Shirani Alfreds is an expat mother of two living in Shanghai. She will be writing about her experiences in a regular "Dragon Mama" blog for Urban Family.
So my 7-year-old came home the other day and talked about the F-word. I almost fell off my dining chair. Maybe I have been living under a rock, but is it okay to talk about it at age seven? I know I know… she probably knew it earlier yada yada, and kids her age and younger know it from their older siblings etc. However, she doesn’t have an older sibling, so I’m allowed to live in a small amount of denial right? Or at least postpone having that talk with her until I am ready!?
I tentatively asked her what she thought it meant. “Mommy, it means ‘fart’, right” I almost giggled in relief but that wouldn’t have been cool in the face of her cheeky delight that she was saying a ‘bad word’. Then came a sliding doors moment –in the midst of my parenting glee I suddenly turned sober as opposing thoughts ran through my mind. Do I let her go on thinking that? Its so innocent and ‘easy’ to do that, however by doing so, I risk her being the laughing stock of her friends or bigger kids on the school bus! WHERE IS MY HUSBAND, HER FATHER? But of course there wasn’t time for a co-parenting decision so in a split second I decided I should tell her. Heck, she would find out anyway.
“Honey it means f*(@#” I said, cringing as I said it. “Do you know what that means?” Her face fell, realising that she hadn’t known what it meant and she shook her head. “It means sex”. Another sliding doors moment and my brain started to scream again. Was I about to open a Pandora’s Box? All the questions that could come from this!! What should I say? Am I really going to have that talk now, unprepared? WHERE IS MY HUSBAND, HER FATHER?? “Do you know what sex means?” I calmly asked instead. She nodded and my heart fell. I had wanted her to hear it from me. “What does it mean honey?” “It’s when boys and girls do yucky things together” she said shyly. I wanted to run round the dining table yelling ‘HOORAH! HOORAH! HOORAH!’ obnoxiously. Not only was I off the hook from having to have that conversation immediately, she was kinda right! I was hugely relieved. I nodded seriously and said “Yes, the F-word is just a rude way of saying that”. She seemed happy with this explanation and skipped off.
I collapsed on the dining chair whilst Mr. Brain finally gave into spasms. What!!!!!! When did this happen??? When did I start having to explain this stuff??!! Is this normal for 7?? Am I not doing due diligence? I need to research this! WHERE IS MY HUSBAND, HER FATHER?? I rang him. Calm down, he said. Of course she’s going to ask. Of course, we should explain. Of course I should be there when you have that conversation. But all this wasn’t that obvious to me. It’s a delicate balance to strike, maintaining your child’s innocence at a level appropriate to their age and making sure they don’t grow up to have their heads in the clouds. Naivety isn’t a great thing these days, given the number of predators around, but neither is a certain type of precociousness and awareness. It’s a tricky balance. Nonetheless, this was my wake up call as a parent to crawl out from under my rock and start researching that conversation. It’s only a natural progression right? I mean once you know about the F-word and that it does not mean “fart” (giggle!).