Before I became a mom, I thought “talking to your kids” meant talking to your teenagers, about drugs and STIs and stuff. But when Max was just a toddler, I realized the talking needed to start much earlier. These were the “wet clay years”, when I could start instilling in him some of the most important lessons in life. He’s only five, but in a time when all the talk is bigotry, bullying, dieting, sexting, and twerking, perhaps I should have started sending him messages in utero.
I talk to him about body parts. Vaginas, penises, breasts, oh my! I try to use the real terms. I grew up calling penises “dicky birds”, which makes zero sense. Good luck flying with that baggage.
We talk about babies. He knows they grow in mommies’ bellies and drink milk from our breasts. And soon enough, he’ll know they bust headlong out of our vaginas.
We talk about how girls can marry girls and boys can marry boys like it ain’t no thing, ‘cause it ain’t.
We talk about how girls can be firemen, and boys can be nurses. Anyone can be anything, and play with anything – no matter which section of the toy store the drones put it in. So he grows up with all the options, not just the manly, blue ones. And so he never becomes a guy who holds back the gals.
We talk about beauty, but not really. One of our mantras: It’s okay to be handsome but it’s way more important to be kind.
We talk about death. Everyone dies. They get old, or hurt, or sick like Poppy Jim. I tell him some people believe they go to heaven when they die. He likes that idea. I assure him I’m not going anywhere for a long time, and neither is he.
We talk about God and Jesus – how some people believe, and some people don’t. And others believe in Allah, and the Buddha, and all kinds of things really, all over the world. And some people just aren’t sure about any of it, and it’s perfectly okay to be unsure (phew) – about this, or anything else. Nobody has all the answers.
Of course, most of our conversations are about poop and farts and Indiana Jones. And I’ve also been known to impart wisdoms like playing too many video games will make you go blind. But for the most part, whatever he asks me in this life, I will give him an honest answer. As honest as his expanding mind can handle.
I talk to five-year-old Max about everything so that, hopefully, 15-year-old Max will be an open-minded, tolerant young man who’ll come to me about anything. He’ll know nothing is off limits with Mom. And I’ll be able to help him. Something I can’t do if I’m in the dark.
So if you think your kids are too young to hear about vaginas and penises and gender and drugs and religion and death, hey – it’s just the truth, man. And if you don’t tell them about it, someone else will, sooner than you think. Why not get there first?