When Z was eight and I decided to tell her how babies are made, I was pleased to find Ms. Cole had a book on that. I checked out Mommy Laid an Egg, or Where Do Babies Come From from my library and read it with my daughter. Reveling in Ms. Cole’s droll humor, we read The Trouble with Uncle again too, for old times sake. Both books are a laugh-riot. Love me some Babette Cole.
I know that when my mom told me about sex, she did her best; she even drew pictures. But I still didn't quite understand what goes where. So I thought that checking out a book or two on the subject was the way to go with my daughter. As hilarious as the drawings were (sex positions—OH MY GOD, in one they are on a skateboard), there was clarity on what went where. Z got that. I thought we were good.
Soon after, we had some family friends over for dinner. We had a fun evening with the other couple, whom we’ve known for years, while Z and their little girl, 10 months younger, shut themselves in a room downstairs.
The next day, my friend called, audibly distressed. Z had told her daughter about how babies are made. My friend wasn’t ready to talk to her daughter about sex. But what really disturbed her, and she said she didn’t quite know how to say this, was how Z had told her daughter about how women get pregnant. “She said that women get pregnant when they have sex with pirates,” my friend said, voice shaking.
I’m not quite what sure my friend was thinking—perhaps that my daughter had caught me and my husband in some kinky role-playing game, him with a patch on one eye perhaps. But I knew right away what had happened. Babette Cole. My daughter had meshed the two books in her head. She had relayed the sex part just fine. I secretly cheered my success on the what-goes-where part in my head, then apologized to my friend about Z spilling the beans, and feebly explained about the mix-up with the pirates and the sex.
Last week, my now 11-year-old and I had the opportunity to attend a mother-daughter retreat facilitated by Planned Parenthood. With 10 other sets of moms and their girls, we spent a full day together in a church basement learning about sexuality, puberty, and also playing theater/drama games and activities that helped us open up the lines of communication and build trust in each other.
Some mothers and daughters were hesitant at first, but the facilitator and educators from Planned Parenthood have been doing these retreats for, oh I can’t remember, maybe 20 or 30 years. The retreat cost $70 for each mom-daughter set, to spend the day together, learning about something that is so essential to humanity. I’m so grateful to the mom who set it up and to Planned Parenthood for having such a wonderful offering. Considering my past experience, I wonder if sex ed really is best left to the pros.
Planned Parenthood has mother-son retreats too. (They tried father-son retreats for a few years, but participation was low.)
I hope to go to one of these puberty and sex ed retreats with my son when he’s a little older. We'll just have to get there before he learns about me and that pirate.