My parenting philosophy is simple, my kids started out great and I’m trying to screw them up as little as possible.
I am, I think, more open than most parents. I tend to think that if the kids ask about or bring up a topic, someone has already brought it up to them, so I may as well take the opportunity to get the truth into them in some form. If you’re old enough to ask the question, then your old enough to hear an answer. I’m not saying that full disclosure on every topic is necessary, but having age-appropriate information isn’t going to do them any lasting harm.
You gain credibility with children by being open and honest. Answers doesn’t have to be long, in-depth answers for I am also a firm believer in the follow-up question. For example: Q. Where do babies come from? A. The hospital. If that satisfies them great. If not, they can ask a follow-up. Hey, it’s worked so far!
We have cats (and a dog, but only cats at the time of this story). One of whom was a female. A very, shall we say, active female cat. Minnie, it seemed, was quite popular with the boys and got herself knocked up. Minnie’s first delivery started while we were out. When we arrived home, Emma walked into the living room and screamed, “something’s wrong with Minnie”! I knew she was imminent, so I figured out pretty quickly what was going on.
Ok, background information being delivered, I will move on! Minnie, I’m not proud to say, had several more litters. I’m a bad pet-owner in this regard. What, don’t judge me; everyone makes mistakes.
One afternoon while driving my children (I know, right), they started discussing what the cats did when they were home alone. According to Emma, they probably have kitty-sex on the couch. And it was probably happening At.That.Very.Moment. Mind you the male cats are neutered (and gay – but that’s another blog story) and really not much use to a female looking to score in the increasingly popular kitty-sex-couch-capades! Hell, my couch hasn’t seen that much action in – well, let’s just say since before kids.
From that conversation starter, they branched out into where babies come from and how they’re born. I have been listening this whole time trying to figure out how this conversation was going to end when Dylan pulled out the “first you have sex” and then “the mom pushes the baby out of her butt”. At that point, I decide parental intervention is necessary.
Do you know what sex is, I asked. Yes, he answered. It’s when you wrestle, naked, on the couch. Oh, where did you learn that, I asked. It was in a movie. I learned two things with this statement: (1) I have to monitor the TV watching more closely and (2) this is why they think the cats are having sex on the couch. At.This.Very.Moment!
I understand, I say, why you would believe that, but sex is a little more involved than that. Yes, he says, I know that. You have to use your penis too. Well yes that is true I told him (having decided that it was probably best not to delve into the other ways one can have sex, minus the penis) but it’s not really a topic that he should be worrying about at his age – you know, being nine.
Moving on to the “pushing it out your butt” part of the conversation. I learned that he deduced that fact from watching Minnie give birth. For those fortunate enough to NOT have seen that, it does look like the kittens are being pushed out through the butt. Well at least, I think to myself, they pay attention to what goes on around them!
So, as the conversation continues and I adjust their knowledge, Emma chimes in with “Really. That’s what I told my friends and now I have to tell them the new stuff.” Ha! I have learned, dear friends, that my children armed with information they gleaned from watching cats, TV movies and some strategic questions placed to their dad and me, decided they understood the whole reproductive cycle from soup to nuts. They had so much information, they believed themselves experts. Especially Emma. Who took it upon herself to educate her friends on the mystery of reproduction. Thankfully, she was a quiet child with a small circle of friends with incredibly understanding parents.
I suggested she let me handle the “new” information part with phone calls to the parents.
I take the opportunity to explain that with information comes responsibility. Just because a subject is tolerated in our family that’s not the case for every family and every family gets to set their own rules and boundaries for what is acceptable and it’s neither our place nor our responsibility to interject our topics and values.
As the kids get older, the questions get harder. I never shy away from a question and still answer as honestly as I feel they can handle. In certain instances I have told them that they’re simply not ready for the answer. Dylan balked at that once. I explained, again, how we give them loads of information because we respect them and their ability to assimilate information. If I feel you can’t handle the topic, you need to have enough respect for me to accept that.
Hey, it works for us.