Our six-year-old son Toby has always been an inquisitive sort and he loves nothing more than understanding how and why things work.
Aside from wrestling, playing at the beach or on the iPad, he loves settling down with my husband Jules to watch a David Attenborough documentary. While I originally added a soft background commentary like, “that baby seal is just having a sleep”, as a killer whale threw it into the air, Toby soon cottoned on that no, that baby seal was not asleep, it was stone cold dead.
I watched anxiously as he processed the hard facts of life and while he was sad and pretty angry at that particular killer whale, he dealt with it much better than I ever did as a child and well, so far, so normal.
When the questions inevitably started coming about babies and how they get into a mum’s tummy, I began in my usual way to try to confuse him with pseudo-facts. For a while this seemed to work, all my talk about seeds and eggs and two people wanting a baby, kept him happy for a time.
Just recently however there was a baby explosion in our immediate family with not one but three rounded tummies, the most important one to Toby being mine.
His excitement at being told he would soon be a big brother, was soon replaced by exacting questions – “yes but how did daddy put his seed in your tummy?”.
I knew that it was time to bring out the big guns.
Teaching consent is a cup of tea. Post continues after video.
My English heritage (I’m blaming it anyway) meant there was zero chance I could say the words “semen” or “erection” in front of Toby without having a hysterical fit of giggles or simply passing out from embarrassment.
While my parents were not particularly repressed when it came to talking about sex, I don’t have a clear memory of being told about the birds and the bees. I know we had a copy of the 1970s Peter Mayle book Where Did I Come From? that I giggled at with my sister, and my catholic school did the best they could with a slide show of illustrations showing a married couple (of course) naked and ‘procreating’ in a four-poster bed behind a floaty net curtain.
My husband Jules, a GP and a very practical fellow, comes from a family of no-nonsense country types. Jules and his siblings were told the facts of life straight up and with no messing around. His dad was an obstetrician and so the words “vagina” and “sperm” were just part of his everyday conversation. I on the other hand have never heard my dad utter either of those words in 37 years, so it was clear who was going to be the parent with the right genetic make-up when it came to answering Toby’s questions.