My habit of eavesdropping paid off the other day. I was in the next room “casually collecting tissue paper from the rug,” but really listening to my daughter and her friends’ chitter-chatter. Layla had invited three friends over for a backyard camp-out slumber party to celebrate her ninth birthday. Even though they’ve all been alive for less than a decade, the conversation sounded less Diary of a Wimpy Kid and more Sex and the City.
I overheard Charlotte telling the other girls through giggles, “The woman was bent over with her boobs sticking out and it said, ‘Can I talk to you about Birthday Sex?'” Where did Charlotte see this smut? I wondered.
“What did it say inside?” Miranda was curious to hear the answer. I was kind of curious about the punchline, too. Charlotte was describing a greeting card she’d seen that day at Target, not a magazine article she’d read at the Adult Emporium. As the chaperone of this group of youngsters I felt compelled to steer the girls back to something more age-appropriate.
“Are you ready for S’mores pie?!” I burst into the dining room, effectively halting the sex-talk. I was relieved because when other people’s children are around I am uncharacteristically uncomfortable with sex and other controversies.
When Layla was four she was hanging out with some family friends, nine-year-old twin girls. I left them all alone in another room playing together which I regretted when Layla came to tell me that one of the girls “tickled her on the vagina.” To clarify, the girl tickled Layla’s crotch over her clothing. Layla told her not to do it but she did it again. I was nervous because I had never dealt with such an awkward parenting situation.
I talked with the girl’s mother. She was not receptive and didn’t believe her daughter had done what Layla said she had done. I was shocked when she added that her “daughters do not even know what the word vagina means and (she) would prefer they didn’t learn about it for the first time this way!!” Remember, her daughters were nine years old at the time. Mom also said that their family called vaginas, “the part that our underwear covers.” It was so awkward and I still shudder thinking about that conversation.
My kids don’t even play with the Ticklin’ Twins nowadays. Though I regret what happened to Layla, it was a good learning experience. I was proud that she told me right away when something happened that made her feel uncomfortable. I took action, even though it was really awkward, and we were both satisfied with the outcome. I continue to parent the way I did before the vajayjay tickle heard round the ‘hood. I am really open with my kids about sex and any other topic that interests them. I encourage them to express themselves and I try hard to be a good listener. Sometimes the sound of my children’s voices is like nails on a motherfucking chalkboard so listening to them feels tedious. But it’s good to remind myself how important it is to keep an open dialogue.
If I ever need to get a sex talk rolling with my kids I can certainly take them to the Greeting Card Aisle at Target. There are always ample examples of boobage and plenty of old lady butt shots. I feel tempted every time to buy the “Happy Fucking Birthday” card when Piper holds it up. But we usually settle on this card (right) which is available with a message tailored for every occasion–birthdays, graduations, and even Father’s Day. My girls make a beeline for it every trip and it’s one of my favorites, too. The guy reminds me of like Rosie O’Donnell before Barbara Walters ate her soul.
Do you ever find yourself having an impromptu sex ed class in the Target Greeting Card Aisle? And what word do you use with your kids for penis and/or vagina if penis and vagina are no good?