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Why are parents afraid of answering, "Where do babies come
It's an easy question. If human beings came with tech
support, you could phone a call-center and have someone walk you through it. There
are inputs and outputs—penises, vaginas, sperm, eggs. It's actually not that difficult
to explain (in broad layman's terms).
Maybe you'll get some giggles when you start talking about
the genitals, but, overall, yeah, "where do babies come from" is a softball
question. It's amateur hour.
Want to impress me with your parental prowess? Try something
a little harder. Try the question my 9-year-old daughter first hit my wife with at bedtime the other night.
We were definitely prepared—over-prepared, really—for the
babies question. We had books, we discussed it with friends, and we would always used
the correct medical terms for "private parts" around her. We went into so much technical
detail when we had "The Talk" that our daughter quickly become bored and asked
if we could talk about something else.
But "Can sex be fun?" completely blindsided us. We had no
books about that. There weren't any lame sitcom clichés about Alan Thicke or
Valerie Harper sitting down with their kids to give them the "Talk" about
It almost felt like we were endorsing sex, but, ultimately, what would be the upside of lying to her about sexual pleasure?
So we answered it in the same way that we tried to
answer any direct question she's ever asked us: honestly.
"Yes," we told her. Of course, sex can feel good. Because
that's the truth.
It felt strange to say that out loud to her. She's so young
and, in some way, it almost felt like we were endorsing sex, but, ultimately,
what would be the upside of lying to her about sexual pleasure?
Even at her young age, my daughter is exposed to the concept
of sex all the time. The word "sexy" is everywhere. The one and only time I
ever took my kid to a daddy-daughter dance, I got to watch while 50 dads and
daughters all did the "Gangnam Style" dance in unison while crooning out "Heeey,
sexy lady." TV shows and movies show teens nervous about their prom nights for
obvious reasons. A scantily-clad woman walks past in a commercial and men go
slack-jawed—even if my kid can't explain the mechanics of "why" that's
happening, I'm sure she's picked up on the subtext. It has to do with sex. She
can't explain it, but she KNOWS it. All growing kids KNOW it, even if they've
never had the "Talk."
With that in mind, what would be the benefit of telling my
daughter that sex can't be fun? That it was a solemn thing, only used for
She would know that I'm lying.
Why would sex be SO ubiquitous—why would it be constantly
alluded to in all of the best books, songs and movies—if it were just some
bland biological imperative?
My daughter might only be 9, but she KNOWS that people
talk about sex all the time for a reason. And I'm really grateful that she felt
comfortable enough with my wife and me to ask what that reason was.
Because that gave us to the opportunity to answer her question
with, "Yes, and … "
It gave us the chance to admit the truth AND it opened the
door to a larger discussion where we could give her some honest context about
everything sex entails.
We told her that, yes, sex can be fun and it can feel very,
very good. But not every time and not always. We told her about how sex can
also inspire revulsion and regret. We talked about pain, STDs and
complications. We talked about pregnancy and the hardships that come with it. We
talked about sex and trust—how sex can reinforce or abuse trust, how vital it
is to trust (and actually like) your sexual partner. We talked about
It was a good talk.
Actually, they were good talks. My wife got the initial
question at bedtime one night and we both handled follow-up talks and lingering
questions over the next couple of days.
If we had said, "No, sex is only for a husband and wife to make a baby," she'd be venturing into the unknown blind.
When our talks were over, my daughter's attitude wasn't, "Awesome,
I want to have some of that feel-good sex now!" She was quiet and thoughtful.
She nodded a lot and said "thank you" at the end.
I don't know that my wife and I had a real goal in our
discussions, but I think, more than anything, we wanted to get across that,
yes, sex can be fun, but that pleasure and fun does not mean that sex is a frivolous
thing. Sex is a heavy thing. It holds emotional and physical weight.
Who knows what impact, if any, our words had on her, but more than anything I'm glad we were honest with her. I think she could tell.
If we had said, "No, sex is only for a husband and wife to
make a baby," we never would've had that opportunity for that discussion. It
would've shut down the line of questioning and, years in the future, when my
daughter was actually at an age to experience any of those situations or
emotions—because we all have those experiences in one way or another—she'd have
nothing to work with. She'd have no context. She'd be venturing into the
And my job, as a parent, is to anticipate those blind-spots
and give my kid to tools to navigate them on her own.