The Sperm, the Egg, and Viva Piñata

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I wasn’t planning on giving the sex talk today.

But then again, does anyone really put that on their calendar?

Tuesday, August28: Dentist appointment. Call water heater repairman. Tell 8 year-old, in moderate detail, about the physical, emotional, and spiritual workings of sexual intercourse.

I knew the time was coming, of course. Eight years old is about the age I was when I nearly caused my Dad to run our car off the road by asking my parents the meaning of a certain Very Bad Word. I’d heard it at school, where it was accompanied by rude hand gestures and uproarious laughter, laughter in which I joined, to cover up the fact that I didn’t get the joke. Mom and Dad didn’t laugh when I said it to them, but, after safely navigating the car back into its own lane, they did give me The Talk. I don’t remember much of anything after the first five minutes of The Talk; when my hazy mental picture swam suddenly into focus, I was so mortified that I immediately devoted my full attention to counting the cars flying by outside my window. My sex education, half begun, was completed over the years through a variety of books and a Girl Scout field trip to Fernbank Science Center.

There must be something about the car, though, because that’s where Katie asked me The Question. I definitely wasn’t expecting it. Don’t get me wrong—my daughter and I do have lots of great talks. Of course, 95% of our conversations inevitably come back around to Katie’s current fixation: video games. It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about; sooner or later, it reminds Katie of something she did on Viva Piñata or Spyro the Dragon. Still, we’ve managed to touch on puberty, death, her Asperger’s Syndrome, cancer, divorce, and the proper way to install a new roll of toilet tissue. I guess sex was just the next thing on the list.

I believe it started with some curiosity about the feminine products Katie had seen under our bathroom sink. Soon we were talking about periods (a discussion I checked off my mental list with relief, knowing that Katie would at least be more prepared than Stephen King’s Carrie for that milestone.) I didn’t even break a sweat as I reeled off the information from my sixth grade health class: your body is practicing for when it has to nourish a baby, every girl experiences it, yadda, yadda, yadda. I noticed in the rearview mirror that she looked a little worried, so I asked her what was wrong.

“Well, when will I have a baby?” she asked.

“Later, honey. Much later, when you’re married,” I answered decisively, thinking that we’d probably covered enough sensitive material for the day. I guess I was wrong.

Enter Katie, the fact regurgitator. “But I heard on a TV commercial that Washington had eleven thousand teenage pregnancies last year. They aren’t married, so how does that happen?”

I was glad to have the road to attend to as I collected my thoughts.

“Well,” I explained slowly, “the way that people make a baby is called sex. Um, some people choose to have sex before they should, and sometimes they get pregnant. But don’t worry–you’re not going to just suddenly have a baby out of the blue, okay?”

I stopped there, mindful of some advice I’d heard once about answering your child’s sticky questions: give them the most straightforward and basic answer. If they want more detail, they will ask for it.

And ask she did.

“But what is sex? I mean, what do you do?”

There it was. The words were hanging in the air, daring me to be nonchalant as, finally, we got down to the nitty gritty. It was time for The Talk, and my mind was aflutter as I tried to think of all the important points I wanted to cover. There was nothing else for it. I dove in, headfirst.

The next few minutes are a blur in my memory. I certainly wasn’t eloquent. I know I stumbled over my words, lost my train of thought, and kept repeating myself. I’m not sure exactly what I ended up saying, but here (I think) are the salient points:

I told her that sex is a wonderful gift from God, that it is meant to be enjoyed by married people, and that it is the closest a man and a woman who love each other can be.

I explained exactly how Tab A goes into Slot B (except, being a grown-up, I actually used the words “penis” and “vagina”, trying hard to remain casual and unaffected, as if I were saying “paper clip” and “shrubbery.”)

I clarified the whole egg and sperm recipe, and who contributes what, and how, to make a baby. I even gave a rudimentary genetics lesson.

I mentioned that the reason some people find it hard to wait until marriage to have sex is that it feels totally great!

