“Is VIRGINAL a word?” my eleven year old asked me at 7am this morning.
“Yes,” I said. We were getting ready for school, and I had some Christmas music playing in the background.
“What does it mean?” she asked.
Ummmmm….(Gulp, oh God, really? I had barely had any coffee.)
“Well, in this (Christmas) context, it is referring to the baby Jesus having been born to Mary and Joseph without them having made him….ugh, without having sex. Christians believe that Jesus was a gift from God…the son of God.”
Looking confused, she said, “Was that a word in this song?”
“Wasn’t it? Isn’t that why you asked?”
“No,” she said, pointing to a piece of paper. “I meant to write the word Virginia, but instead I wrote Virginal. I was just wondering if that was actually a word.”
Sex is an uncomfortable topic for me with my kids, but I am trying to be open and honest with them as they begin to ask questions. In this case she had no idea she was making me sweat out an answer about sex, but I guess it was good practice!
Beau is in fifth grade. Sex Ed is not something I’d have considered covering with her yet. Maybe that is naive of me. My parents and I never actually had “the talk”. Growing up, any information on the topic of sex I gleaned from friends, or from watching the neighbor’s dogs…or the livestock down the street. There were a lot of unanswered questions…and I was not about to ask my mother.
Last summer Beau came home from her father’s house with a book called “Sex is a Funny Word.”
I nearly keeled over.
“Maybe I could give that a read first?’ I said.
“Well, I’ve already read most of it,” she said, dismissively.
“Great! Well…I’d like to read it so I know what you know.”
Once I started reading it I understood why her dad had bought the book. Having a father who has recently revealed that he identifies as a woman really brings the topic of sex (meaning sexuality and gender) into a child’s consciousness perhaps earlier than we (or I) would have liked.
There was a lot of value in the book. The topic of sexuality and gender identity was covered in an age appropriate and very inclusive way. There were other important points made too – for example, it addressed touching by others which might make a child feel uncomfortable, and what to do about it.
There were also some very scientifically accurate diagrams of male and female genitalia (see, even that word makes me cringe!). So, she now knows the names for parts of the female anatomy that I don’t think I learned until college (what can I say, I was a late bloomer).
It was interesting to notice how I reacted to the words “clitoris” and “labia” being shared as information for my daughter.
My initial reaction was of alarm…this is too much information! Then I thought…um, this is a diagram OF HER OWN BODY. Why did that feel shameful to me…like something she shouldn’t know about?
Why on Earth shouldn’t she know what the parts of her own body are called?
Upon reflecting about this today, I couldn’t help but think about the #metoo movement, and how women are taught that their sexuality is shameful…or worse, that it is something that is not their own…
That their sexuality is it something that belongs to others, to men. That it is something that a woman gives away or hides…
That it is not her own.
I don’t want my girls to believe this incredibly dangerous LIE.
So, I will answer the questions as they arise…even when they make me uncomfortable….
Even when it’s just because someone misspelled Virginia.