The Talk

A few days ago, Eleanor asked me why we call a forehead a forehead. “Well, fore means front,” I said. “And your forehead is the front of your head.”

She nodded. “So just like foreskin,” she said. I froze. Did my child just say foreskin? I began to ask “Who taught you that?!” as any good parent would but then bit my tongue. Oh, right, I did.

Last year, we gave Eleanor a book called “It’s So Amazing!” I ordered it from Amazon, which was a gamble but still preferable to the thought of walking into a bookstore and having to ask where the sex education books were. Amazon was invented for this, right?

Neither Greg nor I got much of a birds and bees talk from our parents, so we are winging it. I do remember the sex education talk at school in fifth grade and the terror of having to ask my mom to sign that permission slip. I remember the informational booklet they gave us and that I kept hidden in my bedroom and read 27 times because all of that awfulness was beyond belief. Say what you will about the beautiful children I have, puberty was just about the worst thing that ever happened to me.

Our plan with the book was to read a few pages with Eleanor each night, but the book is playful (though very informative) and full of illustrations, and almost immediately Eleanor absconded with it and read the entire thing. A few weeks back, she asked if we could read it together, and so we finally got around to that.

We’re trying to follow the more European model of doing things, introducing all of the terminology early so that our kids will feel comfortable talking with us, and it seems to be working. So far, Eleanor shows no signs of the horror I felt. She’s not yet at an age where this conversation feels embarrassing, and she still thinks that Greg and I are superheroes. The hardest part for me is trying to overcome my own hesitancy because we should not be talking so casually about foreskin!

I’ve told Eleanor that this is a conversation that she should only be having with Greg and I because families have their own ways and times for taking about these things. It is a fine line to walk, trying to teach kids that this isn’t shameful and yet getting them to keep quiet about it. In case all of this wasn’t enough for me to handle, the kid still insists on believing in Santa, and I know that’s another conversation we’re going to have to have because I’d rather that she hear it from me than the kids at school. Is there a book for that?

One thought on “The Talk

  1. We are trying a similar approach! Lots of practice matter-of-factly calling things by name. Zuzu just recently asked me more about how babies were made and I talked sort of vaguely about penises and vaginas… it’s not easy! I was similarly horrified by the book my mom gave me in 6th grade about puberty and convinced that having a period every month was absurd and horrific (not entirely wrong, there…).

    As for Santa, there’s a sweet letter on Pinterest that sells the idea that once a child figures out the “secret of Santa” (basically that he’s not just one person) he or she now gets to be part of making Christmas magical for others! Kind of a welcome to the club instead of goodbye to your childhood innocence and wonder. I held out on believing in Santa for a long time, too (having a younger sibling helped).

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