By E.J. Gordon
*All names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.
I have this nine-year-old boy who is a little too wise beyond his years. His brain never, ever turns off. He began asking me about how babies are made when he was just four. I delicately put him off by giving him only the broad strokes for years. By the time he was in grade school, he was really pressing the issue, so I decided that I wanted to be the one to control the narrative, that I wanted to be the one to dole out the information, making sure I was clear with him that sex was serious and special and all that crap. I knew he would keep it to himself and not go spread it around the proverbial locker-room. And, he was really good about that, not even telling his best buddy, Billy, who, while just as curious as my boy, could NOT have handled the information that young, and would certainly not have been able to keep it to himself. And the information I gave my son seemed to satisfy him for a few years.
And then …
A month ago, my son walked in the house after a long, hard day of fourth grade and said: “Mom, what does 69 have to do with sex?”
I’d anticipated a lot of questions from my perpetually inquisitive kid, but somehow I was not expecting this one. Taken aback, I said: ‘Um, why do you think THAT has to do with sex?’
“Because every time the number comes up, everyone laughs. I asked one of my friends why, and he said that it was a Sex Number. Is it because the round part of the nine is like boobs or something?”
And then I had many thoughts fighting for attention in my head: Say, “yes” and let it go. No, that’s lying — you told him he could always talk to you about this stuff and now you’re showing him you can’t. NO! He’s too young — telling him the truth would be crossing a line — oral sex is not an appropriate conversation for his age!
Finally, aloud I said, “Honey, I know I said I’d answer all of your questions about sex, but I’m thinking this is really too much information for someone your age. I’m not even sure you should hear about it from me. Maybe this is something you should learn about from talking to your buddies as you get older.”
Picking up on a possible angle, he countered, “You DID tell me I could ask you anything. If you don’t tell me, then I won’t believe that I can come to you.”
OUCH. Still, I held my very shaky ground, “I’m going to wait on this one.”
Shut down, he let it go.
Later that night I relayed the conversation to my husband, and he said, “No, do not tell him. It’s too inappropriate.” So while I still struggled with my Open-Door-Policy turning into an only SOMETIMES-Open-Door-Policy, I wasn’t going to go against my husband. We were a team.
And then …
A day or two later, my son’s best buddy, Billy, was over. Somehow the boys brought the topic up again, and Billy, with a huge grin, said: “My mom told me what 69-ing is.”
“Really?” I asked. I saw Billy’s mom as an amazing mother; we shared the same values, and since she has older kids, I often would call her for advice. I was somewhat surprised that she had told Billy about this, which as far as I knew, he hadn’t even been given the Sex Talk yet.
“Yeah,” Billy nodded. “And she told me about sex too. Can I tell him about 69?” he asked very excitedly.
My son looked at me and said, “You did tell me I could find out from my friends!!”
So here I was, busted by my own words, and I was still questioning whether or not I should have told him, and now I felt like I couldn’t tell him, since my husband had said no, and I didn’t want to fight with him so … I said fine. And honestly, I wasn’t even sure what his mom would have told him, so for all I knew, it could be some innocuous little sex myth.
Billy took my kid into the other room and whispered to him. And then he couldn’t resist it, and said, I’ll tell you too!’ and whispered into my ear. And YES, he did know.
I looked at the boys and said: “I just want to clarify something. This thing you’re discussing is not about love; it’s just a position that people giggle about, but it’s not like sex, which most people grow up and do as adults. Not everyone does this; people just think it’s a funny thing to talk about.”
My son turned to me and said, “So have you ever done IT?”
Again, I have that loud fight wrestling around in my head. How honest should I be? I always said I wouldn’t lie to him, but he does NOT need to know this. If I say YES, it will either scar or encourage him. If I say NO, then I risk him one day thinking I don’t know enough about “modern” sex to give him advice.
A conversation popped into my head — it’s a memory of me driving my grandma somewhere, and she said, “I can’t believe all of this business with our President Clinton. I remember the first time I ever heard of this falitco … whatever it’s called.”
“Yes, that’s it, fellatio. Poppa read to me about it from the dictionary. I couldn’t believe people did that! Your Poppa and I never even saw each other naked. We would meet under the covers with the lights off.”
Wow, I thought, old people knew nothing about modern sex. Finally, I remembered a line from our talks about drugs, and I told my son: “You know, I’m not going to discuss with you that part of my life because it’s not relevant, it’s not your business, and there are certain things you just don’t need to know about your parents.”
Later, I called Billy’s mom and reiterated the details of my discussion with the boys. She told me that she finally had to tell her son about sex despite his penchant for discussing inappropriate topics because all of the kids on his basketball team were talking about it and making him feel bad, both directly and indirectly, about not knowing. About a month after she told him, he asked her about 69, and she told him the truth. She ended the discussion with me by saying, “I’m so happy he is coming to me with these questions. I want him to always come to me.”
That night when I put my son to bed, I sat down and said, “Honey, I just want to apologize to you about something. I had told you that you could always come to me with sex questions, and I let you down when I didn’t answer you right away. The truth is that these topics can make adults uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t discuss them. From now on I’ll try to answer all your questions.”
He smiled and said, “I’m just so glad I finally know what 69 is. I don’t get it though, I mean, on a girl, what do you suck on?”
Me: “Ummmm …” — and again I’m faced with eating my own words (so to speak.) “Well…”
Him: “It’s kind of gross, doing that to a girl.”
Me: “It doesn’t really appeal to me either.” With that I got up and skulked to the door.
Him: “I’m just so happy you and Daddy don’t do that.”
Me: “Night, Babe.”
The truth is that when it comes to your first child, it’s all one giant experiment. You never know if the seeds you’re sowing now will lead to the crop you’ve imagined. You can really ONLY operate on your experience, your principles, and your gut.
And while some people might think any conversation with a nine-year-old kid about oral sex is wildly inappropriate, unfortunately it’s simply a sign of how inundated our children are with the ubiquitous sexual messages sent by their music, movie, TV, and sports heroes.
My six year old might be able to walk around singing that horrible song about getting a whistle blown and not think anything of it, but all it takes for my astute nine year old to think that it’s about something else is one giggle from an older kid at a pool or on a bus somewhere.
Rather than shaking my fist at Pop Culture, or closing my eyes and telling myself that my imagined sphere of control around my kids will protect them until they reach an age when suddenly I will deem all grown-up stuff appropriate — I will deal with it.
And I DO know that my experience, my principles, and my gut all tell me that talking to my kids about everything and anything will always be BETTER than simply telling them that they’re too young to be asking.
Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: E.J. Gordon is a freelance writer, a regular contributor to GIRLillaWarfare, and “Sexpert”. Have any questions or topics that you would like her to address? Remember: No subject is taboo, and Anonymity is accepted. Contact E.J. at: EJGordon529@gmail.com.< back