But… what does it ‘do’?

Today was “clean out the garden” day so we can try for the third year in a row to grow something other than weeds. I stayed inside with a naked and dangly Xan for the first 45 minutes, waiting for my medication to kick in before I went out for dirty work with Curtis and Tempest. By the time I went out, the two of them had already managed to pull all the weeds out of the main bed, tilled the soil and added a ton of topsoil that we’d purchased some months back.
Curtis found an alarming number of small potatoes deep in the bed.

Tempest helped out with everything she could before retiring to the sidewalk to draw hopscotch blocks. I sat with her on the front steps looking through our bags of seeds as she excitedly described how each would grow. She is disappointed that we won’t be growing only flowers and actually want to have a vegetable garden.
I spent most of the morning taking pictures, which is something I’ve been doing less and less of lately, and I want to change that…

Curtis pulling weeds.

Later that day we went to the park, at sunset. I love the warm light at the end of the day; it’s so great to take photos in.

Curtis pushing Xan on the “blue ball” thing.

Tempest’s turn.

There’s a daycare adjacent to this park, the back door actually exits right into it, and when we arrived today it appeared to be the end of a day for the kids there. Parents were coming to pick up their kids and the supervisors had put out a table with bubbles for kids to play with while they waited. Tempest only stopped there for a moment, she spent all her time on the ball swing thing, but Xan was determined to make the bubbles work for him. He spent the entire stay at the park at the bubble table, blowing raspberries at the wands, trying valiantly to make large bubbles like the other kids.


Finally, he got it working.


For some reason the library we’ve inherited from my mother contains a lot of medical texts and very old, strange books. We have 150 year old Palmistry books, Merck Manuals, school workbooks dated to 1885, half a collection of science encyclopedias from the 70s, and so on… it’s kind of a weird collection.
One of the larger books we have is called “ABC’s of the human body”, apparently through Reader’s Digest. It sounds like a children’s book, but it’s supposed to be a ‘family answer book’ except that it reads like a medical text and is only slightly more interesting. It’s incredibly thick, heavy, and hundreds of pages long. Tempest has become obsessed with it. She carries it everywhere and reads it day and night. As a result she has come out with the strangest questions, about 90% of which I just can’t answer.
Like, “What are the layers of skin and why do they heal when you get cut?”, “Why are red blood cells round?” and, “Where is your immune system?”. The kinds of things I never really expected my five year old to come out with. Keep in mind that she has hyperlexia: she reads incredibly well but while she doesn’t understand much of what she’s reading, she is actually reading this book.

I forgot to post about this when it happened, but I need to if not just for the sake of having a record of this conversation for when she’s older.
Some time ago now she read through parts about human sexuality and came to me for clarification. This was during the time I was sick and had been napping, so just as I was waking up she came up and asked me, “What does sex look like?”.
“Well,” I started, then stopped. I get what she’s actually asking (“what is sex?”) since she’s just read about it and wants a second opinion. But I had to think of how I was going to explain it in terms she’d understand. The emotional parts of sex (arousal, love, orgasm, etc) are important to the explanation, but being an ASD kid means understanding emotions aren’t exactly her forté. I explained the mechanics of ‘penis into vagina’, and how sperm meets the egg and so on. She interrupted me quite a few times for clarification.
“Eggs like chickens?”
“Do I have eggs right now?”
“Why would he do that with his penis?” (asked with particularly obvious distaste).
I ended with, “… and then the baby grows in your uterus. When the baby is done growing, you go into labour and have contractions that help move the baby down until he is born out of your vagina.” That part she’s already familiar with, having watched dozens upon dozens of birth videos (both human and animal) in preparation for being present for Xan’s birth.

“Oh, okay,” she says. She looks happy and satisfied. Then all of a sudden a realization hits her, instantly her expression turns pale, “Wait,” she says, “Xan was born out of your vagina…”
“Yes, he was.”
I can see it all coming together for her. The horror. “… Xan came from sex?!”
“Yes, he did.”
Silence. She looks down, then cautiously asks, “Did I come out of your vagina?”
“Yes, you did.”
Tempest quietly has an identity crisis and, with the utmost distain, demands to know, “When does daddy give you sex?! Why!?
Trying to explain what lust and arousal are to a five year old is… impossible. And she would not take, “It feels good” as a real answer.

