When I was growing up, my parents never talked down to me. I mean, I knew they were the parents; they weren’t trying to be my best friends, but I didn’t get the “Because I said so” or other vague answers. So I try to do the same with my kids. I have to admit to an occasional “Because I said so”, but when it comes to questions about various subjects, I try to answer Jeffrey honestly. I can’t see any point in hiding things from him. If he hears or reads about something somewhere and wants to know what it means, I tell him. He’s either going to learn it from me or someone else and I’d rather he hear the truth than what some other equally uninformed kid may tell him. I don’t get into details unless he keeps asking, but he usually doesn’t. A couple of weeks ago, we had a conversation about AIDS, cancer, and Asperger’s. I realized later that, contrary to my usual philosophy on things, I have never actually told Jeffrey that my dad had cancer. Twice. I just told him that Papa was sick. So, even I am not perfect. I know. I didn’t mean to surprise you like that. Sorry.
A couple days ago, we’re driving along and end up having the following conversation. We have most of our conversations in the car. It’s the only time he’s still long enough to have a conversation.
J: There’s a word in my dictionary that I don’t think should be there.
Me: What word? Why do you think it shouldn’t be there?
Me, as soon as I was able to breath again: That’s in your children’s dictionary?
J: It says “Children’s Dictionary” on the front.
Me: Well, yeah, that’s the children’s dictionary. What does the definition say?
J: A gay woman. Now I remember that’s why I thought it shouldn’t be in there. You told I shouldn’t say “gay”.
Me: Gay isn’t a bad word. You just have to be careful how you use it. It doesn’t mean the same thing it used to.
J: So what does it mean?
Me: God made men and women to have sex with each other.* Some women prefer to be with women and some men prefer to be with men. The men are called gay and the women are called lesbians.
J: What did gay used to mean?
Me: It used to mean happy.
J: Ohhh, so that’s what they mean at the end of the Flintstone song when it says, “Have a gay old time.”
And he moved on to Pokemon or something. Then a few minutes later…
J: So if a man has sex with a man or a woman has sex with a woman, can they make a baby?
Me: No. Just a man and a woman.
J: So how do they have babies?
Me: They either don’t have kids or they adopt.
And he was done.
*I’m not trying to start an argument here. This is what I believe and it’s what I told Jeffrey. I was actually very calm (considering I was talking to my 9-year-old about sex) and I didn’t say (or imply) anyone is evil or anything to that effect (probably because I don’t think it’s true).
Surprisingly, I was completely calm during the conversation. Sex is part of life and I don’t think hiding it accomplishes anything. I hope by talking with him and answering his questions now, he’ll feel comfortable talking to me and asking questions as he gets older. I might even be able to stay calm through those, too. Maybe.