I drive home from school with five-year-old Callum and ask if he had a fun day. Usually he proudly talks about the gym class or the new letters he has learned; this time he has a much more exciting story. “I was able to see Julia’s widdler, mama,” he says delighted.
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Carefully keep asking
I am scared, but try to respond as cheerfully as possible: “Nice dude.” To then carefully ask further. Where was the widdler shown? Who were there? And more importantly: did you take off your underwear too? The newspaper reports about the four-year-old toddler who was suspended in 2012 due to sexual harassment are still clear to me. Fortunately, Callum has done nothing improper. Julia had promised Sem in the schoolyard that he could see her peeer in the toilet and Callum and his friend Andreas were invited to see the scene as well. No, the boys hadn’t arrived and just kept their pants on. My child thought it was strange, such a girl pee. “Very different from a penis, mama.”
The next morning I just walk to his teacher. I think she should know about the incident and maybe she can tell me how to interpret Doctor Playing 2.0. Callum is my first child, I have no comparison. Is this behavior disturbing? Weird? The teacher does not blind or blush and responds relaxed: “Isn’t it great that they are so curious at this age? I can’t applaud it too much, otherwise I will soon have 24 preschoolers who will admire each other’s penis and vagina, but gosh, it’s part of it. ” Oof. Happy.
She does ask me if I have ever discussed sex with Callum. So no. I have my beloved TV guru Dr. Phil has sometimes heard that sex education should be a constant dialogue between parent and child. You have to talk about everything. From the private parts where no one is allowed to come against your will to the story about where the babies come from. Dr. Phil so cheerfully claim, but I am not ready for that at all.
Boss of your own body
I get a little uncomfortable with the idea of having to talk to my toddler about sex. I did teach him that he is in charge of his own body, that he should not kiss anyone against his will and he knows the difference between girls and boys. We don’t make it difficult at home about nudity. I walk naked from the bathroom to the bedroom and Callum takes a shower with Grandpa or Grandma when he stays with them.
The last time we changed in the bath cubicle of the pool, he looked at me for a moment and then said, “Oh no, you don’t have a dick”, and then started blowing up Minions bands. I’ve never caught him taking any interest in the subject. He once asked how I got the scar on my stomach. I told you the doctor cut it so he could get out. Since then, he thinks all babies are born by Caesarean section. That’s easy, as far as I’m concerned.
After my conversation with Callum’s teacher I google ‘sex and pre-schoolers’ and come across the books by Sanderijn van der Doef Are you on me too? and a picture book for 4- to 8-year-olds by educationalist Channah Zwiepen: What is sex? Both writers argue for an early start with sex education.
Babies of about five months already seem to discover their own genitalia and from the age of one and a half they start looking for those nice places. I read that half of the boys play sexual games with each other around the age of ten and a third of the girls around the age of eight with girlfriends. Ten percent of children under the age of twelve have had an orgasm before. Experts say children should have a basic understanding of sex education by the age of eight. If they still have to ask where the babies come from, as a parent you are too late.
Full speed to the library
I talk about it with friends who have older children. When did they start sex education? Iris remembers how her two-year-old daughter looked wide-legged in front of the mirror one Sunday morning at her vagina: “Then I cheerfully emphasized how beautiful it looked.” As soon as her son and daughter came up with questions, Iris ran to the library to get books that corresponded to their age.
Tips from an educator: this is how you give sex education to your child>
Girlfriend Esther thinks very differently. As far as she is concerned, the subject only comes up in grade seven, when sex education is given at school. She doesn’t think sex is a topic that you want to share with your parents as a child. “I think it would be better to discuss that in class and then scream loudly with your friends. That’s how it happened two years ago with our oldest, Walter who is now twelve, and that’s how it went recently with daughter Fleur, who is ten. I eagerly looked forward to Dr. Corrie’s lessons in her class. Fleur is another child with her Play-Doh and Barbies and it seemed awful if she had her period before she had the corresponding theory. It suddenly hit me so much last year that I went to her teacher. Fortunately, sex education was scheduled for two weeks later. ”
In the meantime, Esther herself has also discussed sex with her children. And Fleur knows exactly where the sanitary pads are, both at Mum’s home and at her father’s. Esther: “Just because I didn’t bring it up myself doesn’t mean we don’t talk about it. I have told my children that if they have any questions, I will answer them honestly.
Perhaps I should have left out that ‘fair’. I had barely finished speaking when Walter asked, “Oh yes? Then when was the last time you had sex? ‘ I turned bright purple, hesitated for ten seconds, then said, “The day before yesterday.” Then he made a face and asked: “With Thijs?” That’s my friend. “Yes, with who else?” Walter thought it was gross: ‘How dirty. And how often do you do that? ‘ Truly I replied that it was twice one week, not the other week and sometimes three times. When I thought for a moment, I urged Walter to keep this information to himself. My sex life was not supposed to be in the schoolyard the next day. ”
With your parents
I agree with Esther, sex is not a simple conversation with your parents. I still remember my own sex education all too well. My mother, herself a product of the prudish fifties principles – she never saw her parents naked – had completely turned to the flower power side. Sometimes almost provocative. She went sunbathing in the garden topless and all that. When I was five she was pregnant with my little brother. I was told the story of the conception in scents and colors through a book with explicit drawings. Words like dicks, vaginas and fucking rolled across the table like it was nothing.
Nearly forty years later, I can still see the pictures and remember how uncomfortable I felt. Probably that is where my embarrassment comes from talking to my son about sex. Yet that is not smart. Callum is only five, but children nowadays receive a lot of information about sex through boyfriends, TV and the internet. Almost ninety percent of all boys and girls aged twelve to fourteen have been in love at one point or another. And ten percent of boys and five percent of girls in that age group have even had sexual intercourse.
No topic out of the way
For my friend Anouschka, mother of twelve-year-old Luuk, these figures were a reason to start a conversation with her son in time. “About three years ago, Luuk and his friends found a condom in the bushes. The boys had no idea what it was, but Luuk could explain it to them in great detail.
When the subject of sexuality during humanist education came up in grade seven, he heard little new. “Well, Mom, I already knew all about you,” he said. That’s right. Condoms, wet dreams, tampons, sex; I do not shy away from a subject. As a small child I always let him come up with questions and explained everything honestly. Usually he didn’t respond to the moment itself, but suddenly came back to it a few weeks later. The funny thing is that he never goes to his father with questions like this, but always comes to me. ”
By being open about it, Anouschka wants to keep sex negotiable in a natural way. “No matter how young he is, I tell him that later on he has to be careful with himself. Only do it when you feel good about it, do it with respect for the girl and use a condom, I tell him to. Let’s hope it stuck when he got a girl. ”
‘Naked for sure’
A few weeks after going to the toilet with Julia, Callum is not feeling well one night. I put it on the couch with my friend who is just watching a romantic comedy. With a packet of apple juice, Callum settles down next to him and comments. If there is a violent bedside scene in it, I quickly grab the remote and fast forward. I hope Callum doesn’t notice, but I thought so. “Hey, can’t I see that sometimes?” He asks indignantly, despite his fever. I mumble something about people playing around. “Yes, yes”, my son said, “naked for sure.” I believe I really cannot get away from it anymore. I’m going to talk to him tomorrow. When he gets better.
This article has previously appeared in Kek Mama.
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