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Wednesday, June 04, 2008


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N's knowledge of the facts of life is fairly limited at the moment. We have talked about egg and sperm over the years but not very much recently so I doubt he remembers this. I think his brother knew far more at the same age although I'd have to say that even now at 13.6 years old, he isn't terribly interested in hearing about the mechanics (even at a most clinical level). I think he felt some information was pushed on him (mostly when he was at school)and that has put him off...but I don't really think he's ready to think much about it. His dad has talked to him about issues that are relevant to him in the here and now as they have occurred and I think that's all he wants right now. I think it has all occurred pretty casually. I'm not so sure if and when he's had similar talks with N as yet. I rather doubt it right now. Will have to ask.

We-ell, hmmmm.

[Our kids are seven.]

Wilder asked in the bath once why his penis gets hard sometimes. (He was 3, I think? No, maybe 4.) I sort of lost my mind and said something about how the penis gets hard so it can go in the vagina so the sperm can get to the egg.

Yeah, it occurs to me know that I could have come up with a better answer (just something about blood flow? see, it still befuddles me).

I think one of the girls had asked, slightly earlier, what "that dark place is" in between her labia, and I explained about the vagina leading to the uterus. I definitely emphasized babies coming out, not penises going in.

But at this point, all three kids know about penis-in-vagina. Enough so that Wilder says he's not getting married, "because I don't want to do the penis thing." (Gemma, meanwhile, wants to adopt, because she doesn't want to have a c-section, having seen my scar and heard her birth story multiple times.)

We've never had a book out about this stuff, and none of the conversations have ever gone on very long, and I've made little nods in the direction of, "this is information you shouldn't share with your friends because everyone should learn it from their parents" (and talk about your mixed messages THERE). I wanted it to be just part of their world-view, but I'm not sure how good a job I've done.

They know about gay and lesbian, although mostly in the context of parenthood -- how did Wilder's friends get born when there are two moms, that sort of thing. Wilder came up with the answer himself, to that one: they got the sperm from someone else. And then figured that two men would have to have a woman grow the baby for them. I was impressed.

I was less impressed when NPR ran a very, very long story about two six-year old gender-confused children, one of whom was being treated to identify with his genetic sexual identity and the other being allowed to identify as female in spite of his male sexual organs. It was mostly frustrating because the story was full of tidbits about these boys liking Barbies and wearing dresses and having only girl friends, and all three of my kids kept saying, "but, BOTH boys and girls can do those things." I don't have very good language for explaining where that line is, you know?

We're very open compared to most of the families around us, fwiw.

"how did Wilder's friends get born when there are two moms, that sort of thing" - when Olle was in preschool and kindergarten, kids would be upfront about asking us if he had a father. In first grade, one parent told us that her son had figured out the answer to how Olle was conceived, just like Wilder. I don't think they talk about it any more - his two-mums are just part of the furniture.

I've checked on this and apparently there has been some discussion but not to the same degree as occurred with D around the same age.

We've had quite a lot of conversations with Chatterboy (nearly 7) about genetics - he's very interested in clones, from watching Star Wars, but practically nothing about the mechanics of it all.

And I did wimp out on the birth story - as both my boys were c-sections, I haven't explained the vaginal option at all.

We're struggling at the moment to explain why incest is taboo. Chatterboy has got quite interested in family trees, and thinks it would be much neater if brothers married their sisters (not that he has that option). Not an easy thing to explain why that's not a good idea, and why society has such a taboo.

Jennifer, we have fielded insistence questions about incest [not that the kids use that term!], too, and I decided to say that marriage was a way to make a new family, and to grow a family, so you have to choose someone outside the family you live in then. I didn't want to get into the whole inbreeding thing, because talk about baffling to a child, and I wanted to have an answer that would include all the step-relatives in our extended families, too.

I must shamefacedly confess that I have not told the kids yet that gay and lesbian people can't legally marry in our state, or have all the federal benefits even if they marry in MA or Canada or elsewhere. We talk about their falling in love with a man or woman someday and wanting to get married, and I figure I'm going to let the bad news about the limits on that wait for later. Wimpy, I know.

Suzoz, It's interesting, I've never heard Wilder ask about a father. Of course I don't know what's being said on the playground. But at home, the two-moms families are just -- two-moms. (If there are two-dad families in our school, in the kids' grade, they are not making themselves public.)

Wilder tends to think-through-things [as his mother, I find this fascinating to observe, it all shows up on his face], so the lesbian conception question arouse right out of whichever round of sperm-egg conversation we were having. A sort of, "oh, but then how...." moment. Which he then answered for himself. I love the charming matter-of-factness of children, who aren't fussed by issues that give grownups fits.

Curious Girl is 6 now, and so far we've mentioned the egg-and-sperm thing. A few months ago she asked me how the sperm gets to the egg and I just said "the father puts it in the mother" and she said "ok" and moved on, so that seemed to be enough info for the moment.

(Jody, I've not mentioned to CG either that there are differences in legal and lived marriages for us or the other lesbian families we know. I don't think she understands enough about the law and government to get it, although that's another area where I've been wondering how that awareness emerges.)

I've told our elder daughter (nine) the technical details - sperm, eggs, penis in vagina, with the help of a very effective sex education evening that was run at her school. Our younger daughters (six) know the technical details too.

I got the 'ew, yuck' reaction, but I said, well, people do it because it feels good, that 'ew yuck' is the usual reaction when children first learn about sex, and that as her body changed, chances are her reaction would change too, but in the meantime, not to worry to much about it. We have been keen not to give her too much information too soon - we wanted her to just be a child, up until about now, that is, when older girls at her school at starting to get their periods. She now needs to know more about what will happen over the next few years.

We are a straight couple, but we have gay family members, and we have explained that some people feel attracted to members of their own sex. The children are very matter of fact about accepting said family member and his partner. It's just the way the world is, not something odd or unusual or "wrong".

I didn't know how it went until I was doing it.!
(1964, and yesDear Reader, I married him)
but I must share with you from a Joyce Grenfell story where the mother tells the daughter
the night before the wedding
(fer chrissakes, but it was a long time ago)

and her response was
"don't be silly, Mummy - one of them would have to be upside down"

I found this to be a fascinating discussion, I guess it is very heteronormative of me to have never even thought about the issue you're facing. Our daughter is only just three and hasn't asked yet about the mechanics of reproduction. She knows all about male and female genitals and we've talked about partnering up later in life and maybe having babies and we've told her that she can choose to partner up with a man or a woman. For a while she chose a man and lately she's been saying she'll choose a woman. Too cute.

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