No sex talk please, we're adults
My six-year-old son always saves up his Big Questions for when I’m driving because he knows that I can’t change gear and the subject at the same time.
This time it was the inevitable, “How did I get here?’‘.
As I have always drip-fed my children information on a need-to-know basis, I was fairly certain that we had already covered this, but I was overtaking a juggernaut at the time, so I took a good gulp of air and went for the abridged version.
“I’ve explained this to you before. Daddy gave Mummy the seed and the seed met her egg and they made you.’’
He seemed satisfied with this answer, but his sister of nine clearly wasn’t.
“Listen, dur-brain, Mummy and Daddy sexed.’’ His little face crumpled. “They didn’t sex!’’ he sobbed, clearly appalled at the thought. I restrained myself from saying that I knew just how he felt.
Violent reactions to the news that parents engage in such activity are not uncommon. A friend’s eight-year-old child, Faith, was so incensed by her suspicions that her parents, having installed her in front of a video, were having a quickie in the locked bathroom that she put Harry Potter on pause, removed a screwdriver from the toolbox and jemmied the bathroom door open to a frenzy of towel-grabbing.
So intense was Faith’s outrage that her parents spent the next two hours consoling her, apologising and finally weakly promising never to do it again.
Determined not to bring up our kids on the same insipid diet of misinformation that sustained our own childhoods, my friends and I have always taken the modern approach to sex education, providing anatomically correct, textbook answers to the relentless barrage of salacious questions. But we are now wondering if an overdeveloped sense of liberal rectitude has led us to give too much away.
With frightening frequency, we find ourselves reduced to quivering wrecks by dangerously knowledgeable tweenies who will insist on discussing the finer nuances of sex with each other and, worse, with us, at an age when they should still be playing Junior Monopoly and falling off their bikes.
The full-frontal assault on parents’ sensibilities gathered momentum when eight-year-old Patty’s granny gave the family Miriam Stoppard’s Questions Children Ask for Christmas. It seemed a surprising choice for someone on first-name terms with the vicar.
Only retrospectively did it dawn on Patty’s parents that the book was given with the intention of curbing rather than promoting prurient chit-chat — that the book is, in fact, a guide for adults on how to field those sticky questions.
In an infant’s hands, however, the book becomes a deadly code-cracker for parental euphemism and understatement, the juvenile equivalent of an enigma machine.
Needless to say, Patty got her paws on Miriam and has proved remarkably efficient at memorising and circulating every detail of the chapter on sex. Consequently, half the children in her primary-school playground have been asking us and older siblings a rash of tricky supplementary questions and have taken to swapping lurid details as if they were Pokémon cards.
Hence Waldo (seven) asks his mother to guess whether he has a “resurrection’’ when he gets out of the bath (she gets a wish if she guesses right). Harriet (eight) sits on her slumbering parents’ bed and issues the instructions: “You do it and I’ll watch.’’
Katie (nine) secretly watches TV after 9pm and throws her body in front of the screen when caught by her mother: “Mummy, you can’t watch this, it’s too rude,” she says, sternly. “She’s doing a blow job. I hope you’ve never done that to Daddy.’’
Then my son asks his sister, “What’s a lezzie?’’ I’m preparing to jump in like an SAS commando when the girl explains: “It’s when two women love each other and do sexing.’’
“Oh, so it’s like a lesbian, Mum,’’ he sagely advises me, with just a flicker of a leer.
Lurking around every corner like Midwich Cuckoos, our children are waiting for any opportunity to embarrass their parents. We must be vigilant or be mocked for eternity.
The coup de grÃ¢ce came when my daughter announced, in front of her ever-attentive brother, that she had learned some new words. Always keen to encourage a lively vocabulary, I gave her my full attention.
“They are,’’ she said, chewing over the words like bubblegum and carefully studying my face for reaction, “cun, masburtation and organasm.’’
Holding back a strong inclination to correct her pronunciation, I put my foot down. I’ve told my children that they’re not allowed to discuss sex with me again until I’m at least five years older. — Â