I always assumed Dedee would get the sex-talk with our girls. But parents are not always in charge. Sometimes the kids run the show.
Our oldest daughter Taylor decided that I would be the parent who got The Talk. It turned out to be one of the highlights of being a Dad.
Blind-Sided by “The Talk”
Taylor was 10 years old when it happened. We were driving in the car, just the two of us, making small talk and listening to the Cardinal game on the radio.
That’s when she dropped the bomb.
“So Dad…how exactly are babies made?”
I’d like to think I didn’t have a deer-in-the-headlights look on my face, but I can’t say for sure. But I knew — even at the time — that this was going to be one of those rare and extremely important moments in our relationship. I wanted to soak it up.
So, I turned off the radio.
Where to begin, I thought.
I decided to start with anatomy, but only in a very general way. Judging from her questions, it became clear that Taylor wanted details.
So, we covered everything. The vagina, the uterus, the ovum, sperm, the testicles, the penis.
She giggled when I said “penis.”
“That’s OK,” I said. “I sometimes giggle at that word too.”
She began to relax.
“Can I tell you a funny story of when I was growing up?”
“Boys go through a stage when they’re fascinated with their penis. They grab it, they talk about it, they hold onto it when they have to go pee.” I leaned in as if to tell her a secret. “Trouble is…they sometimes do it in public too.”
“Apparently, when I was your age, I referred to it as ‘my wiener.’”
She burst into laughter.
“I know, I know. It’s weird to think of your Dad like that, isn’t it? But remember…I was just a kid. Well, I guess I started saying the word all the time. ‘Wiener’ this and ‘wiener’ that. I just wouldn’t shut up about it.”
“So, one day your Grandma Deanna sat me down. She said, ‘Greg, it’s not called a wiener. The proper word is ‘penis.’ I want you to start using the proper word from now on, OK?”
Taylor was smiling, but listening intently too. I continued.
“I guess the lesson got through to me because one day Grandma was cooking some hotdogs. I looked at the package. It read, ‘Oscar Mayer Wieners.’”
Taylor’s eyes got big. Even at 10, she had an inkling of where the story was headed.
“Grandma told me to go tell my sister Traci that it was time for lunch. Traci was playing with her friend Patty outside. So, as Grandma tells the story, I went to the front door, stuck my head outside and screamed at the top of my lungs, ‘Traaaaciiii! Paaaattyyyy! Time to eeeeat! Hurry up! We’re having penises for lunch!’”
Taylor squealed with delight.
“I guess Grandma’s lesson sunk in, didn’t it?” I said.
We both laughed for several minutes. I breathed in the moment like it was oxygen, cherishing the connection that was being forged between us.
When Taylor’s laughter died down, her puzzled look returned. “But what exactly is involved in sex?”
She needed still more. So, I told her about erections and ovulation and intercourse. The whole sh-bang. She thought it sounded gross.
“So,” she said, “if you and Mom have two children, does that mean you’ve had sex two times?”
The innocence of her question was adorable. I bit my cheek, stifling a laugh. I didn’t want to dampen her curiosity, or worse, drive her into silence.
“Oh, no. A woman can only get pregnant a few days a month, just when she’s ovulating. A husband and wife make love regularly. It brings them together physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”
She looked puzzled. “Wait….so you and Mom make love now?”
“Well, sure,” I smiled. “Why do you think we want you and Rachel to go to bed early every night?”
It was music to my ears.
“Yeah, I know, I know. It sounds icky. But trust me…when you get married someday, you’ll think differently. It’ll be the most beautiful way to express your love to your husband.”
Lessons for Dads about the Sex Talk
I learned a few things from this experience; lessons that every Dad can put into practice if they are fortunate to have The Talk with their kids:
- Be ready. It pays to think in advance about what you want to say because you never know when your child will bring it up. I knew that I wanted to communicate the beauty of sex. And that making love is such an intimate form of expression that it’s best left to be experienced within the context of marriage.
- Be fully present. It took great courage for Taylor to even broach the topic, so I didn’t want to be distracted in any way. I wanted to hear her heart. So, I turned the radio off.
- Be sure to tailor the answers to your child’s age. When Taylor was just four years old, she asked Dedee, “Where do babies come from?” Knowing that Taylor was too young to understand the depth of her question, Dedee simply said, “From the hospital.” Taylor was satisfied. But that night in my car six years later, it was clear that Taylor was ready for details.
- Be at ease. The tone of the conversation depends largely on you. She’ll take her cues from you. If you’re relaxed and comfortable, she’ll be too. So, have a little fun. I shared the Oscar Mayer Wiener story because it was one of those fun stories that — thanks to my mother — had become part of our family lore. Taylor got a kick out of it and it helped lighten any lingering awkwardness she might’ve felt.
I was honored that Taylor felt comfortable enough to have the sex talk with me. The discussion cemented our relationship. To this day, she and I find it easy to talk openly and vulnerably about virtually any topic. Much of that can be traced back to our talk in the car that night.
A side note for you sports fans: the Cards lost that night to the Houston Astros by a score of 10-1.
Didn’t matter. My team may not have won, but I sure did.
And I think Taylor did too.
Question: What advice would you offer parents for when they have “the talk” with their kids? Share your comments below.