Finally, I wrapped it all up by asking Katie if she had any questions.

I hadn’t been watching her during my extensive presentation, but now, as I looked back, I could see her chewing something over in her mind. The silent seconds ticked by. After a moment, she confessed, “Mom, I think I’m kind of scared of all that.”

I smiled a little, remembering my first reaction to the same information.

“It’s okay, honey. You’re supposed to be a little scared at eight. I promise, by the time you’re all grown up and marrying a man you love, you’ll want to do it.”

She accepted that, and we drove on, headed for home, both of us lost in our own thoughts.

As we turned into the driveway, she wanted one more clarification on the matter.

“Hey, Mom—remember how you were talking about the sperm and the egg and all that DNA mixing up?”

“Yes?”

“Well, is that why Daddy and I are both obsessed with video games?”

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29 responses »

  1. Good job mom!!! I love how they just get it and accept it and move on, not at all as if you just told them the most BIZARRE notion in the world…(or was it just me that thought that was bizarre when I first heard it…”he puts his what into her what/!?!”

  2. Way to go! And what a smart cookie with the whole video game thing. Very funny.

    She reacted a lot better than my cousin did. She got the talk at about 6, and didn’t really say anything. My aunt figured she was too young and it went over her head. At about age 8, my aunt was teasing her about having a boyfriend, and she came out with, “NO mom. He’s NOT my boyfriend. NO boy is EVER putting HIS penis in MY vagina!!!” hehehe. She got it, all right!

    Now why do I have a feeling I’ve told you this story before???

    Sheesh, I’m already dreading that talk and I don’t even have kids yet! hehe!

  3. This is one of those days where you wish your kid wasn’t so smart!

    I’m not obsessed with video games. I’m a Professional. There’s a big difference. Besides, I’ve got to keep my skillz up to keep my friends in line.

  4. Worst side effect of being a complete scoundrel from the age of 19-32: now that your life is straightened out, you can be a little mistrustful.

    Sometimes my goddaughter looks at me like “as soon as I can talk, you’re in deep crud, fat boy.” I just look back at her with a gaze that says “you’ll never go on a date with a boy that isn’t nervous for his own safety until you move away from Statesboro.” It’s an adversarial relationship, but we love each other.

    Seriously, though, that was a really heartwarming story. I hope when Kathryn and my own kid have tough questions, I’m half as eloquent.

    By the way: I’ll never throw a paper clip into a bush again.

  5. Since my husband has taught Jr. High Health for the last three years, he is a pro at The Talk. I’ve already told him he gets to give it to our girls when they get older because at least he’ll have it all memorized.

    Of course, he tells me, it’ll be WAY different telling our daughters than a roomful of awkward teens 🙂

    Sounds like you handled it quite well!

  6. Can you come over and talk to my kids when they start asking The Question?

    You just can’t beat the plain truth for making everything okay. Kids don’t want to be lied to or talked down to.

    My son is nine, but he hasn’t asked much about sex. I plan to just do like you and give him a simple and straightforward answer and hope he isn’t scarred for life! 🙂

  7. Don’t you love having that over with? I’m about to have to tell one of the twins, and if it goes half as well as it did with Finn (HA!) we’ll all be fine.

    (The other twin shows no signs of caring. His college dormmates may have to tell him)

  8. Very funny how it all comes back to video games, isn’t it? Maybe if we’d had them when we were kids the Talk would of gone better for us.

    Great story.

  9. Great job, Mom! 🙂

    Reminded me of a story about my husband. He was six and asked his mom one day where he came from. His mom, a nurse, gave him the whole clinical rundown including a medical book. Hubby paused for a moment then asked, “Aaron says he’s from Oklahoma, so where am I from?”

    🙂 I hope to be as straight forward and honest with my girls as my mom was with me. I think the TRUTH is what kept me a virgin as long as it did!

