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I Sexed You: When to Teach Your Kids The Birds and the Bees

I got an email from a friend a few months back. She was concerned because while her two kids were watching TV one afternoon, her 8 year-old son came...

I got an email from a friend a few months back. She was concerned because while her two kids were watching TV one afternoon, her 8 year-old son came in and informed her that the science program he was watching on TV was inappropriate for his 5 year-old sister. “It’s all about how snails reproduce, Mommy…”

My friend gulped. Reproduction? He knows about reproduction?

She instantly fired off an email to me and another friend asking us what to do. Because we all have kids the same age, we often share stories and swap advice on parenting. The other friend wrote back immediately: “I’m in total denial. Not touching any of this right now. Just hope the 11 year-old down the street can teach him something useful.”

My response came off as marginally more enlightened. I told her about a book called It’s So Amazing which a friend had recommended that seemed to provide the right mix of touchy-feelyness with actual information. But then I confessed that while I’d been meaning to order this book on Amazon myself for several months, I’d never quite gotten around to it. Speaking of denial…

Why is it so hard for adults to talk openly with their kids about sex? I have a friend here in London with three daughters. When she and her husband decided that it was time to “have a little chat,” her husband basically said, “Well, they’re all girls. Over to you, hon!” and left the room. After a painstakingly dull explanation of what goes where and how it all happens, her eldest daughter said “Ew! Gross! You did that with Daddy?” At which point my friend exclaimed, “Only three times!” and ran out of the room herself.

Many experts advise that the sooner you have these chats with your kids, the better. In my case, I wasn’t quite sure when to proceed. On the one hand, my 8 year-old son is still pretty naive. He calls nipples “nibbles” and uses sex as a verb, as in: “I sexed you!” But when he came home from school one day and revealed that his classmates had deputized him to look up “sexual intercourse”  in the dictionary and explain it to them, my husband and I decided that it was time to take matters into our own hands.

It’s So Amazing says that the content is appropriate for kids ages “seven plus,” so we went ahead and bought the book. And then we decided that a three hour airplane ride provided the perfect unadulterated (no pun intended) opportunity to introduce our son to the birds and the bees, with Dad sitting right there next to him.

My son devoured the book. He read every word, pored over every diagram and – according to my husband – understood it all pretty well.

At the end of the flight, I asked him if he had any questions because “You know, it’s important to ask questions about these things. And Daddy and I are always here to answer them.”

His only question: “When can I get the book for the nine year-olds?”

Oh dear.


Speaking of parenting, there’s a new book out called Parentonomics which applies lessons from economics to the art of parenting. Perhaps I’ll find further inspiration there…

Image: Birds and Bees by ap via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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  1. Madeleine April 20, 2009 at 6:10 pm #

    I hope that friend of yours who wants some random child to teach her children about the birds and the bees is not the same one who walks around carrying a flask in her purse to parent/teacher conferences. Either way, it sounds like it’s time to get some new friends.

    Also, I’m not sure if I would pay a lot of money to BE the person seated behind your son and his father or NOT to be the person seated behind your son and his father on the plane while this conversation was taking place.

  2. Madeleine April 20, 2009 at 6:16 pm #

    Follow up:

    Or maybe I could just have my nine-year son sit in that seat and save the 11 year old the trouble.

  3. Ariel Kalil April 20, 2009 at 6:18 pm #

    Joshua Gans (the author of Parentonomics) is Sven’s new colleague at Melbourne Business Institute. He’s a very funny (and very young!) guy. I am planning to read the book myself (though much if it is on his blog).


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