The phone call came in at around 7:45AM. I had just seen my babies off on the bus from my usual spot—a couch in our living room placed in the perfect position to see the corner across the street where they are picked up every day. I usually grab my coffee, sit there, and wave when required (because for some reason, me sitting in a room in my 1st grader’s sight-range makes me a celebrity who needs around 8 waves before she leaves for the day). They board the bus, and then my 7 hours of kid-free day that will disappear like sand through my fingers begins.

It’s apropos that they had just boarded the bus when I got this call—since the bus is the scene of the crime that was the subject of the call. Through the social media grapevine, a mom had found out that I was the mom of the boy who was seated in an unfortunate spot during a class ride to a field trip. He was seated next to the kid who was giving the rest of the kids around him an education about the facts of life.

I don’t know what was revealed in this little monologue, but it was enough to send the chaperoning mom who overheard it into a little rage in the principal’s office, appalled that a 3rd grader was talking about such things. This same mom noticed my son in the neighboring seat, sitting with his mouth shut and eyes bugged out.

I’ve seen this look from him before, so I needed no further explanation. A while ago, we were taking a 1 hour drive with friends and he sat in the back seat of a car next to a much older, much edgier pre-teen acquaintance on a car ride who wasn’t the chatty type. During the first five minutes of the ride I looked back and he made eye contact with me, bugged his eyes out, and through this look told me that if he could apparate his uncomfortable self anywhere but here at this moment he would. My kid does not have edge to match edge or swag to match swag or, in the case of the bus, sex talk to match sex talk.

I hung up the phone knowing we had entered a new phase of parenting. My previous approach to topics of a sexual nature had been full on avoidance. Protect their innocence and my comfort level at all cost! Their privates were always their “peeps.” Wally thought, because we sit on the toilet, that girls pee out of their butts. I was aware Vivvi thought she and Wally had little parties in my belly until he decided to leave 2.5 years before her and she hung out for a bit before she followed. This story was deeply satisfying to me—partially because I didn’t have to explain how she came to be “in my stomach” and partially because the story made so much sense; of course she’d wait a full 2.5 years—the girl has no sense of urgency.

I always thought they’d learn about sex the way all kids in our generation did—in 5th grade, the week before the school was going to give the talk, when your mom or dad read a book with funny illustrations to you so you could be shocked and curious and uncomfortable once with them and then totally embarrassed the next week at school with your peers. (Or, as I’m finding out from many of my friends, full on, life-time avoidance of the topic.) I thought we’d handle this funny business like grownups—rip the bandaid off when the school decided they were all ready and move on.

But after the phone call, something had to be done. The school hadn’t decided we were ready. A 3rd grade boy had, so graphically that when I asked him after school on the day of the phone call, my son told me he doesn’t remember what he heard because he tried not to listen. So either it blew his mind, or he wasn’t willing to blow mine. Something had to be done.

I started where any rational, thinking, mature parent would start with figuring out how to take care of this problem. I google searched “How to have the facts of life talk without too much detail” and “experts who I can hire to teach my kids about sex so I don’t have to” and “What the heck did that 3rd grader tell my kid on the bus.” None of these yielded the response I wanted, which was, “You never have to have the talk because your kids will be babies forever,” and “He knows nothing, Jon Snow.”

Instead, in the results I read what a few of my wise friends have said for years and I’ve always laughed at them: never too early. No better time than now. And as I read this new, no-nonsense approach to “The Talk,” I started to feel more and more behind. How could I have waited this long?

The general theory is this: sex and our bodies aren’t an embarrassing, but the way we teach it and avoid talking about it and answering kids’ good questions when they have them attaches a lot of shame. Also, you can start teaching kids about things like consent when they are toddlers—which might give them a voice to speak up for themselves in a bad situation and sets them up for lifelong knowledge about how to treat others. And, most obviously, teach them now, and you get to be the one who teaches them. They don’t find out from a 3rd grader on the bus.

Everything I read started to make me braver about talking to Wally, but I still didn’t have the right words. So I did what any good reader would do—looked for a book to do the word part for me. I found a highly recommended book, “It’s Not the Stork,” and 2 day shipped it.

When the book arrived, I flipped through the pages to see what kind of discomfort was ahead. But I realized something—the facts of life are really just that: facts. My new mantra would be this: “It’s not embarrassing; it’s science!” As I turned each page and read the funny cartoons, checked out the illustrations, and saw the story of our bodies unfold, I realized that Vivvi was totally ready to hear all of this also. In fact, the recommended age for the book was 4-11 year olds. Which puts Vivvi, at 6, two years ready.

And this is how the whole book went. We read, we laughed, we cried. Well, sort of. We laughed so hard we cried. On one page, it shows boys and girls at the toilet (not peeing out of their butts). Vivvi laughed so hard that tears were coming out of her eyes—she was confused because that had never happened to her before. A bonus biology lesson, I guess.

When we got to the diagram part, where we gave up “peeps” forever and learned words like, “vagina,” “penis,” and “scrotum,” Vivvi laughed so hard she fell off her stool. It was truly a good time.

We got to the page I was most dreading when that phone call came in, and by that point, I was ready. I told them about the special kind of loving adults do sometimes. Wally immediately declared, “I don’t think I’ll ever want to do that.” Vivvi said, “My friend did that with her boyfriend.”

I said, “Did you hear what I said, Vivvi? I said, ‘The penis goes into the vagina.’ I don’t think your friend did that.”

“Oh, no, they just touched lips,” she said. Then around 20 seconds later, “Wait,” her face lit up in shock like Kevin’s in the after-shave scene of Home Alone. “You and daddy’s private parts touched?!?!”

It wasn’t all laughing. We did get past the laughing. But the laughing helped me to see why now is the time. It was actually fun to do this now, before they were uncomfortable or embarrassed or self conscious. They asked questions, and I answered. We’d learn something, and they’d be excited to move on to the next part. We now have a dialogue going, and I don’t even feel brave. I feel interested and curious. I feel like we are embracing and getting excited about one of the coolest parts of life—existence—together. This is the story of science, and miracles. We exist. And now we can talk about that.

Later that night at dinner, the kids were telling husband Wally about it. Vivvi said, “And then we saw a picture of a wiener.”

“Not a wiener, right Vivvi?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” she said. “A Veenis.” Well, I thought. At least now I know we can talk about it.

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