Monday, September 18, 2006

Sex Ed

Before having kids, I never really thought much about children as sexual beings. Maybe I've been naive, but I kind of thought kids got to be kids for a few years at least, before starting to notice their bodies and what they can do. I suppose it all depends on the child, and perhaps on the gender. I have heard or read about how early some kids are sexually active, and I'm frankly astonished to learn that in some cases, children as young as fourth grade are having sex. Can you imagine that? Can you even remember what you were like in the fourth grade? If so, is it even conceivable that you might have been sexually active back then?

I suppose we all have our own hang ups about our bodies, our own attitudes toward sex. The tricky thing here is to respond to our children's questions, behaviors, discoveries, etc. in a neutral, factual way to avoid creating any anxieties for them. I remember reading in one parenting book that it is important not to make a nasty face when changing poopy diapers, just in case your child interprets that to mean that the face is directed at their private parts. That sounded a little extreme, but I still took the advice.

So far I think we've done a pretty good job of being matter-of-fact with our kids. Still, there are some things that I simply don't think they're ready to absorb yet.

Case in point: Rowan is very interested in his penis, and generally pounces on any opportunity to touch it. (Kemper doesn't seem to have developed the same interest yet.) And he is aware that it changes size. A few weeks ago while I was changing his diaper, he said, "Mommy, it turned into a big one!" Well, this was hardly what I was expecting to hear from my 2 1/2 year old child, so I probably seemed a bit surprised by the statement. Which of course means he says similar things all the time now. My personal favorite, though, was when he announced that he has two penises - a big one and a small one. He occasionally asks me where his big penis is, and I'm just not sure how I should respond to him. Of course when the appropriate time for more detailed information comes, he'll want to have no part in the conversation.

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