Why do they call it The Birds And The Bees?
My best buddy Jill's daughter Lana, and my daughter, Sapphire, have both recently found out about how babies are made.
They are both seven years old which is still a fairly young age in order to find out some rather confronting information. Like Lana, Sapphire had been asking more and more questions. Specific questions. Stuff like, "Yeah yeah I know that the Mum and Dad make it together but how? How does an egg from Mum and something from Dad get together and grow inside Mum's tummy?" It seemed disrespectful for us to continue to fob her off with vague comments like, "Oh, the body knows what to do," or the worst one: "It's too complicated, I'll tell you a bit more when you're older."
Instead, my beloved, brave and decent husband Love Chunks, decided to tell her. It was during the last school holidays when he had taken a week off to take care of her, and I was at work, with no leave-up-my-sleeve. LC just rang me and said, "Well, our little one knows all about sex now."
I was stunned. "She does? What did you tell her?"
"What do you mean What did you tell her - I told her the truth!"
"All of it?" Hell, it seemed like a hefty load of reality to dump her with. "So, how did she react? Was she upset? Did she understand it?" Inside, I fervently hoped that she wouldn't understand it; that LC had baffled her with a version scientific enough to sound mundane....
"Yeah, she understood it all right. She burst out laughing for about half an hour."
On further reflection, uncontrollable giggling seems like a much more innocent and nicer reaction than the one I had, many moons ago.
It was 1978, and one evening my parents took me to school for what I thought was going to be a play or a concert. It was, sort of, except that there were no children on stage or singing but a lot of frightening overheads on the wall and I got to take home a program called 'Where Did I Come From?'
At nine and half years old, the sex act was completely out of my realms of comprehension. Sure, the kissing and hugging in the nude bit (they had cartoon drawings of it...!) I could sort of understand, but why Mum would ever want Dad to put his...in there..... It was about a month before I could look my parents directly in the eyes again, my disgust was that great. I consoled myself with the thought that at least they'd only done 'it' three times in order to have my two brothers and me.
A year later, Kurt Lawton told me at school that your parents don't just do it once for each kid, they do it heaps of times. Whenever they wanted to - which was, apparently, a lot of the time because it was good fun. My nose wrinkled in horror, but I stayed listening with mortified curiosity.
"How do you know, Kurt?" said Philippa, the bravest one of the assembled group.
"Because my brother told me, idiot, and he's twelve."
"Ooohhh," we all went, nodding wisely and accepting that as strong evidence.
Sadly for me I also had an older brother, but that's a different story. No, what was even more tragic was that I got to witness Kurt's truths for myself. It was the first and only time in my then ten-year-old life that I knocked and the entered a room without being invited in. Not that my parents noticed: the blankets mercifully hid any fleshy bits, but there was no doubt that they were enjoying some Sunday morning shenanigans....
In a rare moment of tact and maturity, I quietly shut the door and backed out all the way up the hall, through the loungeroom and into the living room. It was also the first time I had a cup of coffee - I certainly felt as though I needed one. I also thought that, somehow, Mum wouldn't care one way or the other if I had some of her un-iced cupcakes for breakfast that morning and the likelihood of us attending church that Sunday looked pretty doubtful as well.
These things always bring me back to Sapphire. What of her new knowledge of the adult world? At seven it is clear that whilst she has mentally coped with the - ahem - technicalities of sex, she has no concept of the emotion or pleasure involved. Like me, she thinks that LC and I have only done it the once - for her - and that's not an illusion I'm about to break any time soon. Ever. Now I can see why some parents put locks on their bedroom doors - not to keep unruly kids in, but to keep the kids out.