“To make a baby, you need a man’s sperm and a woman’s egg. So a doctor put a man’s sperm in one of the mom’s eggs.”
The occasion for this blunt conversation was the arrival of twins born to our lesbian neighbors. When my kids ask me about sex, I have a simple strategy: answer honestly. And simply. My kids–all kids–take in what they can, when they can. And the bar moves; how you handle the sex talks depends on the kid. I honestly like these conversations. I’m glad my 9-year-old is curious. He doesn’t need the sex talk. Yet. But when he does, I’ll have to face the fact that as a mom with sons, there are some conversations I'll leave to their father.
For example, not long ago my 12-year-old son needed a proactive talking-to. When I flinched to see him parading around in his underwear, it was time for us to have a chat. He’s 5’10” and looks like he’s 16. Not cool for this Mom to see that action. I felt uncomfortable, so I said something. But he didn’t get it. I needed his Dad for that one. My son understands now and covers up at home. Amazing what a few months will do in the life of a tween.
Most adolescents feel awkward talking about sex with anyone, but especially with a parent. I know I felt that way with my own mother. But bring in an opposite-sex parent? Forget it. I’d have died of embarrassment if my father had ever brought up sex, and my tween son feels the same. When he’s uncomfortable discussing things with me he says so, and I have to respect that. And although I have the information he needs, it sometimes feels off for me, too. So instead of talking, I got the most kid-friendly, no-nonsense book on physical changes, sexual feelings, and general adolescent angst. He’s read it at least a dozen times, so I guess it worked.
My older son and I did address some things head-on. Pimples, hairy armpits, and erections, for example. For the pimples and the pits, I put acne cream and deodorant in the bathroom. No discussion needed. But for erections, I sent in Dad. I was happy to let him handle that one. I don’t know what was said. It was a short conversation, but it got done. No tween boy wants to talk about his penis with Mom. I doubt he wants to talk about it with Dad either, but he’s the lesser of two evils.
And then there are the feelings. That varies by kid, but also by age. Bring up girls with my 9-year-old, and he totally shuts down. He’s not ready. One night my husband pushed it, and he actually growled at us. My older son, on the other hand, warms my heart. He recently told me he liked girls, and I felt honored. If he thinks I’m the parent for those talks, I say bring it on. I don’t ask many questions. I listen and offer occasional advice, and lots of encouragement. He spills out emotions, questions and thoughts. I’m proud of who he’s becoming. He’s wise for 12; he says he’s not ready for kissing. Which is good, because I'm not ready for him to be kissing, either. It’s all very sweet.
I trust that my sons will come to my husband or me as they mature, as the bar keeps moving for them and we all run to keep up. It feels like we’ve created a safe space, despite the awkwardness that comes with a touchy subject like sex. They ask us questions, listen and share. Knowing that they trust us enough to confide eases my mind and makes me proud, and so far, at least, I don’t need Xanax. I think we’re covered.