Disturbed and disgusted, Tempest finally left the room after being told that I have sex regularly and that it’s likely one day when she grows up, she will, too.
About four minutes later she walked back in, “Wait, wait,” she says, looking very skeptical. “How does the penis get in the vagina?” I didn’t think she was actually going to think through the physical mechanics of it; she sees Xan run around all day with his waggly little penis and can’t figure out how in the world that would work in the way I’ve described to her.
I tried again to explain what sexual arousal is, and how it changes the shape of a penis but she looked completely clueless. “Why would you want sex?”, “Do you have to have sex?”, “What does aroused do?“.
She was cutting me off with new questions faster than I could answer them. None of my answers were satisfactory anyway, and eventually she gave up. She delved back into her book and hasn’t brought up the subject since.
I think I ruined her life a little bit.

Comments

comments

45 Comments

  • media_junkie says:

    An excellent book for discussion is The Cartoon Guide to Sex. It is both entertaining and factual. I covers everything including birth control, abortions, homosexuality, even fetishes. It is completely respectful of everything.

    I don’t think she could be ruined if she asked first. I was a bit traumitised by being told by my father before I even thought to ask.

    My mother lost a baby when I was three and I didn’t understand why she was sad (because I thought you bought babies at the hospital and she had just not bought one when she went). My mom was so fat I never asked why her belly got big because it didn’t look any different. I did know there was going to be a baby soon – I just didn’t know it was going to come out of her.

    My father, an engineer, sat me down and explained sex, birth and death all in the same conversation. He did not ever mention emotion or pleasure at all. It was strictly mechanics. I do not recommend this method.

    • admin says:

      I didn’t actually think I ruined her in any way, I was being facetious because of her dramatic reaction. 🙂

      Because Tempest has Aspergers, emotion isn’t something she easily relates to, but we feel it’s most important to meld emotion into the discussion about sexuality, love and partnership. Really, that’s the core of it all. She doesn’t really process that part yet, it’s a little out of her league, but she does understand all the mechanics now.
      We also watched a BBC special on human sexuality and procreation that included footage of sperm fertilizing an egg, and the egg growing into a baby, eventually ending with up close and personal video of the birth. She was fascinated, and sat totally enthralled through the entire 60 minutes or so. She aked questions CONSTANTLY and the only part that seemed to bother her was learning that so many sperm will die. It’s hard trying to explain to her that there’s a huge difference between her brother dying, and sperm dying. She sees everything as something with a life, a love, a brain, wishes and hopes – and she actually started crying when the narrator said something about the rest of the sperm dying on the way there.
      I think she was okay with my explanation, but I don’t know if she’s totally clear on the vastness of the difference between like… skin cells “dying” and someone she knows passing away.

      • media_junkie says:

        I wouldn’t worry about that, there’s plenty of fundementalists who can’t tell the difference either 😉

        “Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great. If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate.” – Thank you Monty Python

  • This made me so happy! To be open with your 5-year-old about sex is, quite frankly, awesome. I’m thrilled. And the pictures are drop-dead gorgeous, as usual. 🙂

    C

  • Heh, our huge encyclopedia had a small but precise diagram. I was about Tempest’s age when I read it and saw the mechanics of sex and went “oooh, that’s how it happens.” I don’t think I ever asked my mom about sex at all. She asked me in sixth grade if I knew “about menstruation and all that,” and I assured her that I did. That was that. There may have been a pbs special involved somewhere, too…

    I’m nervous about explaining to my son. He’s closing in on three now, and I have a feeling the questions will start soon.

    • admin says:

      Curtis’ parents acted similarly with his sex ed. The first time either of his parents ever had a conversation about sex with him was about two weeks after they met me, wherein his father said, “If you need any condoms, I can pick them up for you”, and Curtis replied, “It’s okay, she’s on the pill”. That’s it.
      In his entire life. O_o;

      Don’t be nervous, to kids it’s not a big deal, so it shouldn’t be for you either. It’s just any other curiosity, and over time your explanation will change and grow with them because there are some things they just can’t understand now, but will later.
      By 8 or 9 I knew everything I ever could ask about, I became the kid in my age group that knew everything… so everyone came to me to ask their questions because their parents wouldn’t tell them. I saw one too many kids that age who didn’t know anything and vowed I’d never do that to my kids; by that point they won’t ask on their own, that stigma of, “it’s bad and dirty” is already implanted by their parents lack of communication skills.

      At three he’ll probably just ask questions like where is a vagina/penis/vulva and what does it look like. Tempest assumed everyone had a vagina, and that boys simply had a penis ‘over top’ or that Curtis simply grew his later. It took me forever to realize that’s what she meant.
      When Xan was born she sat next to me the morning after as I changed his diaper and went totally white as I started wiping him, and goes, “That vagina is not good”. I laughed so hard.

