Back when I first undertook to write about this subject, it made me squirm. But there is something good about doing things that make us squirm: quite often the thought of doing something is worse than the actually doing of the thing, in this case, writing about such a private topic. Whether I like it or not, this is a very important life lesson.
So. As a reminder, here was the outline. In my Ideal Life, I am a person who:
- isn’t afraid of her own body
- can regulate her passions, but doesn’t need to
- is always willing to try new things
- knows how to ask for what she wants
- gets everything she asks for
- doesn’t get too caught up in her thoughts
- can have open, honest conversations about sexuality with her partner
- is a sex-positive parent
- keeps an open mind to ideas about identity and expression
- is always an ally
- never judges another person’s lifestyle
Where am I coming from?
I will be skillfully avoiding self-incrimination, so if you were debating about whether or not you would read on, you don’t need to worry about learning any lurid details of my year.
Where the rubber met the road this year (did you see what I did there?) was a very conscious effort at being a sex-positive parent. Knowing, as you do, that this is a topic that makes me squirm, it is therefore a topic I would like nothing more in the world to pretend does not exist, and to relegate all of my children’s questions and interest in their own bodies to a crypt and throw away the key.
As it turns out, children are naturally interested in their own bodies. And, while I have no point of comparison on the subject other than once having been a little girl myself, little boys seems particularly enamored with themselves.
Learning how to, without shaming them, draw the line between what is private behavior and what is public behavior was not a sea I expected to be navigating. There were moments this year that every fiber of my being wanted to shout, “Don’t you know that no one wants to see that?” and “Oh my goodness would you please stop touching that!!!!!!” But I know that shaming will only lead to taking the behaviors underground, where they can fester and turn into dark secrets and become a source of shame. Shame about their sexuality is one inheritance I refuse to leave my children.
I guess I thought that these kinds of conversations would start at adolescence. But I had intense moments of clarity this year where I realized that we were laying the groundwork today for a relationship with our children in which both they and we would feel safe, with a shared, fact-based vocabulary. Every single time I felt that familiar urge to evade their questions or intervene to stop the behaviors that made me uncomfortable, it became an opportunity to understand what was happening in their little minds.
Showing curiosity about their thought process, rather than listening to my own discomfort, makes me feel like we are doing something right.
You see, my boys now tell me if other kids are doing things we have told them are reserved for private. They tell me if another kid asks to see their privates. I am about 99% certain that if someone else tried to pull something on them, I would learn about it. The little 1% doubt relates to our repeated discussions about being trustworthy and not telling on each other all the time for insignificant things. But I’m pretty sure they know that this is a topic they are to bring to us when they feel uncomfortable.
Also, this has been the year of learning consent. I’m not gonna lie: Having an almost five year-old come up to me and say, “Mama may I please spank your bottom?” is not my idea of a good time. But he’s learning to ask first. So there’s that. Respecting one another’s boundaries and physical space, and learning to ask before trespassing on one of those limits is a process that sometimes means taking one for the team, especially when asked nicely. (There was an audible eye roll at the end of that sentence. I do hope you heard it.)
I thought I would dread the “where do babies come from” conversation, which happened in part with my youngest a few weeks ago. But with a good dose of curiosity (Which part are you interested in?) and armed with our shared vocabulary, I was at least able to reassure him that babies weren’t born into the toilet, and mercifully we left it there. Because he was simply worried that thousands of babies ended up in the sewer system, having been flushed, since obviously, to him at least, they came out when people (men and women alike!) pooped.
Where are you going?
More of the same, I imagine. I look forward to seeing more little sparkles of their maturity and understanding, which is greater than I would have imagined possible for such little fellas.
I want to arm myself by reading up on adolescence and the changes that happen and their approximate timeline. I realized that much of what I know about their early boyhood came from books I read 6 or 7 years ago. So if I want to be ready for our next phase, I better start reading now!
Although I continue to plead the Fifth for myself, I do just want to add that Body Positivity and Health will play a big role in how I see my own mojo in the year to come. When my body positivity plunges, so does my satisfaction in this area. Those basics that keep my body healthy are critical building blocks to my own experience of my sexuality.
I also intend to remain an ally to friends who express their sexuality differently than I do. In their own way, these friendships have helped me learn to provide a safe space for my children as they explore. The “What No Parent Should Ever Say To Their Child” book about sexuality is being written every day by non-binary and gender fluid people every day.
So yes, I guess in 2022, my ultimate goal in this area is to be safe, curious and patient.