Warning - Some posts may cause choking, spitting of beverage and /or a severe giggle fit. This advice brought to you by regular reader Louisa.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Birds, Bees, Storks and Cabbage Patches

Natasha's fourth topic request is 'Of Birds and Bees', and it's probably one of the most fitting topics to ask a mother to blog about. Having to explain the ins and outs of the facts of life to your kids is one of the most terrifying things a mother (or father) will ever do. The explaining of the subject itself is bad enough, because no matter how open you are, your child will always have a question or two that will make you squirm. But that's not what 's so terrifying; what's so awful about it is knowing that one of your babies is getting to the stage where they could possibly have babies of their own.

Of course, kids tend to know all about sex and stuff at an earlier age than they would have a century or so ago. With modern times came so-called modern attitudes towards sex in general. A century ago, if you weren't married and you engaged in sexual activity, you were severely frowned upon. Of course, men could do it and get away with it - it wasn't openly admitted to of course, that wasn't the done thing, but everybody knew, and they would turn a blind eye. A woman would be branded a loose woman with no morals - no turning a blind eye for them.

Anyway (digressing aside), in today's world of teenage pregnancies and relative acceptance of sexual orientation, plus the obligatory sex education at school, kids are far more knowing about the subject than they strictly should be. I'm all for having our kids being fully informed, but I really believe that in our efforts to protect them from sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, we are stealing a little bit of their youthful innocence.

I was clueless about sex up until the age of about fourteen, when I ended up looking up stuff in a dictionary just to find out what my friends were talking about. My search for enlightenment was triggered by a teasing session at school, when some more savvy kids started asking me whether my mother was a virgin or not. I'd heard the word before, of course, but I didn't actually know what it meant. Imagine my embarrassment when I looked it up and realised that everyone had been taking the mick out of me. With this slightly mortifying memory still painfully embedded in my head, I can definitely see how educating our kids on the basic facts of life can not only protect them from unwanted diseases, but also save them from being teased.

But part of me wishes that we could get away with the stork stories and cabbage patch theories for as long as possible. My son is fourteen and pretty clued up about everything to do with sex, and I never really had to do anything because he learned it all from his school lessons, friends, and the media. This is as it should be - I definitely wouldn't want any of my kids to be as clueless as I was at fourteen.  But my daughter knows mostly everything too, and she's not yet nine. Nine! I mean, when I was nine I was happily playing with my Barbie dolls and thought babies were made from kissing alone. When somebody mentioned the birds and the bees, I knew they were talking about how babies were made, but I had a vague idea that it had something o do with those trusty stalks, and perhaps honey was involved somewhere along the way.

My daughter was about seven when she suddenly blurted out that she knew how babies were made. I smiled indulgently and asked her what she knew, totally unprepared for what she would say. She said, and I quote; "Babies are made by a husband and a wife who love each other, and they get naked and do lots of kissing, and the man gets on top."

Okay, so she didn't know the precise details, but having my seven year old knowing even this much was shocking. Maybe I'm too prudish, but it was definitely too much information as far as I was concerned.

There isn't an acceptable age for a child to know the facts of life - all children mature at different rates, and what is right for one child is not right for another - but I firmly believe that children under the age of ten should be kept blissfully innocent of the whole shebang. Let our children be children before they find out how to have children.


  1. This is wonderful and very helpful. I have had scientific sex talks with my teens. I got question marks on their faces as a response. I will try to keep it simple when it is Zionne's turn (my 7 year old).

  2. I always thought if they are old enough to ask they are old enough to hear. The more they want to know the more I tell them. Better coming from you than from someone else. I have also forbidden my children who are "in the know" from enlightening children who are not.

  3. Now, I was the one who was being sneaky. I can see the questions forming in the mind of my (almost) seven year old, and I wanted to know how a mother with kids a little older than mine had coped.
    I've never been comfortable telling my kids that birds and bees make babies, but when and how does one really tell them the truth without confusing them?

    That cartoon was really great, BTW.