I have come to realise it’s not the questions you know your children will ask you at some point that are the most awkward to answer, it’s the questions that completely blindside you.
What is sex? Easy to answer, right?
What is a period? Another easy answer.
Why does he have a penis, but I have a vagina? Straight forward.
Then your 9-year-old confuses the words ‘autism‘ and ‘orgasm‘ and it all goes to hell.
A dear friend of ours has a son who has autism. Upon going to stay with them for a few days two months ago, we discussed this with the kids and answered the questions they had. I thought we were doing good by our kids, making them aware, creating dialogue.
But then she kept referring to ‘autism‘ as ‘orgasm‘. We giggled quietly between ourselves, and reminded her it is called ‘autism’. I thought we’d gotten past that little one, until a few nights ago she once again mentioned ‘orgasm’.
“Autism,” I reminded her and expected a discussion much like we had originally.
“What’s an orgasm?” she instead asked.
As parents we have a ‘reply honestly‘ philosophy. I hate the idea of brushing a question off by simply saying ‘it’s an adult thing‘, but in that moment, my open and honest with the kids stance bit me right in the ass.
I could hear my wife sniggering quietly from across the room as I tried to come up with a way to explain orgasm to my children. Yes, by then Miss 6 was also interested in my answer.
“Well you know how a man and woman have sex to make a baby,” I started, and was so proud when Miss 9 interrupted:
“Or a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, but they don’t make a baby.”
“Yes, that’s right. Okay, when two people have sex toward the end it feels really good and…”
And what? I had no idea how to finish my sentence. It would have been all too easy to just say “well, nevermind, how about we discuss politics instead”, but I’d started, so had to continue.
“An orgasm happens when you have sex, and you know how the sperm come out of the man’s penis and goes inside the woman’s vagina and travel up through the uterus and fallopian tubes until it finds the egg? Well, the man having an orgasm is what makes the sperm come out.”
Miss 9 nods.
“So only the man has the orgasm?”
Oh great. Now sex-positive me wants to have her say and explain that women have orgasms too, and that if she’s with a man (or woman) whose only aim whilst having sex is to have an orgasm themselves, without caring about her also having one, that she should kick them out of her bed because she deserves much better.
Of course I didn’t say that. We may be open and honest, but we also understand our answers need to be age appropriate.
“Women have orgasms as well,” I told her and she looked intrigued. Intrigued but confused. “Women have a thing called a clitoris, and it is part of their vagina,” [I know it isn’t part of the vagina as such]. “When you’re a bit older and you touch yourself, you might find it feels nice when you touch this part.”
She nodded knowingly, having read her big sister’s puberty books, and having a basic understanding of masturbation, and the fact it’s normal and nothing to be ashamed of.
This knowing look was followed by a rather odd moment when she got up off the couch and began walking awkwardly with her legs wide apart and bent at the knee, then asked me if that was how one walked after having an orgasm.
‘If you are very lucky‘ were the words that came to mind.
“No you walk normally” were the words that came out.
And how did this insightful discussion [finally!!!!!!!!!!!] end?
“Well,” Miss 9 said, with utmost sincerity, “I’m glad I didn’t tell ______ I was sad ______ had orgasm when we were staying with them! That would have sounded a bit funny!”
Before she left the room I gave her a hug and told her that if she has any questions about anything that she can always come to us.
I just hope that next time it is my wife they ask.