Friday, February 16, 2007

Sex, Death, and Santa

I was reading Possummomma’s blog today, and it inspired musings beyond the scope of the comments page. So, why not start my own blog?

As a parent, I’m surprised by my child’s ability to absorb concepts that are usually defined as “adult,” and to extrapolate from what I’ve told her to more general ideas. She’s only three and a half, but like Possummomma’s P#3, she can tell fantasy from reality. This is a skill I believed only much older children could master, but the Tot seems to be doing just fine.

Last December, there were lots of cool shows on TV involving Santa Claus. Naturally, Tot wanted to know when Santa would come to our house. I simply explained that Santa is pretend, like other things we see on TV. I pointed out that in real life, we’ve never seen cars talk (Pixar’s Cars is a favorite) or bunnies wear clothes, and so on.

A few weeks later, Tot drew my attention to some fantastic cartoon character and told me, “He’s only real on my TV.” Right around Christmas, I picked her up from daycare, and she told me, “The teacher said ‘yes,’ but I said ‘no,’ and she said ‘yes,’ and I said, ‘NO!” I soon gleaned that this was a discussion of the existence of Santa, presumably brought about by some innocent comment like, “What did you ask Santa for?” While I tried to instill a little bit of diplomacy, I still couldn’t have been prouder of my kid.

Incidents like this have encouraged me to be straight with her on pretty much all issues.
“What’s that bump? It’s your clitoris.”
“Why are armadillos afraid of maned wolves? Because the wolves want to eat the armadillos.”
“What happened to Daddy’s fish? It died.”

Contrary to my concern that discussing sex would be awkward, or that the concept of death was too traumatic, Tot has received all this information with aplomb and continued curiosity. I now have hope that she will not have to undergo a wrenching realization that living things die, nor have a pathological fear of death like I did when I started questioning my religious belief. I am confident that she will know the facts about sex, and be able to weigh all the complex issues by the time she is old enough to contemplate romantic relationships, all without that dreaded, awkward event known as “The Talk.”

I feel a bit sorry for families that feel they must shield their children from some idea or another. The kids are left without vital knowledge – especially considering the avoided issues tend to be those central to the human condition. Meanwhile, their parents have the added tension and work of trying to obfuscate, delay, or even construct elaborate ruses to “protect” their innocent children. I say, protect them with the facts, and everyone will be much happier.