      • LOL @ “not good.”

        Yeah, I actually went in the opposite direction and searched out everything I could on the subject from a very early age. Books, pbs specials, adult novels even… I became that kid who knew everything, too. Sex ed was a joke by the time I got to fifth grade! Knew it already.

        And yes, I think the lack of communication definitely adds to the “dirty” stigma. If it’s not something you talk about, it must be taboo, right? I am going to be so much more open with my son. Right now, that’s mostly about chuckling w/ the husband when my son points out the tent in his pants by yelling proudly, “Papa! Look!” while pointing. (My parents would have been horrified and hushed us…)

        I can relate to Curtis. Aside from asking me if I knew about menstruation at 11, my mom’s only other talk (in my entire life, to this day) was when she noticed me getting serious w/ a boyfriend. She asked me if I needed to go on birth control. My kneejerk reaction was to stutter “no” but luckily we were stuck in the car and after a few moments of thought I said, “well, actually, that might be a good idea. just in case.” And that was that. It was bizarre to say the least, growing up in a stifled environment like that.

        • admin says:

          At least your mom lightly suggested the birth control. My sister is going through hell right now with her mom because of how she’s acting over her having a serious boyfriend. :-/ It’s just … screwed up.

  • ajlinda says:

    Hey, I found you an eco way to “drive” to the corner store. LOL.

    http://www.baronbob.com/motorized-cruzincooler.htm

  • I love parents who tell their kids everything when they ask even at only 5 years old. My grandmother flipped on my mother for telling me exactly what sex was when I asked at 8.

    Is 5 the average age to ask or is it just because she was reading that book?

    • nutmegdealer says:

      at least your parents told you about it and you didn’t have to find out from a very precocious fellow kindergartener and your father’s collection of vintage porn that you should’ve sold on ebay after he bought the farm.

    • admin says:

      I have no idea. I think by five most kids have probably asked, “where do babies come from?” but she already knew that part a while ago… she just didn’t know the nitty gritty details.

  • HAHA You did totally ruin her for a little bit. But she’ll get over it.

    Is it really strange that I’m looking forward to having that conversation with my kids someday?

    I’m so jealous of your green grass and gardening-appropriate temperatures. We still have a few feet of the Evil White Stuff on the ground here.

  • ajlinda says:

    Curtis looks so skinny in the first picture. I’m jealous of your garden. I can’t even grow a plant in my apt. because there’s no direct sunlight and it’s a basement apartment.I’d kill for a yard and garden.

    • admin says:

      He’s down to 200lbs now. 🙂
      His lowest was around 180 when we were vegan, then when he went into culinary school and Jericho died and he gained about 50lbs, so he’s been slowly losing since then.

      When I first met him, he was closer to 400. It wasn’t until we were dating that he started losing (he’d been overweight since he was around 12).

  • Great pictures!!

    Loved the story about Tempest! I love watching kids make those connections. Minor life ruiner or no, you are so the better ma for actually explaining it all to her.

  • jadethe2nd says:

    Is it wrong for me to laugh? 😀 Poor, poor Tempest…

    And add me to the list of people jealous of your weather!

  • bluealoe says:

    My nephew is obsessed with a book called “A Child Is Born”. It’s from National Geographic, and it has all sorts of ultrasound and in-utero pictures of babies developing. He’s been asking for that book as his bedtime story. It’s so cute…”I just want the baby book!” And he’s only two and a half.

    I am jealous of the sunshine and the gardening.

  • mammaopal says:

    What a great story!
    It’s easier to explain the whole erection thing to little boys, because it happens to their own bodies. When Linden asked about why his penis gets hard, I explained to him that it’s “practicing” for when he’s a grown and man and is ready to make a baby. Like doing push ups.

    I am in SHOCK right now that your kids can be outside with just a sweater and that the ground is not frozen solid. Where I live we still have 2 feet of snow on the ground that’s been there since November.
    *sigh*
    We’ll be in Vancouver next week for an Autism conference and I’m pretty sure I’m going to sneakily go into someones garden and pull some weeds just to stick my hands in the earth and get some soil under my nails. I have dreams of Cherry Blossoms. Are there Cherry Blossoms in Victoria yet? I live for Cherry blossom lined streets.

    • admin says:

      That day it was around +5 but with the sunshine it feels nicer. We’ve had a few sunny days in a row so we can get away with sweaters. But a day like today where it’s overcast and a little windy we end up in big winter coats even though it’s technically warmer (+8).

