I’m not a parenting expert, not by a long shot; I’m more of a “fly by the seat of your pants” kinda girl (the fact that I’m quoting a fictional hooker has probably undermined any potential expertise I’d have gained, anyway…). Having said that, I like to think that Husband and I are doing a reasonable job of raising Sausage, who’s a kind, bright, inquisitive little girl and one of the things that has set us in good stead is our ‘no-bullshit’ rule.
When I was pregnant with Sausage, Husband and I made a pact that if we were ever in a position to explain something to her properly, we’d never whitewash her the way some parents do and would do our best to always explain things in a kid-friendly, but accurate manner. This is as much for our benefit as it is for hers. From our point of view, it means that we’ll never be in the tricky position of trying to think up some elaborate tale about the ways of the world, plus it’ll instill a sense of trust between us all. I often think that the more parents lie to their kids when they’re little, about things which are easily explainable, the more potential damage they could be doing to their relationship. Imagine growing up being told fairy stories about every fact of life, then having to learn it all the hard way when you’re older, not knowing if what your parents told you about anything was ever true.
From Sausage’s point of view, I like to think that giving her information does a few things – firstly, it instils a sense of trust from us because we credit her with being logical and reasonable enough to be able to be given facts. Also, I link to think it brings us closer together. If, when she’s older, she knows that she can talk to Mum and Dad about anything, without having to watch us squirm with discomfort at “awkward” questions, she’s more likely to come to us for the really important stuff. And, on a totally different note, I’d much rather she learn about the science of reproduction from us than from her peers, who (I hope…) know a lot less about it than we do!
I’m always surprised that parents are reluctant to let their kids have sex education during primary school, too. The way I see it is that if you’re not able to give your child the information they need about sex, then why not feel relieved that a professional is doing your job for you? I completely refute the premise that teaching kids about sex will make them go out and do it – we taught Sausage the basic principle of nuclear fission once, but she’s not out trying to procure fissile materials. Kids aren’t sheep and I think many parents fail to credit them with enough intelligence and maturity to deal with cold, hard facts. If anything, teaching them that SEX leads to BABIES might make them think twice about unprotected sex.
The thing with kids (and some sciences, for that matter) is that there’s always a level to which you can break things down where they get the information they need, without making it too graphic. We’ve told Sausage that females have an egg and men have a different type of cell, called a sperm and they fit together like pieces of a puzzle. The Dad gives his sperm to the Mum and it fertilizes the egg, then it lives in the Mum’s tummy for nine months so that it can grow into a baby. She was more than satisfied with this description and we didn’t need to go into details about HOW daddy gives mummy the sperm (although, it may occur to her to ask when she gets older). That’s the easiest way to break it down, for us, it doesn’t go into unnecessary detail (which I think would probably just confuse her at her age anyway) and allows us to give an accurate and totally squirm-free explanation.
Sausage found a book in the library called the Flip Flap Body Book, which tackles How Babies Are Made in a way that we were really comfortable with and I highly recommend it if your little ones are asking questions that you aren’t happy to answer (if you read the Amazon reviews, people are saying that it’s even good for up to 9-year-olds, so don’t feel like you’ve missed the boat if you’ve never tackled the subject with your child).
All in all, I genuinely think that honesty is the best policy when it comes to kids, especially when it’s something like this which can, in reality, be so easily explained in a way that suits you both.