One of the things that I am pretty clear about is that my children will not grow up as confused and mystified about sex as I was when I was a kid.
Back in the day, as many of us will perhaps recall, the way to handle difficult but necessary conversations about puberty, growing up, sex, etc was to deliberately and studiously ignore them. Cannot blame anyone for it, it was just how the times were. But things are different these days.
'Wow.' Peanut's voice was dripping with sarcasm, one evening a couple of years ago. 'Thanks a lot.'
'What happened?' I asked.
'We had a ''workshop'' today in school.' She scowled at me. She actually used air quotes for the word workshop.
'It was about - ' She lowered her voice and hissed at me 'Sex.'
'Oh?' I was surprised. 'Was I supposed to know?'
'Yes.' She said. 'They said they sent an email to you. ''Mother'''
The air quotes were beginning to hurt.
'Okay, so I don't keep up with ALL the emails from your school. There are like hundreds of them.' I protested. 'But anyway...it's good that you're getting sex education. Do you have any questions for me?'
'Oh. Nah,' She said airily. 'It was just embarrassing to not have a heads up. But I knew everything anyway.'
'How?' I said suspiciously.
'Reading. Friends.' She said blithely and then added crushingly. 'I probably know more than you.'
And that my friends, was my loving pre-teen a couple of years ago. You can only imagine how she is these days.
Fast forward to the present year. I am convinced that I need to do this better with the twins. Especially because the evil Peanut has been at them already, it would seem.
'They're a little worried.' She giggled to me in a confessional mood. 'Because I told them about the workshop coming up for them this year.'
'Why are they worried?' I had mixed feelings - relief that my kids were talking about this so openly, and horror about what she had told them.
'Ah.' She giggled some more and then said. 'I just told them that in the workshop, they'll probably be called to the front of the class to show everybody.'
'Show them WHAT?' As if I needed to ask.
'You know.' said the incorrigible child. 'Their family jewels. Bwahahahahahaha.'
I had to fight very very hard to not laugh. These are the struggles of parenthood. I chastised her appropriately and then decided I would soon set the record straight with my innocent twins. This was not a conversation I would shy away from.
Unfortunately, the moment arrived sooner than I had expected - a few months ago - so I didn't have any time to prepare.
'Mom.' Papad sighed as he looked up at me, cuddling up close. 'Where did I come from?'
'You came from her tummy, dummy.' his twin informed him from the other sofa. 'Just like me.'
This was clearly my cue. I swallowed and sat up straighter.
'Okay.' I cleared my throat again. 'You know about sex, right?' It was a dumbass question to ask a ten year old.
'Yes.' said Pickle quickly. 'It means Gender. Peanut didi told us.'
Nice deflect, Peanut, I thought admiringly. I then steeled myself. This was totally normal. I went ahead and explained to them the basic nuances of how babies are actually borne, to the best of my limited knowledge and experience of having birthed several of them purely by accident.
It was very well received, I must say. Some of the feedback that I got from my audience included -
'What? The PENIS? Ewwwwww......'
'Where? WHERE exactly, can you tell? WHAT? Ewwwwww.....'
'Oh...my Head, my Head...I was NOT ready for this.'
'Why? Why did you have to tell me this? I didn't even ask! I was just SITTING there.'
'The man does it because he LIKES it? Or because he HAS to?'
'Are you saying Dad would do something like this? I thought he was a PROPER man.'
'Why would you? Why would anyone?'
'Next time, just DON'T tell me this even if I ask.'
'I thought Sex was GENDER.'
'Now I know this...I want to go back to being a child again.'
'But that's where you urinate from. I just don't get it.'
'What if I get nightmares about this now?'
'At least we know now.' (One saying consolingly to the other.') to be told 'It's YOUR fault for asking, I didn't WANT TO KNOW.'
And my personal favourite curious questions 'So do you guys still do it?' And even a bold 'Did you do it yesterday?' after which I knew it was time to stop.
Things settled down again, but I did encourage them to read a book and ask (their father) if they had any more questions. It's called 'Just for Boys.' and it seemed age appropriate. It had stuff about body odour, body hair, liking girls, bullying and also some innocuously put information about bodily changes and functions which I hoped they wouldn't miss.
'Have you read that book?' I pressed them.
'Yes.' said Pickle, adding unnecessarily. 'And I have all the information that I need, mom, and I don't need to talk about it, thank you very much.'
'Huh.' I was a little hurt even though I was relieved. 'I hope you've read it properly. Don't read just the silly parts, read the important parts.'
'Mom.' said my son a little spitefully. ' I have read it. And the silly parts ARE the important parts.'
Okay. That proved it. He'd read it.
I decided to back off.