The Birds and Bees Have Real Names
by Melissa Troyer
Melissa Troyer graciously allowed Daughters of Promise to feature this article from her personal blog. To see more of her writing visit danilissa.wordpress.com.
We peered out the window overlooking the neighborhood, our noses smashed up against the glass. “She has never mentioned the period. And I’m starting to develop. I’ll need a bra soon.” Her voice dropped. “Am I supposed to ask her to take me bra shopping?” she whispered, uncertainty in her eyes. “I guess so…” I stammered.
This was just a girl sleepover with one of my best friends. We could not have looked more different- her curls and my straw straight hair, her stunning olive complexion and my chalky white skin tone made a stark contrast. But we hit it off, and begged to get together whenever we could. We called almost daily, wrote letters, when we were together we mixed up cake batter and watched through the glass oven window, and whispered excitedly as it rose.
But today our whispers really took a heavy turn. I had always assumed that every mother talked with her daughter about these changes. I don’t even remember when I first heard the word “period.” I knew about sex and pregnancy long before I ever even heard the term “Birds and Bees.”
As the years go by, I hear more and more stories of people who never discuss sex or normal body cycles with their children. I realize how uncommon my understanding of sex and cycles came from my mother’s intentional, open conversations with me about these often uncomfortable subjects. Her own mother sat down and discussed these with her too, and I’m deeply grateful my mother passed on the same information and safe atmosphere to talk about it. It’s a priceless gift, really, this thing of openness.
For a few years as a young adult, I trailed a midwife in a deeply religious community, entering homes where when we arrived, the teen boys would scatter into the corners of the barn. Supposedly they weren’t to know why we were there, or to notice the mother’s swollen middle. The teen girls would drop their eyes as we smiled and walked past into the mother’s bedroom. So much secrecy.
Another time I was at a home when a mother to a long row of gangly boys picked up her baby girl and reached for a diaper. A quick command ordered the boys to all leave the room so she could change the baby girl. I think it was an attempt to preserve the baby’s modesty and the boys’ innocence on female anatomy. But I remember watching those boys all file out with a shamed expression on their face.
I knew something was wrong. Really wrong. You see, suddenly there was a huge question mark in each of their minds about what REALLY is under a girl’s diaper, or panties. Surely it was worth trying to see.
A simple trip through Walmart will reveal plenty of skin to our children. A day on the beach offers a lot of real estate to their little eyes. Our children need to be prepared for what they will face, and we cannot ban them to a community where women are covered in burkas.
While I’m not promoting raising our kids in a nudist colony, if we guard them in a sterile petri dish where they don’t know that a female breast provides milk for a newborn we are doing them a huge disfavor.
Educate your children. Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is a wide open door to twisted and perverted information.
Offer your children the answer before they ask the question. That way your children will always know they can get the truth from you. When someone whispers a twisted tidbit, your child will already have the truth stowed in their toolbox. If presented with incorrect information, your children will already know you have opened this conversation with them.
Obviously, age and understanding plays a huge role in what our children can handle. My toddler can handle the fact that a baby grows in Mommy’s belly. Lately, she’s been patting my postpartum tummy, “Baby in dere?” No baby, but she understands in her simple way.
This last year we dove deep into some elementary human anatomy, and my children know the baby doesn’t actually grow in the belly, but the uterus. Give them names. Provide basic scientific information.
When my oldest was about three, he was an adorable tow-headed blond with blueberry eyes, and he NEVER met a stranger. Since he chatted so freely with everyone, I wasn’t sure I wanted him to know the proper name for his male anatomy. We settled on a simple nickname for a time, as no one noticed if he mentioned it in public. But that came to a screeching halt the day Weston heard someone called by that name. I wish I had been able to capture the horrified expression on my son’s face. That afternoon, the nickname was traded for the proper name. No more people names for body parts.
Since then, we call things what they are. We say, “This is what it is called. But these are private words. You can use them with us, but remember not to talk about this with your friends. They can talk to their parents if they have questions. This is private.”
