I had the talk with my almost 11 year old last week. Yes, the talk. I had to do it. It had been coming up at school toward the end of the year, thanks to some of the girls in the class, and I know he’s going to hear about it at camp this summer. I’ve been ignoring it for a while now. Well, that’s not quite true. I haven’t been ignoring it. I’ve been dealing with it by trying to push it off on to my husband. He’s been ignoring it. But it had become obvious that our son understood something, and was wanting to talk about it. He kept looking for ways to get the word "sex" into his conversations. So, I grabbed the book I bought years ago, took a deep breath, and told him to have a seat on the couch.
Me – I guess you guys have been talking about sex at school, huh?
Him – Sometimes.
Me – So, tell me what you know. What is sex?
Him – I don’t know. Kissing.
Me ( trying to take a deep breath) – Well, do you know about making a baby?
Him – You mean mating?
Thank you all those BBC animal videos…
Me – Yeah, okay. When the male and the female come together to make a baby.
Him – Huh?
He looks confused. I panic and think I made a mistake – this isn’t right – he actually knows nothing – I should stop right now or I’m going to freak him out forever. But, wait, I’ve already started, and it really took a lot of effort on my part. I’ve been preparing myself for this for days. And if we stop now it’s going to feel really weird and taboo and I definitely don’t want that. We’re doing it.
Me – Well "mating" is like the scientific word for sex. When the female and the male of any species… come together… to make a baby…
I’m fumbling for my lines but I’m prepared and, like any good actress, I reach for a prop.
Me – Here, look at this book.
The book I have is called "It’s Perfectly Normal – Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health" I keep it on the child rearing shelf right next to "What I Believe – A Young Person’s Guide to the Religions of the World"
We open the book to the cartoon picture of a sperm swimming to meet an egg.
Me ( brightly) See the sperm comes from the male and enters the egg and the baby begins to be formed!
Him – How does it get in there?
Damn, right off the bat. I was hoping I’d have a minute.
Me (stalling) The sperm?
Him – How does the sperm get to the egg?
Me – How does the sperm get to the egg?
He looks at me sideways.
Me – Huh. Well. You know. The sperm comes out of the penis. The male puts his penis in the vagina and the sperm comes out. Then it kind of swims up to meet the egg.
Him (backing up into the corner of the couch) Did you do that?
Me – Yep. That’s what you do when you want to have a baby.
I am really proud of myself now. Hard part over. I can handle anything from here.
Him – When?
Me – What?
Him – When did you do that?
I did not anticipate this. I don’t know what to say. I mean I could say "um, a week ago I guess" but somehow that feels wrong. So I say something stupid.
Me – Almost 11 years ago.
cue the rim shot
Him – And 9 years ago too.
His brother is 9
Me – Yep.
I’m feeling weird about this line of questioning. I don’t want to be evasive but I’m not going to tell him that his parents have sex just for fun either. I want to move on and get whatever images he has in his head out of his head so I turn back to the book.
We start looking at cartoons of reproductive systems. He looks for a while, silent, reading. He points to a word.
Him – What does that say?
As Beckett said – I can’t go on. I’ll go on.
Me – "Menstruation"
Him – What does that mean?