On the way home from school today, Foxboy and our car pool kid were teasing Rosebud about her steadfast belief in fairies and magic. With her characteristic elan she shot them down and began to describe fairyland to us. “First of all, all the fairies are girls.” The boys howled, and soon got to the point: are all the fairies lesbians? “Absolutely.” Ok, asked the boys, then how are baby fairies made? I thought they had stumped her but right away she says, “Some of the girl fairies have penises.” Car pool kid argued that then they had to be boys if they had penises but Rosebud shook her head, “They are transgender, lesbian fairies who have kept their penises.” Foxboy wasn’t sure you can be a lesbian with a penis and pretty soon all three were punching each other and spitting nerf bullets at each other so I turned the book on tape back on.
At dinner I was reminding the kids that if they wanted to tell us anything that would stay in our family, to label it “table talk”.
“I have some table talk,” said Rosebud, “please don’t tell my friends! I am not actually a fairy. I have just been pretending. However, fairies are real and I know a lot about them.” I told her to tell her father about fairy land and she had clearly been thinking about it as she had changed her story since this afternoon.
“In fairyland, all the fairies are girls and very few have penises. In fairyland all the cell phones have penises.”
“There is a penis app!” yelled Foxboy helpfully.
” So the fairy’s cell phones are also their husbands, and the app makes a penis grow out of the home button. But even if you don’t have the app, every home button is a penis, so make sure you touch it gingerly and wash your hands!”
“That’s sexist!” bellowed Foxboy, “why can’t the cell phones also have vaginas!”
“In fairyland all cell phones only have penises,” she calmly informed him, “but in cell phone land all phones have vaginas and they are all dating boy fairies. ”
They continued on in this vein for a while and it was pretty great. It is always very interesting to hear how your children disseminate the information you give them. I swear I never broached the sex lives of fairies or cell phones. I have always tried to be truthful about bodies and sexuality while respecting their rights to innocence and freedoms from adult responsibilities and worries. This is difficult on both fronts- it is almost painfully embarrassing to talk frankly with children about sex, not just body parts but how human sexuality works. I also am embarrassed by the euphemisms and metaphors I feel like we are supposed to use. I really love the book my mom use to teach me.I still have that copy from my child hood, and my kids pour over it. It covers all the different systems of the body, clearly, simply and charmingly; including the reproductive systemIt is very seventies and was bought for me in England. I feel like it is easier to read to your children about erect penises when the book spells “color” “colour” and calls”cookies” “biscuits”. Not everyone thinks this is appropriate information for children, but I want to normalize not just the correct names for naughty bits but also the idea that sex is an adult enterprise, that mandates love and trust. I also need to bluff my way through my discomfort and embarrassment in the hopes that they will continue to talk to me as they get older and sex isn’t confined to fairies and cell phones.
In other news, alas, young Nightcrawler suddenly died tonight at age 1 year 4 months.Foxboy wanted an African Pygmy Hegdehog desperately and obsessively last year so we folded and spent way too much on this beast and his dwelling. As usual Foxboy had his own fantasy about hedgehog ownership which involved adventure and hijinks with baby Nightcrawler sitting on his shoulder whispering him advice. Nightcrawler lacked the capacity to be a boy’s best pal but I loved his tiny, bug crunching, grouchy, spiky personality!