Our children are encouraged to ask us ANYTHING. No subject is off limits.
I highly recommend the book “The Wonderful Way Babies Are Made” for children of all ages. It is written with two versions on each page; a lighter, simpler take for the young ones, and more detailed information for the older children. The illustrations are lovely too. We borrowed it from a friend and read it to our son and daughter separately. I felt like they needed to have the room to hear us tell them all about it, and have the freedom to ask questions in a really private setting.
Both were so excited for their turn, and I fully expected them to be loaded with questions at the end. As we shut the book after reading it to Weston, we looked up at our son and said, “Do you have any questions?” He yawned and said, “Yeah. Can I go to bed?”
I had to laugh because it was all old information to him. Daniel has been intentional to take Weston out on man-only outings and talk about sex drive, masturbation, and pornography. He opened the subject so my son will never have to be the one to bring it up.
Weston told me later, “Just knowing that I can say anything about this stuff to Dad and he won’t criticize me- it makes me feel safe. “
It’s really cut and dried: God made our bodies. He made them well, with complex and intricate functions that when studied in depth, are simply incredible. Our children will discover, in one way or another, how things work. It might be in the dark corner of a coat closet, with someone groping them, or it can be on the family couch, with Mom calmly explaining how babies are made and creating an educated, safe environment.
Don’t hand your daughter a stack of books on sex the week before her wedding and hurry away. Open the subject when she is young. Cultivate an environment of honesty and purity on these factual elements of life. Sometimes that means gripping the edge of the kitchen sink, taking a deep breath, and answering the question you did NOT expect to hear yet.
You see, our children are worth us facing discomfort to provide them with the information they need.
We tend to forget that they WILL face situations, no matter how hard we try to protect them, where they need to know what’s happening and how to stand up for themselves.
Let’s not wait for them to be victims. Let’s arm them with vital information to be aware and ready if and when someone tries to take advantage of them. “We are not in Kansas anymore.” It’s a real world out there. Not just in town, but in church and school and homes. Teach them to say NO, to come tell immediately if something makes them feel off.
For younger children, I cannot recommend this book enough. “I Said No! A Kid-to-kid Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private” I really appreciate the simple, real life examples and solutions this colorful book walks you through. It opens the conversation in a really candid, sweet way. We regularly talk about what Red Flag and Green Flag people do and say.
Other books that readers are suggesting along these lines are: God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies Mom, Dad…What’s Sex? Giving Your Kids a Gospel-Centered View of Sex and Our Culture God’s Design for Sex Series, Full set (4 books)
Teach your children to listen to that inner voice that says, “This is wrong.”
We discuss who can take them to the bathroom.
We talk about how clothes stay on.
We talk about how doors stay open; nothing happens behind locked doors.
My daughter just recently had her first sleepover at a friend’s house. Even though it was redundant and we trust these friends entirely, I reminded Tirzah, “Remember, nobody touches each other inappropriately. Be a Green Flag person.” She nodded emphatically, “Yeah, I know, Mom.”
And more than anything, pray. Grab ahold of God’s heart for your children. God will be with our children in moments we cannot.
Pray over your children, for protection, and for wisdom and courage.
Parenting from fear cripples, but parenting in connection with God is a powerful thing. Instead of being controlled by fear, we can be proactive and thankful that we are not in this alone. God loves our children even more than we do.
Push past your discomfort and love your child enough to say words that may make you blush. Your child is worth it. Your child deserves to be armed and ready.
I want my children to know they are made perfectly. I want my children to know they can ask me anything, and hopefully, I’ll beat them to it and offer the information before they ask.
I want them to know that the birds and bees have real names, and that they can use them. I want to help my children have a healthy perspective on sex and their bodies. I want to provide my children with all they need to see themselves next to God’s crowning creations, Adam and Eve, through His eyes.
He looked at them and said triumphantly, “It is very good.”
To find out more information about the books mentioned in this article visit Melissa’s blog at danilissa.wordpress.com and click on the links provided.