I still remember the first time I saw my oldest son experience a crush. He was three, and we were looking into preschools. On one school visit, we joined a group of preschoolers at the park. My son didn’t know anyone, but cautiously ventured forth onto a seesaw opposite another boy. A pretty little blond girl came up to me. She told me her name was Shine, and when I said that was a beautiful name, she said thank you. Then she walked shyly up to my son, and sat behind him on the seesaw. I watched as her arms gently encircled him at the waist.
When my son realized what was happening, he looked up at me with a surprised flush of pleasure, which he promptly tried to hide. The kids may have been three, but that moment they shared on that seesaw was genuine, and I felt lucky to see it.
Now my son has a real friendship with a girl in his grade 1 class, a girl so lovely and grounded, that I can’t help but hope he will stay close by her side, and always be attracted to people like that. And though this is very little and very early evidence to go on, I like to look at it with hope that I will continue to have more excitement than fear about my son growing up into relationships, huge chunks of which I will know nothing about.
Somewhere from here to there, my husband and I are supposed to help him understand his body, other people’s bodies, and their possible connection. So far this has been fairly easy. We have always used the correct anatomical language for our bodies, and the boys know about respecting the privacy of these special bits, on both themselves and on others. They know that if they jump knee first on to my chest that it will hurt my breasts. In an interesting turn of events, my four year old recently suggested that I not say “penis” in a certain context, but “privates”: somehow deemed the latter term more appropriate.
My two older boys know how babies are made, in terms very similar to those Beth-Anne described yesterday (babies come from an egg in a mommy’s body that a daddy helps to grow). But they also know because they’ve learned through real experience. I’ve shown them the scar on my lower abdomen from which my oldest son was born by an emergency operation. They also know that babies are usually born through vaginas, and that my younger two boys were born this way.
My older boys were there when the midwife listened to the baby heartbeat in my belly, and listened to it to. They climbed the stairs and into the master bed to say hello to their baby brother a couple of minutes after he was born at home. The midwife showed them the stretchy placenta, and my oldest, then five, helped to cut the umbilical cord. They saw a lot more of birthing than most children (and many adults) do, not because I was trying to push their sex education along, but because that was what was happening in our lives then.
But in other ways, I haven’t felt yet felt the need to explain that much more about sex itself. I don’t think I’m avoiding it, it’s more that it isn’t a real curiosity yet. My oldest loves telling me about how the girls chase him and the other boys at recess, but I’m not sure he really knows why he loves it. I’ve asked him if he knows why the girls are chasing him, and never seems to answer me because it doesn’t seem to matter. Pry as I might, he just seems happy to find the chase thrilling, whether or not he knows exactly why.
That’s the stage we’re at now; I’m sure it will shift soon enough. As with every other aspect of parenting, I’m trying to keep my eyes and ears open to my children to know when it’s time to take the next step. I’m pretty sure they will let me know.