“Everybody remembers their version of ‘the talk’ or the lack of. I had a fight with a girl at school about how babies were made. Turns out, she was right. My aunt, bless her heart, tried to explain it to me as I stared out of the open window. Honestly, I can’t remember a word of what was said, just the country roads that led to her house. There was no follow up, no second conversation. I remember the embarrassment and my resolve to not ask about sex ever again.
The only other time it was mentioned was by my grandmother. I think she had an inkling I was being promiscuous and out of the blue warned me to ‘never come home pregnant.’ As you can imagine, when I did come home pregnant at 14, I was terrified. I didn’t feel like I had a safe place to open that surprise. I hid my morning sickness and the growing belly for as long as I could.
I earnestly believe my grandparents did the very best they knew how. It is my job as a parent to improve upon what didn’t work for me. ‘The talk’ was one of those things I felt needed improvement but knowing and doing are two completely different things. It is probably the last thing you’re thinking about as you hold your new baby but mama, babies don’t keep. Enjoy the innocence of this stage but please don’t try to hold on to it so tightly, you miss your open window.
How do you know when the right time is? I don’t think there is an ‘avocado moment’ if that’s what you’re looking for. By that, I mean the comical 2-hour window when avocados are perfectly ripe. A moment too soon and they are bright green and hard. A moment too late and they are overly soft and speckled in dark spots–neither of which is good. While we do have a season with our kids, if you are truly listening to them, you won’t miss it.
I knew when she started asking more in-depth questions about how babies were made. ‘When a mommy and daddy love each other’ wasn’t cutting it anymore. She wanted to know why and how a daddy was necessary when it was the mother who carried the child. She was 7. I was not prepared to have ‘the talk’ at what seemed like such an early age, but she was. It was my choice to either silence her or lean in. I leaned. Notice how I didn’t say jump. It’s okay to say, ‘Let me get back to you,’ because this isn’t something you should go into unprepared.
It is so vital for our kids to realize, even as parents, we don’t always have all the answers. ‘Wow, those are great questions but I’m not able to answer them right now. Can you give me a few days to gather my thoughts and get back to you?’ She agreed. The follow-through is what’s important. Again, it’s okay for our kids to know we don’t have all of life figured out. This also lets them know it’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know’ when faced with a question they truly don’t have the answer for. I reached out to moms I trusted, went to the library, gathered my thoughts, and then revisited the conversation. ‘Hey, love, remember the questions you were asking the other day about babies? I’m ready to talk to you about it now.’
‘Mama, do you remember the first time we talked about it? Your voice was sputtery. I remember thinking, ‘Do you need water? Are you nervous?’’ These are the words of my now 10-year-old. I asked for her help with this project because who better to ask? Ironically, I don’t remember that, but she does. Perhaps in hindsight, it might serve both you and your child well if you take a sip of water and steady your nerves before you open your mouth.
Every household may handle the educating differently but for us, it was a mother-daughter talk. My husband was not comfortable at that stage and our youngest daughter was too young. Dad and little sis went somewhere while our oldest daughter and myself dove into the conversation. I can’t say, in all honesty, exactly how I broke the ice or worded those undoubtedly shaky first words. I’m sure it was something like this:
‘I talked to a few mamas and went to the library and I think I can answer your questions better now. Can you tell me exactly what you are curious about?’
My kids seem to be comfortable starting these conversations. I understand it is not like that for all kids, no matter how open and inviting you to have been. If this is the case and they aren’t asking, it’s your responsibility to bring it up. They may grimace and grunt far more than mine but that doesn’t make this conversation any less valuable.
‘Without the book, I don’t think I would have understood it as well. The book helped me understand everything a little better. I still didn’t understand everything. It was a little awkward and I thought it was gross. I still think it’s gross, but I understand it’s natural. It’s the beauty of life. It’s how I was born.’
The book she is referring to is ‘It’s So Amazing’ by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley. There are several in the series. We’ve also browsed through ‘It’s Perfectly Normal’ and ‘It’s Not The Stork.’ As far as the books go, you NEED to look through them first. You need to be comfortable with the pages before you flip through them with your child. Full disclosure, I remember being in SHOCK when I saw the cartoon drawing of a penis and scrotum. ‘We have girls! Do they really need to know what it looks like at this age? The cover says four and up… FOUR!’ Then I called my sister, who had suggested this appalling publication, so I could question my sage of the parenting world. ‘Have you actually looked through this book? Are you aware of what’s printed on the pages?’ She was and so we talked.
The thing is, kids will find it one way or another. Humans are naturally curious; it’s how we learn. So whether I am the one to sit down with them in front of a well-detailed and educational book or they seek the knowledge on their own, they will find it. It’s the knowledge you equip them with that will help them decide what to do with it.
‘I think it’s important to be honest with them when they do have questions. If you brush it off or make them wait too long and they have to hold their question inside, it makes them feel really yucky. I held it in for a little while. I know it made me feel yucky because I was so desperate to know but I was afraid to ask at first. Now when I have questions, I’m not nervous to ask.’
‘Kids talk about it. They are curious or maybe even want to try it. Parents need to talk to them so they know what can happen.’
Remember, this is not ‘a talk.’ It’s ‘the talk,’ one that should be revisited more often than that first awkward encounter. As your kids grow, their understanding and questions will change. It’s important they can come to you and ask what a ‘blow job’ is and if it can give you an STD, instead of relying on their friend’s shoddy understanding. Yes, I said blow job. You know every ‘unwholesome’ term. In time, your kids will too. Can you stomach it and walk them through it, or will they be afraid to even ask?
I was asked by a reader how to handle slang terminology. The truth is, we will address it as it arises, explain what is and isn’t appropriate, and why. Thus far, our kids have a very limited vocabulary when it comes to ‘bad words’ because they aren’t exposed to it as frequently. They understand ‘balls’ and ‘nuts’ are a derogatory reference to a boy’s or man’s scrotum because they have young male cousins. This is all they have brought to my attention, though I am not too naive to believe they may know more and have just not brought them up.
What you decide to let your children say in your presence is a personal choice, but I’d suggest allowing them the freedom to bring it to you without fear. Sometimes they just need an explanation.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Raquel McCloud, 31, of North Carolina. Follow her family journey on Instagram here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more stories from Raquel here:
‘I was 14 and pregnant. ‘Would you be willing to meet?’ 9 years after she was born, my birth daughter’s family encouraged her to hug me. I didn’t want to let go.’: Woman shares perspective as an adopted child, birth mom, and adoptive mom
‘Our young girls are telling their husbands they are unwilling to have sex EVER, because the act seems totally gross.’: Mom proudly says ‘sex is sacred’ and she cannot set her daughters’ ‘moral compass’
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