When the notice came home that Saleema Noon‘s team was going to be presenting a sexual health seminar for parents and then one for parents and students, I wasn’t too perturbed. I mean, what do they teach in Grade 1, right? Scientific names for male and female anatomy? Ha, I had that covered in preschool much to the mortification of my husband, and the utter embarrassment of my father. My primary reason for wanting my kids to know what their parts are really called is, God forbid, should they ever need to tell another adult that somebody had touched them inappropriately, there would be no miscommunication.
The rest of the student seminar outlined looked like this:
- That they have ownership of their bodies (Great point!)
- That the baby grows in the uterus (not the stomach) (Uh, oops, I’ve been saying ‘tummy’ or ‘belly’, but no biggie – an easy fix!)
- That reproduction usually happens when a man’s sperm joins a woman’s ovum by sexual intercourse, but that there are many different ways that families are formed. All families are unique. (Um, did I know this in Grade 1? I’m sure I did not know this in Grade 1?!)
- That the baby is usually born through the vagina (OH NO!!! I have some SERIOUS explaining to do!)
- Not to pick up condoms or needles (I have stopped reading by now; still stuck on the point above this!)
Now, I wouldn’t call myself a prude, but this list was making me sweat. Let’s go back a couple (or more) decades to my ‘sex talk’ with my own mother. I remember being driven to school in Victoria, so I was probably in Grade 1 or Grade 2 and my mom, while driving, said something vague like, “Nobody should touch you the wrong way, in a way that is sensual.” Sensual, not sexual. Not that I knew what either term meant. And the only reason I remember that exact phrase is because I was so intrigued by this word, sensual. I stood in front of the bathroom mirror at school later that day, repeating the word to myself and watching my lips round with the /oo/ sound. And that was that.
Fast forward from that point to when I was about 12 and started menstruating. I came home from school one day and there was a book on my bed. Not just any book. A pop-up book called The Facts of Life. No, my 80’s friends, not this Facts of Life:
This facts of life:
After having various genitalia popping out at me, I closed the book and slowly descended the stairs, unsure of what lied next. In the kitchen, my mom was stirring a pot. My memory is a bit hazy here, but what I do clearly recall is this phrase: “You are old enough to bear children now.” Holy crap! And that was that, until later in my teen years when she hit me with another one-liner: “You know you can get AIDS and sexually-transmitted diseases if you have sex.”
So, yeah, sex was not an openly discussed subject in our home. It was really just a few projectile, fearful phrases.
But back to Saleema Noon’s seminars and why, in particular, I was slapping my forehead about the whole ‘where babies come from’ business. Not too long ago, I was pregnant, and one of the best parts was having my two other children intrigued by my growing
tummy uterus. I think I answered their questions fine – no, the baby doesn’t actually eat the food I’m eating but there’s this thing called an umbilical cord…no, the baby doesn’t breathe through its nose yet, it’s surrounded by water like in a swimming pool…- until I was asked THE question.
Inaya: So, how’s the baby going to come out?
Inaya: How’s the baby going to come out of your tummy?
Me: Oh. Um. Hmm. *mumbles* I don’t know.
Inaya: You don’t KNOW? Mommy! You’ve had 2 kids before! Pay attention next time!
Mercifully, she left it at that. I was relieved. By the time she actually had to know, she would have forgotten this conversation for sure.
Reading that seminar checklist, though, I realized that day was coming sooner than I imagined, and I had some serious explaining to do!
After attending the parent seminar presented by Cath Blythe from Saleema’s team, I understood the benefits of being the primary source of information for my daughter, and that at her age, much of this information will be absorbed as pure science. And whatever was above her head would simply vanish into thin air. But I still had to come clean because I did not want a sexual health educator telling her where the baby actually did come out from.
So here’s how it went down earlier this week:
Me: So, Inaya, you had some really great questions while I was pregnant with Alyzeh, and I don’ t think I answered them properly. The truth is, I wasn’t sure what you were supposed to know, but now you are a big girl and you can know where babies come out from.
Inaya: *eyes big* Okaaaaayyy…
Me: Babies come out from the vagina.
Inaya: WHAT?! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!
She literally was rolling around on her bed, clutching her tummy, shaking with laughter. She was not grossed out, not embarrassed, and thankfully, NOT mad at me! It was like she had just learned this really funny joke. Or perhaps like I had said I farted the baby out.
Once she gained composure, she asked if the baby then had germs and I said no, she was protected from that.
And that was IT!
I told her that from now on, if she had any questions, I would answer them truthfully. So help me God.
The next day she asked how the baby knew how to grow. I loved this higher level question and I was able to answer it in terms that we use all the time when talking about our bodies and Nature. My kids know that every living thing contains an intelligence, which we call the God-part, without which our bodies simply don’t work. So I was able to tell her that the God-part was what instructed the body to grow. She loved my answer and it felt amazing to be able to talk to her about what truly is a miracle.
Having said that…I still need to tackle how the baby actually got in in the first place! Wish me luck!
P.S. That pop up book my mom had left on my bed? It was one of the books suggested by the sexual health educator! And guess what? The educator said it was a good idea to leave books like it lying around for the kids to find. That’s when I found out that Saleema Noon’s predecessor is Meg Hickling – and for some reason, I remember her being my sex ed teacher! Apparently, my mom was just doing the homework she was assigned at a parent seminar she attended. Awwww, and all these years I thought she was nuts!