  10. We agreed before we were married that I’d take care of our daughters’ talk and my husband would take care of our sons’. Turns out we had all boys. Gee, I was really bummed…

    BTW, I remember when I learned the facts I could watch The Flintstones for a week. I kept thinking, “Fred and Wilma?”

  11. When a friend of mine was told The Facts, she, shocked, replied, “And you and Daddy had to do that TWICE?!” I may hook Thomas up with Anne Glamore’s “It’s Natural, But It’s Rated R” post. Is that a cop out?

  12. you handled it with much grace, imho. not so me when at about age 9 my son asked “mom what’s c***(insert word for oral sex here) at the dinner table. i choked and with all eyes on me asked him where he had heard that particular word. he calmly explained that a little girl in his class had told them the word AND explained it in graphic detail. he thought she was lying so he asked me because he KNEW i would tell him the truth…..

    i still haven’t recovered.

  13. Good Job!

    To this day, I really have no idea how I learned about sex.

    I know one thing… it SURE didn’t come from my parents!

    I wonder if that might explain why two of my sisters were pregnant before they got married?

  14. Whew! It wasn’t so bad, was it? 🙂 Andrew asked some questions before we had Anna. “Mom, how exactly do you TRY to have a baby?” I guess kids Can hear you when you are on the phone in the room down the hall! We gave him the very basics and then he stopped me, “Um, Mom…can we talk about something else now??”
    I, myself, remember hearing the talk when I was about Katie’s age and thinking, “My parents are SO gross!”

  15. That’s awesome. I had the same “talk” with my 10 year old on our family camping trip a couple of weeks ago…I am thankful that we weren’t in the car.

  16. Whew! Sounds like you handled it wonderfully! Good work!

    I still remember my Talk with my mom – not actually anything that was said, but just that we had it.

    I think it’s so cute that the whole concept scared her a bit. She’s growing up, but she’s still your little girl.

  17. When my mom & I had The Talk, it ended with me in tears! I was totally freaked out and wishing I had never asked. My mother was always very straight forward and to the point, so there’s just no telling what she said, but whatever it was, the only thing I remember is crying and hoping that I never had to do THAT! Alex will soon turn 8 and I’m wondering when the time will come to chat with him…boys are hubby’s job, Morgann will be mind. So, I’m hoping to learn from his mistakes 🙂

    Can I call you when my turn rolls around?

  18. Kudos to you.

    I would have gone screeching off the road in a cacophonous haze of burning rubber, sweating profusely and shrieking, “WHO WANTS A HAPPY MEAL?! IS THAT A DINOSAUR OVER THERE? DO YOU WANT TO GO TO DISNEY WORLD THIS WEEKEND?!”

    You amaze me. It’s particularly poignant to read about your parenting triumphs and finesse as my J. has Asperger’s too.

    I still think I need a Tylenol now.

  19. I just saw that commercial tonight when the mother starts to talk to her son in the car about sex. I thought of you and do believe you could do an excellent commercial! This is priceless.

  20. Cars are the best for conversations. I think it has to do with the fact that you’re near someone but not looking them in the face.

    I love her last line–she did bring it back to the video games.

    Since we’re all sharing–my parents passed me one of those pamphlets you get at the doctors. I learned everything from girlfriends and boyfriends.

    While I AM a librarian, and forever recommending books, there really is no substitute for parents. Go you!

  21. I was totally in the car when I asked my mom. My brother quickly became very interested in the passing scenery.

    I think that we might be the same person, Katrina.

  22. Hello Katrina,
    I stumbled onto your blog while updating my own and have found myself enjoying browsing for the past 20 minutes or so. I love this post. Such a respectful approach.
    I’d like to add you to my blogroll if it doesn’t wierd you out to have strangers reading your blog. Stop by mine as well, any time. Hope you enjoy
    ~~CB
    http://www.drawingin.blogspot.com

  23. I was just rereading this post and my comment. I realized that the internet is how Thomas learned to tie his shoes, so I think Anne’s post would be perfectly acceptable. I’d better copy it before it goes away…

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