon and I'll probably be stunned for a moment and then answer much as you did. And I KNOW she will go forth and share her new knowledge with her classmates!

I don't remember either of my parents having "The Talk" with me. When I was 16 - and headed to college - my Mom asked me if I had "any questions." Um, no. I plan to be much more open with Lovegirl no matter how embarassing it gets. For me - she'll be fine!

Lisa Blah Blah said...

All: Thanks for sharing such a personal experience with me. I got a lot of good feedback!

Molly: I like your approach, esp. the part about the sacred nature of the process. I was not ready for her question so I didn't even go there!

Bridget: yup, I think this is just one of many many conversations we'll have about sex as she gets older and more curious. Good for you for being ready and willing to follow up on what they're teaching your daughter in class!

Nerd Girl: See, you need to watch this space so you can be ready! Mine is a year older so maybe you can learn from my mistakes. :-)