The Fornication Conversation
One morning while snuggled up with my four-year-old daughter watching one of her favorite super-hero cartoons, she looked at me with her big, brown doe eyes and asked, “Mama, can that guy fornicate?”
A battery spray of “HOLY SHIT!” questions immediately Ping-Ponged within the confines of my cranium: Where did you learn that word? Do you know what it means? Do we have to have “the talk” right now? Which one of your toddler bitch friends said that?
But all I could actually muster to say audibly was “Um.”
“Maaaamaaaa, can that guy fornicate?” Crap. It wasn’t my imagination.
Finally, I responded with “Sweetheart, what exactly are you trying to ask me?”
“Well, if he can turn into two people and duplicate, and then turn into three people and triplicate….can he turn into four people and four-nicate?” Crisis averted.
Elated that the morning’s potential sex talk morphed into a benign vocabulary lesson, I quickly realized how completely unprepared I was to broach the topic with my kids.
Of course, the conversation prompted a mad rush to the bookstore so I could neurotically research every angle on the subject: how parents should talk to kids about sex, what kids need to know about their changing bodies, etc. (In those days we couldn’t hide our mom-neuroses with a midnight Google search. We actually had to go to brick and mortars for our information and bear the humiliation of our investigations at the check-out counter.)
I found that American Girl’s The Care and Keeping of You provides digestible information on the myriad of female pubescent changes. Full disclosure: I tore out the pages diagramming tampon insertion. I just didn’t think my eight-year-old needed to see close up, full frontal illustrations yet. I handed her those pages a few years later following her first attempt at shoving a foreign object into her private parts. She looked at me with those same big, brown doe eyes and said, “I think I just violated myself.” This led to a conversation about knowing your own body that was made easier by those torn-out pages.
And then the day arrived that no book or Google search could’ve prepared me for…
… the day my daughter returned from a normal day of middle school to announce that she learned about three different types of sex in health class: vaginal, oral and anal.
Cue the Ping-Pong balls: This is why I send you to an all-girl Catholic School? Who the fuck talks to 12-year-olds about butt stuff? Who was supervising you? Which one of your slut friends is asking about anal?
Once again, all I could muster to say audibly was “Um.” And then, “Sweetheart, what exactly are you saying to me?”
Ends up girls in her class thought that having anal sex would protect their virginity, and — separately, but equally as shocking — a coding system was created at an area middle school where boys’ yarn bracelets matched girls’ lipstick colors to advertise who was giving and receiving head behind our upscale neighborhood Dunkin’ Donuts. Holy. Frickin’. Shit.
As we spoke candidly about what she learned that day, I was most thankful that she felt comfortable enough with me to trust me with the information.
So, in my opinion, the sex talk isn’t a one-time information transfer. It’s an on-going and decades-long dedication to creating a safe zone for unexpected questions that become increasingly more difficult to answer as your kids age and mature.
For me, the results are that (hopefully) my kids have a positive mindset about sex and its importance biologically and emotionally to their overall well-being and to healthy relationships. And on the flip side, I now know what those friendship bracelets are really all about.