In June, I had to tell TZ about sex.
It started with a question about erections. In the hallway at the YMCA. There we were after an hour in the pool, carefree and ready to head home for dinner, when
"Why does that happen?"
Oh, dear. Here? Now? Mind spinning. What to say? Where to start?
So I give a little physiology lesson involving hormones and blood vessels, hoping that will be enough, but of course it isn't. But why does it happen? he persists. So I have to talk about what happens when you get a little older, about girls and boys and bodies changing, and sometimes it just happens, um, when, um...I keep hitting the pause button when people walk by (which happens frequently a the Y), and TZ keeps asking, "Why are you stopping?"
Suddenly I feel the pressure of all of those parenting magazines, books, and websites: how important that first talk is, how one must be forthright and honest, how it sets the tone for every subsequent conversation (or lack thereof) about sex. One false step and--whoops!--Bristol Palin. Or in our case, her boyfriend. Be matter-of-fact, keep the lines of communication open, etc. One doesn't want to imply that sex is shameful. But really--erections? At the YMCA? On a Saturday afternoon? Matter-of-fact, I can handle. Matter-of-fact in public is another story. I settle for, "It's kind of a private thing to talk about, and not everyone is comfortable hearing people talk about it."
Brilliant, Misa. Very well done.
As we amble out of the building, I leave the subjects of the biology and psychology of erections (check) and move on to the female anatomy. "Bagina!" TZ sings out, giggling. He knows that this is a funny word because of his third grade friend, Theo. I correct his pronunciation.
"But Theo says it's buh-gina," he protests.
Really? He's taking his eight-year-old buddy's word over his mother's, for crying out loud, about vaginas? This is the beginning of the end, I think.
"Theo's wrong," I say perhaps a little too firmly, "And he's probably wrong about other stuff, too, so don't believe everything he says (message about peers as unreliable sources of information re: sex, check). and if you want to hear more, you need to stop acting so silly about it."
I decide that the Catholic route--sexual arousal as part of baby-making process--will be easier (procreation, check). So we go over ovulation (check) and menstruation (check). And then on to the part about the sperm and how they are going to have to meet the egg in the uterus.
"Oh, yeah! So, like, the penis could be like this big cannon, and boom! The sperm would come shooting out of the cannon, you know? Like bullets! Pshoom, pshoom, pshoom! And then go into the mom!" (hmm. ejaculation, check.) Ah, Freud. Gun as phallus, phallus as gun. So simple, even a seven-year-old can understand it.
"Well, you can do that if you want, and it can be fun (masturbation, check) but it won't work if you want to make a baby." And then I explain the mechanics.
The Freudian, trusts-friends-more-than-mother teenager looming in the backseat disappears as TZ considers the facts and says, somewhat perplexed, "But you'd have to be naked to do that."
I can see that he is thinking that he sure doesn't want to get naked with any of the girls he knows (thank you, God--not that he doesn't know some very nice girls). And then the next logical step:
"Did you and Daddy do that to make Kenzo?"
"Yes. And you, too."
"Are you going to do it again?" (subtext: no more siblings, please!)
"Um, not to make a baby. But, and I know this sounds weird, sometimes people do it for fun." (sex as recreation, check.) Not so Catholic, after all. Well, not pope-approved Catholic, anyway.
"Yeah, that is weird...Can we go out for dinner?"