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Diary of a Single Mom: Talking Sex with Your Kids

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  I've been out of town on vacation. When I got back, everyone was like, "Oh, you must be so relaxed." But my idea of "relaxing" is having no one talk to me. Remember what that was like -- silence? As every single mother knows, silence is almost impossible once you have a child. Every time I cracked open the 700-page book I'd brought, my daughter would interrupt me with "Mom Mom Mom Mom Mom look what I can do!!!!!" Eventually,  i just gave up on the book and decided to just give myself over to parenting. After all, during the school year, my daughter and I are always rushing around from one task to another. A vacation is the perfect time for some of those "important life conversations" I'm always trying squeeze in as we run to the school bus in the morning. ("Remember baby, when you grow up never wear high heels with booty shorts. Now have a good day at school!") Once I opened myself up to the idea that this vacation was not going to be about my relaxation but about sharing my maternal wisdom, the perfect opportunity fell right into my lap. Although it didn't feel like it at the time. My daughter and I had decided to take a walk into town and buy some fruit from a man I saw selling oranges by the side of the road. The vendor and I started chatting. He asked me how the vacation was going and who I was traveling with. When I told him it was just me and my child he looked me up and down and said, "I like you. I wanna sex you." He said it softly, but not so quietly that my daughter, who was standing beside me, couldn't hear. "Oh, that's okay," I replied, "I'm good." I suppose I could have told him off, but I didn't want to make a scene in a foreign country with a man who was clearly a little off because you never know. Also, he had my money in his hand and I wanted my change. Instead, I quietly asked him not to talk like that to me in front of my child and as soon as he finished packing up the fruit, we quickly crossed the street and walked away. I turned to my daughter with a raised eyebrow. "He was creepy," she said. At that moment, I realized I had a choice: I could say nothing and just pretend the entire incident never happened or I could use this incredibly awkward interaction as a "teachable moment." We had a 30-minute walk back to our hotel. I took a deep breath. "So, honey....Why do you think he was saying those things to me?" I began. The conversation was long and rambling and touched on men's desire, hormones, puberty, and all the reasons grown-ups have sex (if they aren't trying to have a baby). "Sex," I told my child, "is a special private thing you share with someone you really trust and love. It's really for grown-ups. Lots of teenagers think it's something for them. But it's really not. So you know, if you feel that way when you are a teenager, you'll probably want to come talk to me about it first. So we can have a discussion. And I can lock you in the house."  (That last part I just said in my head). This wasn't a conversation I planned to have with my nine-year-old. But it reminded me that if I don't have these talks with my child, where is she going to get this information? From her friends at school? (And it's not like I don't understand how uncomfortable these talks can be. I have a single-mother friend who sent her son away to college last year and says she still hasn't talked to him about sex. "I packed some condoms in his suitcase. It's not like he doesn't know what they are for," she offered.) Everything I've read about educating our children about sex and relationships says that it's an ongoing conversation, sort of like a "Lecture Series on Life." And the thing about being a single mother is that all the information has to come from us. Not just the technical birds-and-bees business, either. We have to teach our children about trust and love and intimacy. We have to explain to them what a good relationship looks like and how to treat their bodies and others with respect and care. It's a lot, certainly more than I can squeeze in on a morning run to the school bus stop. So, as of this moment, I'm making a commitment to have these deep conversations with my child as often as possible, especially now, before my daughter hits her teen years and doesn't want to talk to me at all. Ladies, what about you? Have you talked to your children recently about sex or love or relationships? What did you say? I'd love to hear your talking points. Maybe we all can borrow from each other's lecture series! Or, like my friend with the boy in college, is the whole thing just too uncomfortable for words? For more of Diary of a Single Mom stories, click here.
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