At my twins' ten-year well visits this summer, we were put through the normal routine—charting growth and promising again to always wear bike helmets.
But this year, something new was brought up.
My pediatrician looked at my husband and said, "You know, it's probably time to have The Talk." "Really?" I piped in. "Yes," he replied. "They will be learning about it at school soon, and kids will be talking about it."
I don't know why I pretended to be surprised. I knew this was coming and had actually been giving it more thought recently. They'd been asking more specific questions lately and I was avoiding giving it to them straight. It was starting to feel silly and dishonest.
So summer went by, and I thought harder about how it should all play out. Would it be best coming from only their dad? Were there books out there that would make it easier? And when were we going to find a time to chat when their little brother wasn't around? I asked a friend and she explained how it went for her with her son, and that motivated me to just do it. Inside, I thought they already had a clue. "This won't be too difficult," I thought. "I just need to find the right time."
Fast forward to last weekend. My husband had taken our youngest on an errand and the twins were hanging around my room waiting to head to a family friend's house to watch a football game. "It's now or never," I thought. I asked them to sit on my bed because I wanted to talk to them about something. "Are we in trouble?" asked Chase. "No. I just want to have a talk. About how babies are made. Do you know?" They both suddenly avoided eye contact, but said they didn't. "Really?" I asked. "Because it's OK if you do; be honest please." "You mean how it comes out of the vagina?" replied Chase. "No. I'm talking about how the baby is made. Are you sure none of your friends have talked to you about this?" "No, we promise!" answered Max. They both looked at me, wide-eyed and terrified. Suddenly, I felt like maybe this wasn't such a good idea. But there was no going back.
So, in one or two sentences, I just said it.
"Oh my God ... Wait. What? NOOOO!!!" said Chase.
"Aghhhh!!! Aghhhh!!! Aghhh!!!" screamed Max, as he flew out of my room.
Chase sat there on my bed, rocking back and forth and shaking his head. "That's terrible, mom," he said, looking concerned. "Did Dad really do that to you?" (No, the doctor did at the fertility clinic, but we can save that conversation for another time.)
"Aghhhh!! Aghhhh!! Aghhh!!" screamed Max from the other room. "Max, get back in here right now! We need to discuss this!" I hollered. He ran back in, flapping his arms. "Aghhhh!!! Aghhhh!!! Aghhh!!!"
Looking for a way to regain control of the conversation, I suddenly remembered the "It's Not the Stork" book my sister-in-law had given me a few years ago. I got it out and opened it to the page where it gets down to the nitty-gritty. Suddenly the cartoon images didn't look so ridiculous to me anymore, and I was relieved to have something in writing to back up my own shocking claim.
"What if you have to pee?" asked Chase. "I'm never, EVER getting a wife," he added.
Screaming and flapping once again, Max headed straight for the bedroom window and tried opening it. "Let me out! Let me out! I don't want to talk about it any more! Can we just go to the party?" he yelled.
I wrestled him to the floor and promised we could go once we were done talking. Finally, I felt like the situation was under better control. We sat on the bed again and I told them it was normal to think it was weird and that it would get easier to understand, as they got older. We flipped through the pages of the book. We laughed at the cartoon "boy" sperm flirting with the "lady" egg. We talked about how this is a private conversation, and that it's not to be discussed with their friends. And I added that we'd be talking about it again, and that it's perfectly OK to ask Mom or Dad any questions.
Needless to say, I arrived at the party in much need of a glass of wine (I may have consumed most of the bottle). Chase continued to give me the "stink eye" and whisper "scaaaaary" for the rest of the weekend, every single time he looked at me. But it was done. I'd successfully opened the door to what I hope results in open communication about healthy sexuality.
The next morning I proudly texted, "Mission Accomplished" to two of my best friends, as we'd just recently discussed the topic. They were curious and starting firing back questions. "Did you use pictures, diagrams ... hand gestures?" asked my friend who works in the medical field. "You mean you did it yourself ... without Brad around?" asked the other.
I've concluded that this is just one of those uncomfortable conversations we all face with our kids. I'm not an expert, by any means, and ultimately this is a personal decision that you need to make based on your family and values. Talking about such "big" topics like sex isn't easy as we juggle this daily, monotonous, crazy job called parenting. Uncomfortable? A little. Unpredictable? Of course.
But in the end, kids (at least little ones) are pretty simple and resilient. They will be open with us when we are open with them. And as they get older and things get more complex, they will be more likely to come to you when they need you most. And I can't think of a greater compliment as a parent than that.