Let Me Tell Ya ‘Bout the Birds and the Bees and … Porn

Let Me Tell Ya ‘Bout the Birds and the Bees and … Porn

porn_pinAbout a year ago, I had to have an on-the-fly discussion about how babies are made with my 7-year-old after he’d heard about Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s labor experience described during an NPR profile. (He wanted to make sure boys didn’t have babies because it all sounded too painful to him, and, well … having done it, I do see his point.)

But in quickly going over the mechanics of the sperm joining the egg and then growing into a baby as we drove to school, I was able to lightly skip over the part about how exactly sperm get the opportunity to make the egg’s acquaintance.

Of course, I absolutely meant to tell him. When I’m not writing about parenting, I often write about sex, an occupation that requires a certain immunity to embarrassment and a resistance to easy blushing. So it wasn’t that I was feeling squeamish. My husband and I are casual about nudity in the house. We’ve always used real words, not cutsey euphemisms, for body parts — which has led to many discussions about why Mommy doesn’t have a penis but the Kiddo does. And when the Kiddo discovered his, we pointed him to his room where he could explore it in private.

Still, in that totally-caught-off-guard moment prompted by the Morning Edition profile of New York’s junior senator, I had about five minutes to cover the baby-making basics before we pulled into car line at school. I figured the Tab A-Into-Slot-B discussion would keep for another day. That day just came sooner than expected when I stumbled onto my son’s iPad browser history a few weeks ago. And by “stumbled onto …” I mean after my son came to me, nervously asking how to erase his history, and I grabbed the iPad to get a look at what he wanted to hide.

One guess what I discovered? Nope, not an App Store buying spree with my password and credit card. Or the stealthy purchase of one of those Lego sets that come with 10,000+ pieces and cost about the same as a Ford Focus. Though in hindsight, those might have been preferable.

If you guessed PORN, congratulations! You are our grand prize winner! Oh yes! My 7-year-old, who still sleeps with a collection of stuffed animals, securely sandwiched between his daddy and me, had Googled, found and watched the kind of sexual fun-and-games I’d hoped he wouldn’t be privy to until an adventurous girlfriend whipped out a copy of The Kama Sutra. Like in college.

And yes, before the Hyperventilating Chorus of “But Where Were Your Parental Controls?” gets into full-throated swing … yes, we did enable the controls. They worked fine … until an update of the iPad’s operating system restored it to factory settings. You know that Oh fuuuudge! moment in the original Jurassic Park when the paleontologists realize the electrified fence corralling the T-Rex and velociraptors is no longer electrified? Yeah. That’s about how I felt when I discovered that the protective barrier separating my oh-so-curious third-grader from the hardcore sexual imagery of the the wild, wild Internet had been disabled during reset. And fudge was not quite the word rolling through my limbic cortex.

As incredibly comfortable as I am with any aspect of sexual discussion, I had still rather expected that my very first sex talk with my 7-year-old would be more along the lines of “When a mommy and a daddy love each other and want to make a baby …” and less “This is why you need Backdoor Glide and a safe word.”

But as they say in poker: “You play the cards you’re dealt.”

So, this being breakfast time — why these things must always come up right before school, I would truly love to know — I pulled up a toaster-waffle and dug into the conversation.

“Can you talk to Mommy about what you saw on the iPad?”

The Kiddo lowered his eyes. Silent chewing was the only response.

“Mommy’s not mad. And you’re not in trouble. But we need to talk about what you saw.”

More chewing. Followed by a silent swig of chocolate milk.

I felt like the district attorney on Law & Order. Permission to lead the witness, Your Honor?  Oh, this so wasn’t the way I wanted our birds-n-bees convo to go. But it was the way it was going, so I took a breath and started with the easy stuff.

“Did you see people kissing?”

Cautious nod.

“Did you see people naked?”

Another cautious nod.

“Did you see people touching other people’s private parts?”

More nodding.

“Did you see a penis going into a vagina?”

Still more nodding.

“Did you see a penis going into a mouth? Into a tushie?”

And more nodding again.

