The other day I had to go to the store to get, well, err, girl stuff. That time of the month stuff. This is not a small trip for me. This is a basket full of stuff. My uterus runs on overdrive. That night, I was telling daddio about how nervous I was while I was buying all that stuff, and how thrilled I was that the boys didn't ask me (again) what it was all for. I have already had that conversation with them, several times. 1of3 watched his sister be born, so he gets the whole 'bloody mess' part of every girls world. And, heck, I got pregnant again when my boys were 5 and 7; I had some 'splainin to do.
My boys are well-versed in the ways of the woman.
Anyway, I was telling dad about the relief that came with the conversation-dodge, and he looked at me and said, "You know, Mr Lady, you know you don't have to tell them everything." I argued that if they ask, I have a responsibility to answer them honestly. He countered with, "But, you DON'T HAVE TO TELL THEM EVERYTHING."
When 1of3 was four, we were driving from Denver to Colorado Springs, and in our hour in the car, he asked me where babies came from. I gave him the 'when a momma and a daddy loves each other very much' schpeal, and he listened, and when I was done he said, "Um, that doesn't sound right." I took a deep breath, and then I told him everything. I didn't tell him the fun bits, but I did lay it all out, biologically at least. You know, 'mommas have these parts, and daddys have these parts, and these things happen to those parts' and you know the rest. When I was all done, he gazed out the car window for a minute and then, quite matter-of-factly, said, "Ok."
And that was that.
When I was pregnant with 3of3, I told them every stage of her development. They looked at baby websites with me. They wanted to know how it all worked, and I told them.
When they were smaller, they both at some point came across what I like to call the Red Tent stash. (Brilliant book, by the way. Read it if you haven't.) They both asked what those little tubes that look like candy were (why on earth someone thought it was a good idea to package tampons in small, brightly-colored wrappers that no child ever can resist, I'll never know). So, I told them. I told them all of it.
Apparently, my husband doesn't think I should tell them all this stuff. No one told him, he said, and he figured it all out in time. He had a mom and three older sisters, though; he was bound to figure it all out eventually.
Here's my thought on the subject: No one every told me anything. Ever. All I knew was that when my period started, that meant I was having sex and that if I could use a tampon, that meant that I had already stuck something else up there. Those were the facts of life I was given. Embarrassing confession: I was 16 before I knew that there was an opening down there other than a urethra. Six. Teen. Of course I got information from the hormonal, sexually abused, drug addict 13 year old at my middle school; she was the only person I knew who was willing to talk to me about it.
Pretty soon, these kids are going to realize that I am A) fallible and B) not cool on any level and C) not who they want to talk to about personal things, like puberty or sex or body odor. I feel like it's my job to get the right information in there now, while they're still willing to listen to me. I feel like it is my responsibility to set an example by answering their questions honestly and as thoroughly as possible and necessary, so that when I ask them for honest, thorough answers, they will remember that I was not embarrassed, or awkward, or nervous about those questions. I want this to be an open conversation in this house. I feel like it's super crazy important that I set myself up as the go-to person, the repository of knowledge about all things teen-aged. Because, honestly, I don't want to be a grandma for a while. I don't want my kids to have kids young, like I did. I want them to have college and travel and experiences.
I want them to own their bodies, and to never feel embarrassment or confusion about what's happening to them. And believe you me, it's starting to happen. And so, I tell them everything. I tell them as they ask and I use the glorious power of the internet for all those things I know they aren't ever going to ask about. 1of3 got an email in his inbox a few weeks ago from his gross old mother with a link to this website that just said, "Please read this and ask me any questions you have after." I got an email in my inbox a day later that just said, "Thanks, mom. That was good information (yes, he says things like good information)." We talked about it a little over dinner, and I reminded him to let me know as those things happened. He said that he would, or maybe he'd ask his dad or his godfather, too.
So, do I think I'm telling my kids too much? Maybe. Time will tell, really. But I think a nine year old who already knows what's coming, and who already knows three people he can go to for advice, and who already knows those three people will treat him like the man he is becoming, well, that's a good thing. That, I think, is what makes a confident child.
And that is my whole job.