i made the decision, before my kids were born, that i wanted to have the kind of relationship with them where they felt comfortable enough to ask me anything and know that i wouldn’t freak out or shut down. i had to put my money where my mouth was for the first time when wildboy #1 was around 7 or 8, and he asked me some questions that led to a conversation about erections.
i was proud of myself for being so chill and nonchalant about it while we were talking. and as soon as he left the room i panicked because omg i have no idea how to talk about that stuff with a boy-child.
we’ve had the good-touch/bad-touch conversation multiple times, since they were small. and they know it’s always ok to say when someone is making them feel uncomfortable–no matter who or what.
i always kinda counted on having a male partner around to handle some of the male stuff. not because i didn’t want to be involved in the discussion, but just because, not having ever had a penis, there are some things i inherently will never understand about being a person with one. but life, right? so here i am, a single mom with 2 boys, and all of these conversations are going to fall firmly on my shoulders.
and mostly, i’ve been ok with that because i assumed that more and more questions would arise and, like the erection conversation, i’d just address them as they came up. and pour myself a glass of wine after.
but the questions haven’t come. and that leaves me a little mystified.
i became aware of sex and sexual feelings way too young. i was 5, and my neighbor was older. in retrospect, the neighbor was likely an older person’s victim. unfortunately, i became the neighbor’s victim. i was an adult before i could call it abuse, and even now it’s not something i’ve completely come to terms with. but partially because of what happened then, i always had a curiosity about sex that i generally satisfied by reading books in the public library. (i don’t know if it was the 80s, or just where i grew up, but no one was monitoring what i was looking at in the library stacks.) some of the books were more clinical in nature. and some of what i came across was…not the kind of stuff i needed in my head at such a young age.
i assumed (minus the molestation issue) my kids would eventually just become curious and start asking me questions. there was one question about 5 years ago. “how do babies get out of their mommies?” (older kiddo was a cesarean birth, and we were having a conversation about my c-section scar, and why younger kiddo wasn’t born the same way.) we watched a (computer-generated, not-at-all-graphic) video showing a vaginal birth. and that was that. i was certain the next inevitable question would be, “well, how do babies get inside their mommies?” but that question never came.
we’ve had some basic discussions about gender identity, and sexual orientation. but still, no questions beyond the very simple. and i look at my almost 11 year old and almost 9 year old and am struck with the realization that, if i wait for them to ask me, it may be too late. i’ve done a little digging, to see what–if anything–they’ve already heard. but it seems like it isn’t much. which is actually a relief to me, because i realize i need to roll up my sleeves and get in there with them.
i’m not going to beat myself up about the fact that i’m probably starting late. it is what it is. and i’m not going to bemoan the fact that there are some things i really wish they had a (reliable) dad to talk about with–just because of my lack of firsthand experience. i’m thankful that right now, they still have a lot of innocence and i still have their ears–and hearts.
so i did what any not-really-prepared-for-this parent does: i bought books. books to help me, and books to answer questions that they may have, as they come up. and these books will be readily available and accessible to them. so they don’t have to sneak around the library in the adult section reading things they probably aren’t yet emotionally equipped to handle.
and hopefully as they get older, and the questions (and feelings) inevitably come they’ll still come to me with whatever and i’ll still be chill and nonchalant as we navigate it together.
and when they leave the room i’ll still pour that glass of wine.