Sex is coming up a lot in conversations around my house (and in the car) lately. I think this is great: the best way to talk to kids about sex, I believe, is in natural, everyday conversation. So here's the latest iteration:
"Mom," A. Peevie asked for no apparent reason, "Why did people long ago have a lot of kids, but today people only have two or three?"
"Well, A.," I said, "A long time ago, babies and children died from illness and disease more often than they do today."
"So?" he asked, reasonably.
"So," I surmised, "If they wanted to have a family, and have kids that would grow up, they would have to have more than one or two kids, because they might die.
"For example, A. Peevie," I said, bringing the lesson home, "Your special heart, with the kinds of problems that the doctors had to work on after you were born? Thirty or 40 years ago, babies with those heart defects did not survive."
"Huh," he said, unimpressed. "But why else would they have a lot of kids?"
"Well," I guessed, "Probably a lot of families had farms and businesses, and they needed help doing the work..."
"So they had a lot of kids to help with the farm-work!" M. Peevie finished for me.
"Huh," A. Peevie said again. "I'm not buying it."
I looked at him in the rear-view mirror, and he stared placidly back at me. "Why else?" he demanded. I had no idea why he was being so persistent on this topic. Did he wish he had more siblings? Was he hoping for more babies in our family? He does like babies, but unfortunately (for him), that ship has sailed.
"OK, A.," I said, bringing out the big guns, "How about this one: People a long time ago had more babies than people today because they didn't have any effective birth control methods." I paused for dramatic effect, and to let the meaning sink in.
"In other words," I continued, "When two people have sex..."
"I get it!" he said loudly. "I'm buying it, I'm buying it. You don't have to finish!"
"Well, I don't get it," M. Peevie interjected. "Finish, mom. When two people have sex, what?"
I explained that when two people have sex, there's always the chance that the woman will get pregnant. Today, I continued, people have more ways of preventing the woman from getting pregnant, so they can have sex even when they don't want to have a baby. In the old days, women got pregnant more often and had more babies because they didn't have those ways of preventing pregnancy.
"But mom," M. Peevie wondered, "Why would they want to have sex if they didn't want another baby?"
Ahhh. I'm not sure if I'm glad or not glad that we are starting to have more conversations about sex than we have about poop.
"Because sex is fun, M.P.," I said. "God invented sex not only so that people could make babies, but so that married people could enjoy each other and feel closer to each other."
"Yuck," she said. "I am never going to have sex unless I want to have a baby."
Excellent, I thought to myself. That is exactly what I want to hear from my daughter for the next 20 years.