Whelp. That escalated.
An hour ago, promptly as we finished our family dinner, my toddlers asked a question. From their single question sparked a wave of follow-ups that led us to having an impromptu (the first of many) awkward conversation about life with our children. Let’s break it down; I just had a sex talk with my 4- and 3-year-old. Weird, right?
The fact of it is… it wasn’t scary or weird at all. The entire conversation was very natural in every aspect. If anything, this moment with my children only solidified my belief in the importance of candor with toddler Q&A’s.
So how is a conversation like this sparked? I was speaking to my husband about how thankful I am to not have the pain in my ovaries I used to have. For a short time, I was experiencing ovarian cysts frequently and it got to be very scary and painful. In this reflective moment of thankfulness, my children tuned in.
“What are ovaries?” my daughter asked. I explained that they are part of the female reproductive system. I saw her mind puzzled and churning up a new question:
What is the reproductive system?”
I told her it’s where babies are made. My son looks up, “Do boys have one?” Nope, but they have their own way of contributing to making babies. They make sperm.
The word made me clinch when saying it in front of my kids, but seeing their interest and continued questions lead me to keep going. Embracing each question with upfront honesty as it came, their father followed my lead. We showed them diagrams and explained what each part’s function was to the best of our ability as well as why they can’t have babies together or with mommy or daddy. We conquered science, politics, and life questions all sparked from their curiosity. A nice natural conversation that wasn’t forced out of a classroom or dictated by someone else.
Imagine how scary it was when you had your first period. When you first discovered you were pregnant. When you felt stomach pain and had no clue what it was from. Remember the first time you had the urge to touch yourself? I know for a fact that I had no clue what I was touching. I knew babies came from there and it wasn’t to be used until I was an adult, but I had sensations that I had no clue what to do about. I was curious.
By taking this first step in telling them what these parts are and for, we’ve opened the door to conversations about them. We’ve told our children that if there is a weird feeling, you need to talk about it with us. We will be here to help them learn about themselves in order to one day feel in control of themselves as an adult.
We’ve taken this approach with food as well. The food groups are simple – you need protein, fruits and veggies, dairy, and grains. Sugars come naturally from so many of the foods we consume, so I do not include this in a group. Yet I do take the moment to tell them the amount of sugar in each food. No, I don’t read it from a box, but when we are making choices I’ll ask…. do you think this has a lot of sugar or a little? If it has a lot (which most processed foods do), then we call it an adult food.
When they are older, they will have a choice in what they want to eat, but prior to school, I wanted them to be able to know healthy choices. I don’t hide the foods they can’t have, and I don’t rip it gruesomely from their hands as some would like to imagine. Yet, I warn them honestly.
I have a problem with eating the right things or doing the right things for myself. I know what I should do to stay healthy, yet time and time again, I fail due to routines. Things I’ve grown accustomed to having in my life or just have a taste/craving for. My father and his father had no choice. Diabetes can be incredibly challenging, and I’ve watched them struggle with it all of my life. My grandfather lost toes because of it and the amount of effort it takes to keep it under control.
The truth helps us to control ourselves. It may not prevent the disease or the pain, but it helps lessen the struggle and helps us feel confident in our choices. They always do say that knowledge is power, and if we are blunt with our knowledge to our children, it can do nothing but empower them.
Here’s to raising self-aware kids, momma. The world is hard enough. Thankfully they have us to help guide them through it!