I was going to title this post, “What the birds and the bees taught me about marriage.” Then I realized that the stories I am about to tell could be quite controversial. Many of you might want to leave comments about how I am the worst mother in the world. It’s for this reason that I’m splitting this post into two parts. Today comes two stories about honesty and your chance to tell me that you think I should be incarcerated. Tomorrow comes how to apply it all to your marriage.
A recent conversation with my 7 year old went like this.
Kid: “Mommy, do you know that there are people who have gotten drunk before?”
Me: “Yes, I know this. As a matter of fact, I’ve gotten drunk before.”
Kid: “No way! Really!?! Wow! You? No! Really? What was it like?”
Me: “I didn’t like it that much. It made me feel out of control and I was really sick the next day. I didn’t like that. That’s why I hardly ever drink. It makes Mommy sick.”
Kid: “I don’t think I ever want to get drunk.”
Kid sits and looks pensive for a while.
Kid: “Does Daddy know?”
Me: “Yeah, Daddy knows. And you know what? He’s gotten drunk before, too.”
Kid: “No way! Are you joking with me?”
Me: “No, I’m not joking. And here’s something that is really going to blow your mind. GRANDMA has been drunk before!”
Kid: “Whaaaaaaat? Grandma?!?”
Me: “I know! And when she got drunk, she accidentally threw her scarf in the toilet!”
Kid: “I’m never getting drunk.”
I’m sitting outside and enjoying a beautiful evening with my 7 year old.
Kid: “How do babies get made?”
Me: “Well you already know that they come out of a mommy’s belly, right?”
Kid: “Yeah but how does the baby get in the mommy’s belly?”
Long silence as I weigh pros and cons of different answers.
Me: “It happens when a boy puts his penis in a girl’s vagina.”
Kid looks as if I told her that the wonderful dinner we just consumed was really composed of our pet dog.
Kid: “What? No way! No! You’re joking, right? Are you joking? You’re joking?”
Me: “No, that’s really how they get there. Does this bother you?”
Kid: “No, well…..Does it hurt?”
Me: “Only if the boy does it wrong.”
Kid, looking very relieved: “Oh! That’s good!”
Me: “You don’t have to worry about this for a really long time. But when the time comes, I’ll tell you what you need to know so the boy doesn’t do it wrong.”
Kid: “Thank you!”
Me: “Now, honey, most of your friends don’t know about this. Just like you know curse words but you don’t say them because it’s not polite, it’s important not to talk about this at school. Some parents might not think their kids are ready to know this yet. Okay?”
Kid: “Sure Mommy. It’s our secret.”
Later I tell my husband about the conversation.
Husband: “You told her what!?!”
Me: “I told her the truth. Should I have told her that babies come from storks? That it’s magic?”
Him: “No, but what about telling her that babies are made when a man loves a woman and a woman loves a man or something like that?”
Me: “So then as soon as she kinda likes someone she’s going to start worrying about accidentally getting pregnant? I don’t think so.”
Him: “But still.”
Me: “What would you have told her?”
Him: “I would have told her to ask her mommy.”
Me: “That’s what I thought.”
A little commentary: I’m a big fan of honesty, if you couldn’t tell. I often think that people shy away from honesty in an attempt to protect others. Yet I think dishonesty actually hurts more than it helps. That’s why, when I was chatting live with ABC viewers yesterday about teens and dating, nearly all of my suggestions had to do with honesty. You can access the chat here. Watch the video here: video?id=8343892
Tomorrow: What this all has to do with marriage.
Now: Would you have been as honest with your child? Or would you have been evasive? Is honesty always the best policy? Or are there times when it’s better to practice the subtle art of subterfuge? What’s your take?
A professional journalist, Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir of how she saved her marriage, and coauthor of Pitch Perfect, a must-read if you've ever had a sense of dread tie up your insides before a speech, presentation, or conversation. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.