Three's A'loud

How not to answer awkward questions awkwardly

It came quite out of the blue.

“Mom. Can I ask you something?” my 7-year old princess wanted to know.
“Of course my darling” (a little bit pre-occupied with changing her baby-brother’s gross nappy and wondering what on earth the crèche gave him for lunch today.)
“A boy at school said sex today and then laughed and laughed. What does it mean?”

Lunch and stinky nappies forgotten.

I had known that we had to have some version of “the talk” soon and realised this is my chance to lay a solid, open-minded, non-embarrassing groundwork for many conversations to follow.

Deep breath. Passing baby brother to dad with his eyebrows raised in slight panic (Dad’s eyebrows, not baby-brother’s eyebrows).

“Let’s go sit in the garden and have a big-girl talk.”
“Okay mommy!” (Maybe a bit too enthusiastic?)

So we had a relatively (sorta, kinda) painless “big-girl talk.” Of course I have thought about this before and I knew more or less where I wanted to go with the conversation. I really want my girls to be able to talk to me about these things so I approached with absolute care. I decided against too much detail. I simply told her that it is a special way in which babies are made. She might hear bad things about it but it is not something dirty or something to be ashamed of. It is however something private and special and meant for grown-ups. And she can come and ask me about it any time if she has more questions or hears words that she doesn’t understand from her friends.

She looked at me quizzically for a moment. “Okay mommy. Is that all?”
That is obviously not all! But I just smiled for the moment. “Yes.”
“Oh. Can I tell you a secret, mom?”
My heart stopped. “Of course you can.”
“When you said ‘big-girl-talk’, I thought you were going to tell me when I will get my own cellphone.”

Suddenly her enthusiasm for “the talk” made complete sense.

1 December is World AIDS day. In my mind it is really a day for grown-ups but did you know that there are more than 5.7million AIDS orphans in South Africa? (Source: UNICEF). Nearly a fifth of South African children are growing up in orphan based households. At a time of the year when so many of us are just trying to bribe our kids to wait until Christmas before they open the gifts under the tree, this is a very sobering thought. Who will be wrapping gifts for these kids? Who is cooking their Christmas dinner? I am not advocating joining a charity or adopting an orphan today – you know if this is something you should be doing. What I am reminding you of today, is that we can make a difference in our own families and our own homes. Simply by having the awkward conversations.

Many of our generation grew up with little to no information about sex: the good, the bad and the ugly. Sure we had sex-education at school but by then I already had a different mental picture than the ones they showed us in the biology books. And this was 1995. Imagine the pictures (mental and otherwise) our kids are bombarded with in this day and age. You can simply not afford to be ignorant and wait for them to be (mis)informed by their friends. Talk to them. Answer their questions non-judgementally and as honestly as you can bear. I am not saying this will ensure they don’t fall pregnant at 14 but I am saying it is a very good step in the right direction. Know what is going on in their lives. Know their friends and their friends’ parents. Not so you can control them (my eldest is only 7 but I have already discovered that you simply cannot control what they will be exposed to or how they will react in situations), but so you will be nearby when they need to have questions answered. Or starry eyed stories shared. Or shoulders to cry on.

Start small. Have the awkward conversations, because more often than not it really doesn’t have to be that awkward. Because if all of us are honest with our kids we will not only change our own future. We can change a generation.

This article was first published on Master of Quills


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