"Alana says they teach the reproductive system in 5th grade at her school," my 10-year-old daughter Violet told me earlier this week.
That got my attention. "Yes, at your school too," I said, mildly. She is in fourth grade. Our plan was for me to have a sex education talk with her right before the school curriculum was presented. I was waiting until then in order to "preserve her innocence," or avoid giving her information she would not be ready for. (I had explained menstruation when she was three, and asked about some tampons in our bathroom.)
Vi continued: "We are studying bodily systems in school, and (name redacted) says his favorite system is the reproductive system." (Name redacted) is a piece of work. During a field trip into New York City that I chaperoned, he made sure to point out every "inappropriate" (sexualized) billboard we passed. "I can't wait until I am grown up, so I can kiss," he announced in the back of the bus. I raised an eyebrow. "Trust me," he said. "You've done it thousands of times." Must keep this child away from my daughter. But how? I fear they will end up attending some middle school dance together three years hence.
Now it seemed clear that Vi wanted to discuss the reproductive system, so I asked what she knew about it. "It's when a man and a woman have sex to make a baby." Okay. I asked her what sex was. She giggled when she replied, but had a pretty clear understanding of the mechanics and used the clinical terms, as we have always done.
Damn. I did not get to her first. I tried to act matter-of-fact, while imagining myself storming into the fourth grade classroom demanding: "Which one of you bitches told my daughter about sex?" Instead, I asked, "how long have you known about this, and how did you find out?" Vi told me that at a sleepover in December, this fifth grader had clued her in, describing a "sex book" that her older brother had. WHAT WHAT WHAT? I remember that sleepover. She was catatonic the next day, but I assumed it was because she hadn't gotten any sleep.
"You don't have sex with just anyone," I said. "Only someone very special." She said, "I know." I also pointed out this is something that occurs when she is much, much older.
I am not sure why I was surprised about what went down at the sleepover. I myself was schooled about sex when I was FIVE years old. The first time I was sent outside to play alone, a girl who lived down the hall in our apartment building, my same age, whispered in my ear. "Do you know what F-U-C-K means?" she asked. I shook my head. "It's when a boy sticks his"-- she pointed to her crotch--"into a girl's"-- again she pointed downward. I went inside, catatonic. I told no one. There was never any elaboration from my parents, naturally.
Vi, happily, seems less bothered by the knowledge than I was. Her innocence is pretty well intact. The day after our little talk, Violet lost a tooth that she had been wiggling for weeks. She offered a theory of how the tooth fairy operates: "She gives the parents the money, and then they put it under the pillow." I left that one alone. I'm not too invested in perpetuating the tooth fairy myth at this point, so my policy is to neither confirm nor deny. And after her big revelation the day before, I have to be honest, I was not too focused on my tooth fairy duties.
Violet put the tooth under her pillow, but the fairy, she did not come. We all agreed the fairy must have been unusually busy. So she put it under her pillow last night as well, but the tooth fairy flaked again.
I am clearly just doing a bang-up job here at Fallen Princess HQ.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Feminist Housewife