Talking sex with a 10-year-old

A few weeks ago, O my 10-year-old firstborn and I spoke about sex. She was reading Mayil Will Not Be Quiet, a fantastic book co-authored by this writer.

Though she enjoyed the book, she stopped midway and said she didn’t think it was ‘right for her age’. She said it spoke about periods (which she is already aware of) and ‘other things’. Because I enjoy GB’s blog a lot, I assumed that there would not be anything amiss, and asked O to continue reading the book. After which I read it, cover to cover, in one go.

Later I asked O what bothered her about the book and she said the kids talk about ‘bad stuff’ like ‘sex’ (which was whispered).

Apparently, her classmates talk about ‘sex’, and little miss in a self-righteous fashion told her friends it was ‘wrong’ and that she would not talk to them.

Now there were so many issues to tackle here. First, her concept that sex was a bad thing. Then, that those who spoke of it were bad. R and I are not judgmental, and fight very hard not to have ‘labeling’ conversations at home in front of the kids, which includes moral and immoral points of view, race, religion etc.

Yet, she would ask me if it was ‘wrong’ to wear a strapless dress, because she likes it and wants one.

R would prefer it if she were in a spacesuit, but doesn’t push it too much. I on the other hand am the opposite extreme and don’t want her to feel she cannot wear certain clothes or dress in a certain manner because ‘it’s wrong’.

So for the strapless issue, I told her she was too young to actually manage it, as it might be an uncomfortable dress to run and jump and fool around in with her friends, and suggested that we put a tiny strap on. When she feels she is going to spend a whole evening walking around daintily, we’ll get her a nice strapless dress.

I grew up with father who kept telling us what was acceptable clothing for a woman and what wasn’t (no-no to sleeveless and short clothes), not that we took his dos and don’ts seriously. There is another story to that, but that’s for later.

I digress. Back to O and Mayil and Sex. I told her sex wasn’t a bad thing, but it shouldn’t be her concern at this age. That she should always weigh what’s important and what’s not, what she should focus on at a point of time in life, and what she shouldn’t. That sex means a lot of responsibility too, which she is too young now for me to explain in detail. (I already told you I’m a gawky parent).

Am not sure if I could have used a different script effectively.

Anyways, more importantly, I had to tell her that just because someone talks about something she is not comfortable listening to, or she feels is not right, doesn’t make that person ‘bad’ and she shouldn’t be quick to judge. Unless of course it’s someone who is being abusive or violent. Then raise hell and damn the person.

Though she did tell me I was as cool a mum as Mayil’s, and gave me a patient hearing, I don’t think she is convinced. Just as she is not convinced it’s ok for men to marry men and women to marry women, even if her mum says so.

You see, at the moment what her friends and teachers think seem more important to her than what I have to say. I can only hope that in due time my words will have some clout in that young impressionable heart and mind of hers.

Here is why I feel we shouldn’t at any stage tell our kids sex is bad. Because regardless of our opinion on the subject, they will have sex, and trends show, at a much earlier age than their parents.

If it’s in their head that it’s bad thing to do (who came up with that nonsense I wonder), they will not speak about it, and do it ‘in shame’ (gotta be Indian to understand this). Which means they will not be empowered enough to protect themselves physically or emotionally, and in all likelihood are going to confuse sexual gratification with actual relationships. Which means they might pile up regrets.

No, I am not spitting out ‘modern mum’ gyan. I am speaking from my experiences and that of my closest friends.

The more tyrannically strict the parent was, the more dangerous the child’s habits.

I am glad that this book gave me an opportunity to start this conversation with O.

I highly recommend this book for both adults and children.

Here is another reason why:

Mayil’s mum tells her that not everyone is beautiful, some people are really ugly. But each one decides how beautiful they want to be.

I absolutely loved that thought. Be beautiful people.

 

About

Umm Oviya + Nilah = Mother of Oviya + Nilah. Because in the Arab world a woman is first addressed as bint X (daughter of X) and then once she has a son (Y) she is Umm Y. I am not sexist, so don't mind surrendering my identity to my daughters.

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6 comments on “Talking sex with a 10-year-old
  1. Navina Anand says:

    Need to check that book out :) I don’t know anybody who is not gawky in these moments :) Well done… ‘enough’ ?? :)

  2. Phew!! that was a tough one, I am always apprehensive these days, because my 10 year old is also reading quite a bit, but she is still with Enid blyton and Roald Dahl, but your post gives me some hint as to how to handle…

  3. sandhya says:

    Came here from IHM’s blog. My daughter is 11, and we’ve been having similar situations at home. Can identify very well with you.

    Mayil will not be quiet is a lovely book, but I have yet to give it to my daughter. A similar book that she has read is Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. Spawned quite a few questions, too.

  4. Navina Anand says:

    I just finished patting myself on the back for having discussed puberty (actually I just gave her the book The care and keeping of you) and just answered doubts and questions !! and I don’t yet have a script in my head for the sex talk… need to check out the Mayil book… Thanks.

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