Gradually (and somewhat one-sidedly, with me doing most of the talking and him doing most of the nodding), we worked our way through explanations of garden-variety sex and its spicier variations. No, fellatio and anal sex weren’t words I particularly wanted my son to have in his vocabulary at this stage of life, but it was better that he heard the explanations from me than tried to puzzle out what was going on on the playground with his pals.

I told him that the videos he watched were called pornography … that they were inappropriate for children … that sex was something for adults only.

“Like vodka, Mommy?”

“Exactly.”

I told him that sex wasn’t something adults ever did with children (and if anyone tried, he should run and tell me immediately) … or something he should try out with his friends … or, for that matter, share about during Morning Meeting Time at school.

And then I figured I’d done all a mom could do. I couldn’t make him un-see the videos, so I did my best to explain what he’d seen and give it some context. From other things the Kiddo’s told me, I know that sex is being avidly discussed on the playground. And even in an open “ask me anything” household, kids pick up that there’s a lot of taboo around this subject, so they share what they think they know amongst themselves. And more often than not they get it wrong — evidenced by this explanation the Kiddo gave when I asked what he thought sex was: “That’s when you stand in front of someone with your clothes off.” Even Clinton wouldn’t try that one.

So, no, this wasn’t at all how I wanted our first sex talk to go. Not by a long shot. But I take some small comfort in this: When the kids take a break from jabbering about Minecraft to share what they think they know about sex, at least my Kiddo has the real facts.

Meanwhile, I’ve gotten a real education in resetting those parental controls.

 

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Comments

  1. ack. I dread the day.
    And…
    “Like Vodka, mommy?” Still laughing, because that is heard in my house, too.

  2. Thanks for the heads up! No iPads or internet until high school! ;)
    I like your honest approach, as someone who is STILL waiting for that talk from my parents, and I’m over 40 with 3 children of my own, I can tell you a young person’s mind, and/or an older sibling’s misdirection, are much worse than the biological facts.

  3. It sounds like you handled the situation with grace and dignity. :-)
    Lynne recently posted…This Is Why I Won’t Unfriend YouMy Profile

  4. Oh, boy! You are cool as a cucumber. I told my son about “The Circle of Life” since “The Lion King” had just been released. We got our first kitten around that time, and he wanted to know why they have so many kittens….

    You handled this perfectly. I hope you toasted with a glass of vodka!

    • Norine Dworkin-McDaniel :

      Thanks Cathy. I gotta say, I had a great role model in my mom who talked to me about sex when I was about 6 in a very straight-forward, non-embarrassed way. (Tho I figured out the “spicier variations” on my own.) Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  5. You handled this exactly the way I hope I will in the future – with kindness and facts. Well-done!
    Katie @ Pick Any Two recently posted…Will This Make Healthy Eating Easier?My Profile

  6. Being that this is an ongoing conversation, I think you definitely got the hardest part out of the way so there’s that at least. Kudos for keeping your cool and giving the information, my mouth would still be on the floor. This also reminds me I get to revisit continuing this ongoing conversation..ugh

    • Norine Dworkin-McDaniel :

      Yes, I feel certain that this will get revisited and revisited. Turns out having a side-career as a sex writer is excellent training for talking to your kids about sex. Thank you!

  7. I think you handled it really well! Good job mama! I would have hyperventilated and got the internet disconnected! Hilarious and reminded me to check on the parental controls on my son’s tab.

  8. Helene Cohen Bludman :

    So sweet! You handled this so well. I love that you use the proper names — penis, vagina — but still say tushie. I really love that!

    • Norine Dworkin-McDaniel :

      LOL! I hadn’t thought about that … but yes. Tushie! Now I’m laughing too. Thanks so much!

  9. We had a similar experience years ago at a friend’s house who was completely mortified when she told me, I might add, although I don’t think it was quite as graphic as what your kiddo saw. That’s a tough one. I think you handled it quite well, my friend!
    Michelle recently posted…Mexican Appetizer: Roasted Tomato, Corn and Shrimp QuesadillasMy Profile

    • Norine Dworkin-McDaniel :

      Thanks so much Michelle. A friend of mine told me that she caught one of her kids’ friends dancing around nekkid and making a “video.” Her hubby freaked out, but she kept a cool head and just got the kid dressed and told everyone that clothes were mandatory for playdates and that no one should take pictures or video of anyone naked. Teachable moment.

