As I dressed for my day, my inquisitive 4 year old son rolled his toy car around on the carpet floor and glanced at my body. He can easily identify my vulva, breasts and butt along with my arms, belly and legs. Some days, he’s more interested in his toy car. Today he became more curious about my body parts. “Mommy, where’s your penis?” he asked. I replied, “I don’t have a penis”. He probed further, “Why not?”
We have had this conversation before. I imagine that his repeated questions reflect his increased awareness of the differences between male and female bodies. He may also be attempting to understand and integrate this information into his knowledge base. I welcome his questions.
During my upbringing, sexual body parts, sex and most sexual topics were not openly or easily discussed. Like some of you, I received a book and was told to ask questions if I had any. The discussion stopped there. As a sexual adolescent, I gained most of my knowledge from my peers. I didn’t really learn about my body’s sexual functions or feel sexually confident until I was well into womanhood.
Are you one of those parents who cringes when you think of that future “sex talk” with your child? I challenge you to become excited about your child’s sexuality. Our sexual discoveries do not begin during our pubescent years, they happen as early as infancy. Babies fondle their sexual organs during diaper changes and bath time. Some may even laugh because they tickled themselves. I remember my infant son gripping his penis and giggling. I told him, “Oh kiddo, wait until you figure out how to use that, you’re going to love it!”
As a parent, I’ve made a mental promise to both of my children to take the shame out of sex. I normalize their experience of my body, their own bodies, anyone’s body. My oldest son knows his and my body parts by name. He also understands the concept of privacy, “private parts”, appropriate and inappropriate touch.
My easy responses to his questions create a safe environment for him to keep asking questions. I prefer that he receives his sex education from me rather than from some book, the internet, a peer or school teacher. I hope that through our open, honest discussions, he learns to celebrate his sexuality as well as develop a healthy respect for his body and others. Our talks will lay the foundation for him to feel secure and confident as he navigates the complex emotional and physical sexual landscape that develops with age.
How do you address your children’s questions about sex and body parts? If you feel uncomfortable, this reflects your discomfort with your own sexuality more than your discomfort with your children’s sexuality. If you strengthen how you relate to your own sexual self, your children will benefit.
Join me in helping our young ones grow into strong, knowledgeable, responsible sexual people.