(finding parenthood painfully funny)
It was all very innocent—our snuggling, her question, both very innocent. But I was about to destroy my daughter’s innocence.
“Mommy, are you having sex right now?”
I was not. I was simply lying on top of my husband on the couch, trying to interrupt his nap by stealing a smooch from the same mouth I have kissed every day for 20 years. It was all very innocent—our snuggling, her question, both very innocent. But I was about to destroy my daughter’s innocence.
Her misinterpretation of what sex is sounded my mom alarm. She has slowly been bringing the subject up. Just a few weeks ago we were driving past a woman who looked pretty down on her luck and appeared to be a good ten months pregnant, and my daughter gawked and screeched with concern, “How can a homeless woman have a baby?” (Touching, really, how much she feels and cares for others.) I responded under my breath, “By making bad choices.” My daughter heard me. “What??? Having a baby is a choice?”
“Yes, along with having the choice to not have a baby. But we’ll save that for another time.” Thankfully T Swift popped on the radio and we all just shook it off. End of conversation.
But she has brought up the subject of sex more and more, and I feel that we’re at that special time in a kid’s life where the whole birds and bees thing probably needs some addressing. Mainly because I’d rather she learn from me what sex is than from her elementary school friends. And, I distinctly remember my mother telling me what sex was when I was younger than seven. I broach the subject, “Hey, honey, what do you think sex is?”
She freezes. “I can’t tell you. It’s inappropriate.”
“Good answer. I tell you what, let’s go into your bedroom. Nothing is ‘inappropriate’ when a mom and her kid talk in private. You can ask me anything or tell me anything. I’m totally open. Okay?” She bolts for her bedroom. My husband high-fives me and wishes me good luck, relieved he isn’t the one for this job.
I am not prepared for this moment. I should have done my research and googled “Sex for eight year olds.” Or maybe something less molesty, but you get the idea.
I close her door behind me, the hanging growth chart cluttered with pink and yellow sprouting tulips on the door swinging side to side. I stare at its historical marks. I smile as I remember asking my daughter to stand straight against the wall for the last eight years, marking the top of her head and tracing her small hand on each birthday and writing the date with a Sharpie. Time has flown.
“What is sex?” she asks calmly.
I decide to play it cool. I figure it might be best to reveal this on a need-to-know basis. “What do you think sex is?”
“Well, there are two camps at school. The Margaux Camp and the Chloe Camp. Margaux says sex is when two people kiss and have a baby. Chloe says sex is when two people get naked together and have a baby. I’m not sure which one is right.” Note to self: fewer playdates with Chloe, more with Margaux.
I have a flashback to my own mother having this same conversation with me when I was my daughter’s age, which was like twelve years ago (don’t you dare check my math). I was lying on her bed, and she was reading a book to me with simple drawings of naked people. As she read to me, I remember feeling like my body was separating from my mind, and I was flooded with pulsating tingles.
I can’t screw this up. My kid will remember this moment forever. It will be in her memory 30 years from now. It will determine how she approaches sex with others and how she feels about her own body and sexuality. It will determine how open she is to other people’s sexual preferences and it will instill respect for herself and others. I can normalize sex, gender, self pleasure, and love. And make her feel comfortable talking to me in the future about sex. Jesus, what the fuck am I supposed to say?
Today I’m surrounded by vibrant colors and shapes, the damn growth chart on the back of the wall. (Maybe above the picture of the lamp and growth chart).
I take a deep, long breath. “Sex is when …” I hear my mother fill in the blanks as she tells me it’s when a man and a woman … I channel my mother and begin again, “Sex is when a man and a wo— No. Um, sex is when a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, or a man and a woman—”
She cuts me off, “Or a man and a dog, I know, Mom.”
“No, not a man and a dog. No animals.”
“We are animals, Mom.”
“Duly noted. I’m sticking to humans, two humans (we’re not adding polygamy to the long list of new norms, right?) who really love each other …” I see my own mother simply pointing to the diagram of a married male and female. Times were so hetero back then. My memories are sepia-toned, filled with yellow sunlight and brown and beige wallpaper. Today I’m surrounded by vibrant colors and shapes, the damn growth chart on the back of the wall.
I continue. “Okay, there are lots of types of sex. With lots of different kinds of people and lots of different ways to do it. But let’s just focus on one type of sex today. The kind that will make a baby.” I realize at this point that I don’t want her to one day be wooed by some boy who convinces her that anal sex isn’t really “sex” so she should go for it during P.E. behind the school’s abandoned woodworking shop. But I don’t really think she’s ready for all the different holes that can be screwed in shop class. Let’s stick to one hole at a time.
“Today we will talk about when a man and woman have vaginal sex. If you really love someone, and you are close friends, and you are much, much older, and you want to make each other’s bodies happy, the man and women must both consent to have sex, and then the man can, again, once obtaining consent, put his penis carefully inside the woman’s vagina. Something called sperm is made inside the man’s testicles and it will come out and go into the vagina. Women have eggs inside their bodies and—”
I can’t screw this up. My kid will remember this moment forever. It will be in her memory 30 years from now.
“We are animals! Like chickens. I told you.”
“Fair enough. Like chickens, we have eggs. When the sperm meets the egg, sometimes, if you’re lucky, or really unlucky depending on your situation, it will make a baby. And that’s it.”
I visibly relax. I made it. And she is super calm. I haven’t freaked her out. Clearly I’m nailing this. I should give speeches to elementary school kids across the country!
“Then the baby comes out with a penis, and is a boy, or a vagina, and is a girl!” she proudly states.
“Yes … Or, the baby comes out with a penis but inside feels like a girl. Or the baby comes out with a vagina but inside feels like a boy. Or the baby comes out with both a penis and vagina and will eventually identify as a boy or girl later and might have either the penis or vagina surgically removed.” I smile. Covering all my bases. Take that, future daughter who will always be open-minded and accepting of all humans.
Her eyes bug out of her head. She screams, “A baby has a penis and a vagina and has to have one cut off? That’s sex????”
Can we rewind and put on Taylor Swift and just shake this one off? Or too late? I’m canceling my speech tour.
I’m canceling my speech tour.
For more information on Nicole Blaine or to see her live stand-up go to: www.NicoleBlaine.com.