  10. You handled this so well! Thank you for being honest enough and brave enough to share it with the rest of us. I hope to handle it as cool as you did. I agree that it is better for us to arm our kiddos with the facts rather than have them receive false information elsewhere.
    Little Miss Wordy recently posted…Destiny Isn’t For Victims. Fate Isn’t For Fools.My Profile

  11. EXACTLY like Vodka! Yikes. I still haven’t told my kid about the birds and the bees. I keep waiting for her to ask. She’s 28 and has been married for 3 years. I’m thinking she figured it out. Now, Vodka, is something I did teach her about. Kidding. Just kidding.

  12. We went through a similar experience when our youngest was 9. I thought I had failed in every way for him to even be looking at what he was and I wanted to go back to when he was innocent. Like you, we talked to him and explained stuff and then threw away his iPad (kidding but I wanted to!). Thankfully it has never been an issue since and we do check!!!
    Kim recently posted…Learning to Let GoMy Profile

    • Norine Dworkin-McDaniel :

      Kids are naturally curious — especially when they pick up that we’d rather that they NOT know about something. I remember searching out sex-related books when I was a kid. Of course, I didn’t have the visuals that kids can access today. But I can’t believe it’s a failure of parenting at all if a tech-savvy kid figures out how to satisfy his curiosity. When kids are curious, they will find a way. We just chalked our son’s escapade up to simple curiosity about what bodies look like and what sex was about. While I was a little surprised he was soooo curious at such a young age, when I asked some of my male friends, they said they started to get curious around 7 or 8 too. And fortunately for us, our son’s still young enough to let us know when he’s done something “wrong” so we got the opportunity to explain what sex was and why it wasn’t appropriate for children. I’m sure we’ll be revisiting this topic again and again. But rather than a failure, I really did see the situation as teachable moment. Though I do wish he’d use his Google skills a little more diligently on homework.

  13. Why is it “those” conversations always come up at the worst possible time? Never when you have the time to properly explain like at bedtime or even on the way home from daycare?

    I think you are fast on your feet to come up with such a good explanation.
    Vanessa D. recently posted…I Need to be AloneMy Profile

    • Norine Dworkin-McDaniel :

      I know! My kid’s got pitch perfect timing for these kinds of moments. It’s a skill really.

  14. Eileen Dworkin :

    Great piece of writing, Norine! And a ticklish situation well handled. He is something else, your boy. Always coming up with the unexpected. Proud of you, as always!!
    Mom

  15. I love that you had to discuss this over breakfast.. good for you to mention not to bring it up around the circle at school! This stuff is just hard. The Internet has ushered in so many delightful situations we have no experience to handle. I’d say you did a great job, though.
    Seana Turner recently posted…The Portable “Desk”My Profile

  16. Yes, exactly like vodka! Stay away! Great way to handle it – if you had reacted with shouts or shaming or embarrassment that would have stayed with him and either fueled more curiosity (why is mom so upset?) or shame (sex is dirty) and that is way, way worse. Now it’s really over and no big deal. Except to you!
    Stephanie recently posted…How to Raise Competitive GirlsMy Profile

  17. WOW!!!!! Yikes. We had to have the “Making the Baby” At a Thanksgiving Dinner, where the 9 y/o at the time gave us the blow by blow account in a very medical manner. She had read one of my medical journals on the matter… Great..

    Now they are 16 and 11, of course we have had the talk with both, thank goodness it was not like this, but well HANDLED. Bravo!
    Although I have had to put a stop to the teens coming over with their computers and other electronic devices and hooking up to our Wi-Fi and then watching porn in the basement. Darn teens….. Urgh….