      No cherry blossoms yet.

  • six58 says:

    haha that was a great story. tempest is so funny. =)

  • gardenmama says:

    Does Tempest know about edible flowers? Scott grew an edible flower garden last year, inside my bigger vegetable garden. He’s also partial to sunflowers (for the birds) and unique vegetables – like white tomatoes and purple beans and carrots. He has fun going through the seed catalogs and picking different things to try. We’ve tried popcorn for the last two years running, but haven’t been able to get it in early enough to mature to the popping stage.

    20080828scottsgarden1

    Also, that looks like an awesome park! I’ve never seen a ball swing like that. And are those hedges shaped like a train? And what is that in the foreground of the first picture at the park, next to the swing set? Is that a tree?

  • _tzigane says:

    Oh this made me rofl. I hope she remembers saying all that when she’s older!!

    I remember being given those “my body my self” books by my mom and not understanding how on earth a penis could get into a vagina. “It gets hard” but WHY?! Why would it do such a thing? Is it spontaneous? Do men just walk around with hard ons ready to procreate at a moment’s notice? (some do, lol) I just couldn’t fathom the mechanics of an erection.

    • admin says:

      I remember asking my mom about what orgasms were, as I figured they were the point of sex and that they started immediately upon penetration, lasting the entire act.
      When my mother clarified that orgasms only lasted a few seconds I was very upset. What a rip off! Why would you ever have all that sex for just a few seconds? I told her I’d never have sex, and then I was offended that she was laughing at me.

    • bluealoe says:

      Heh, I was the opposite. I didn’t grow up around males (no brothers, and my parents were divorced so I didn’t live with my dad most of the time), so I wasn’t familiar with penises, and thus I never thought about the mechanics of penises into vaginas. It was years before I learned what an erection was.

  • azazl says:

    BOY…..there are soooo many advantages to living on a farm!!! I am good at answering questions about why the roosters danced on the hens, they have seen the neighbors sheep have lambs, watched cows breed, and the other end of it-putting down sick horses and old dogs…they seem to have no horror at all but just acceptance about the natural order of things. The questions are usually more like, when are you going to breed Firefly? I want a baby horsie- from my 5 year old 🙂

  • hibernate says:

    *giggles madly* Tempest is very smart and very funny! 🙂

    “When does daddy give you sex?! Why!?”

    LOL! :DDD

    If it makes you feel better, I learned about sex at a very early age too, and it didn’t ruin my life. Much.

  • That park is awesome, and the pictures are lovely as usual. And I’m totally jealous that you are already out working in your garden – ours is still buried under two feet of snow :-/

  • gardenmama says:

    Lol. We haven’t had the mechanics talk of sex yet, just the talk about where a baby comes from. But this reminds me of the time right after Nick was born, Scott was 3-3/4, and I was telling him that we wouldn’t be having any more babies. His little face fell and he looked very sad. When I asked why he was sad, he said it was because he didn’t get to watch. I thought he meant watch the birth (we had decided against this – well, I had), but when I asked if that was it, he said No. He wanted to watch the part where daddy put the baby inside me. I’m dying to tell him that story when he’s old enough to understand why it’s so funny!

  • altarflame says:

    Haha, I remember Annie asking, “But if you’re already pregnant, you wouldn’t have sex anymore for a long time since you’ve made the baby already…RIGHT?!”

    And they (a and a) made the leap to “flaccid penis would never work…” and got the erection talk pretty fast, too.

    BUT. Isaac (5….I think he’s 6 months behind Tempest) could not possibly care less and has never asked a question. When present while A and A and I talk about sex stuff, he ignores us completely or changes the subject. *shrug*

    <3 I hope you're doing well. Or at least ok.

  • We had that ABCs of the Human Body when I was a kid and I LOVED it too. I read it cover to cover several times, I think when I was around 9 or 10. I loved the parts about birth and babies.

  • julierocket says:

    I am so not ready to be a parent. I don’t ever want to have that conversation. I can only say “penis” if I’m joking around with my husband! Lol.

  • jenrose1 says:

    Nah… ruining her life would be, oh, leaving porn around where she could find it at that age (happened to me…)

    Being honest with her and answering her questions? Not so much.

  • timmytm says:

    “What are the layers of skin and why do they heal when you get cut?”, “Why are red blood cells round?” and, “Where is your immune system?”.

    I know, I know!

    You know, I think a lot of parents just hush their kids about sex because they can’t be bothered with the real answers. Fairy tales are easy. Explaining the mechanisms of erection and arousal to a small child, now that’s hard.

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