    Good luck…
    Ray recently posted…When to let a Teenager go to the Big City with a Friend?My Profile

    • Norine Dworkin-McDaniel :

      Thanks for the heads up … now I know what to look for in the next 5-8 years! Fortunately we don’t have a basement … but we do have a playroom! New rule: door open; clothes on; cameras off!

  18. Oh you handle this perfectly! This also makes me glad my boys are all young men now! The world with the internet in it is so different now.
    Susie (The Esthetic Goddess) recently posted…Radical Skincare Age-Defying Exfoliating Pads ReviewMy Profile

  19. I love the candor and the honesty. I have had a couple discussions with my 4 year old about where babies come out of a mommy and I used all the proper terms and thank fing goodness she didn’t ask how the baby got IN mommy’s belly b/c while I WOULD have soldiered on, I was not prepared.
    My husband and I have always said we’d be open and honest and be able to talk to our girls about anything. One day I heard my daughter asking her daddy some very pointed questions about her female anatomy. All I know is I heard her say, “what is that daddy? It looks like chicken.” and after a very what I am assuming was an uncomfortable pause, daddy just said, “that’s part of your vagina and mommy will talk to you about it later.” He walks downstairs and I am nearly wetting myself I am laughing so hard and I ask, “what happened about being open and honest about everything?” He told me, “I’m out. You’re going to have to do all that stuff.”
    I was still stuck on “it looks like chicken.” OMG.
    My Special Kind of Crazy recently posted…Weekend in Review: Running to Keep UpMy Profile

    • Norine Dworkin-McDaniel :

      OMG, that had me ROTFLMAO! A chicken?!? I’ve heard “taco,” and “bearded clam,” but chicken is new to me. Just last week, my 8-yr-old got around to connecting our Where Babies Come From talk to our Sex talk … as in How does the baby get in there? This time over dinner, thank goodness. My husband, was in the kitchen and he started to say, “Okay, I’m out …” When I said, Uh-uh. Stay here, you’re at least half of THIS convo!! Then Hubby started in with genes and DNA, etc. and how the boy is half Mommy and half Daddy. The kid’s eyes were started to glaze. So I just took over from there. I anticipate an ongoing convo!

  20. Holee crap! That is the thing I dreaded the most when my daughter was young.
    Kudos to you for staying cool and helping your son understand. I’m sure you must’ve been sweating buckets after THAT talk.
    Suzanne Lucas recently posted…WW: Social Media for FarmersMy Profile

  21. Oh if we could sometimes just wash our kid’s eyes so what they saw could be erased… That stuff (porn) can be scary… even for adults..

  22. I love how open and frank you were with him – much better than hiding it all but oh man, I think I wouldn’t had a mild heart attack trying to have that conversation, in that way, before breakfast haha
    Fran recently posted…The Great Gatsby: Book & Movie ReviewMy Profile

  23. So many conversations that NPR has instigated in our car…… and its always like REALLY NPR now you want to talk about this.. you couldn’t wait five minutes…. Five more minutes I could have avoided this whole awkward conversation and hours of wondering what is going to come out of her mouth at school.. Oy
    Chronicallysickmanicmother recently posted…Friday verbal diarrheaMy Profile

    • Norine Dworkin-McDaniel :

      Maybe we should request that NPR have a call-in help line just for parents who’ve had to have awkward conversations with their kids as a result of their news coverage. I bet they’re be swamped!

  24. OMG!! “This is why you need Backdoor Glide and a safe word.” HILARIOUS, Norine!! We had a similar experience, only with my daughter who was 10 at the time, and that poor girl is probably scarred for life. She was Googling “cocktail dresses,” only she typed in “cock tail” (two words) BECAUSE SHE WAS TEN! Not a kosher combo in the land of the Great Google, let me tell you. Parental controls revisited! Oy.
    Leslie recently posted…OPERATION BATHING SUITMy Profile

    • Norine Dworkin-McDaniel :

      Because OF COURSE that would come up when you’re 10 and looking for dresses! Jeez Louise! Poor kid. I can only imagine how her eyes must have burned!

  25. Well, you got a heaping dose of parenthood splashed on you that day. Oy. Ellen

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