Sex Talk

sex on fire

How young is too young when it comes to talking about sexuality, puberty, and where babies come from? In my opinion, it is never too early to start. Kids need to be aware and know the facts before their friends start teaching them and before they start puberty (which can be as young as 10 these days).

My kids are 5 and 7 and they know where babies come from.

I started talking to my children about sexuality when they were 2 years old. To me, “The Talk” is a process that takes place over a series of years, not a one-time conversation at 13. Our conversations at 2 were to teach them private body parts, using the correct terms like “penis” and “vagina.”  I also taught them how to wash and care for their privates. Simple.

We transitioned to what appropriate touch is. Who can and cannot touch them and when. An example of someone touching them in an acceptable way is during their annual check-up with the pediatrician. And Dr. L is such a great doctor that she confirms what I tell them all the time. Every check-up, she says, “I asked you to undress for me because I am a doctor and I am looking to see if you’re healthy. I would not do this if your parents are not here.”

Our conversation progressed to included physical boundaries. When they don’t want someone to hug or kiss them, they get to say no. I have found that it is so hard for adults to understand that it’s okay if my kids don’t want to hug or kiss them. But I reinforce it by supporting my kids when they feel uncomfortable. I introduced them to a book at this time titled I Said No! A kid-to-kid guide on keeping your private parts private, by Zack and Kimberly King. We read the 38-page book in one sitting. They love it and still read it today.

I Said No! by Kimberly King.

I Said No! by Zack and Kimberly King.

My niece turned 1 at the end of April of this year. When my sister was pregnant with her, my children were very interested in how a baby gets from inside Mommy’s tummy to the outside. Mini Mermaid, who was 4 at the time, thought your belly button opens up and the baby comes through that way. Little Mermaid said you go to the hospital and the doctor gives you your baby. She was correct, only she did not know how. And with their many questions, I explained to them that babies grew in the uterus and come through the vagina or by way of c-section. Their 20-something questions exploded into a million! “Where is the uterus?” “Is the uterus the same as the stomach?” “How does a baby come through our vagina?” “Did I come out the same way?”

About two months ago while walking home from school, Little Mermaid asked me how she was made. She knows where a baby develops and how a baby gets from inside a woman’s body to the outside world. Trying to avoid telling her about intercourse (because I was caught off guard and wasn’t ready), I told her she was created when Mommy’s egg and Daddy’s sperm joined together. My child giggled at the thought of her coming from an egg, but that answer satisfied her.

A couple of days later, Little Mermaid told me that her friend (who is a couple years older than her) told her that babies are made when Mommy and Daddy get naked and  sleep together. And that opened up the conversation to how the egg and sperm meet.

This was a really big talk, and I needed the help of a book to illustrate my points. So, I headed to Barnes and Noble soon after and looked at the choices of books they have to teach children how babies are made. They didn’t have a good selection, most likely because they’re out of stock since I remember a bigger variety the last time I was there. I was really looking to buy What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg because I heard that it includes different family dynamics, as well as other means of having a baby (IVF, surrogate, adoption). Unfortunately they didn’t have it. So, I opted for Changing You: A Guide to Body Changes and Sexuality by Gail Saltz.

Changing You, by Gail Saltz.

Changing You, by Gail Saltz.

I really like the detailed diagrams and drawings. Saltz’ book included everything from how your body changes, to intercourse, to briefly discussing about pregnancy, and lastly, boundaries. I do have to nit-pick one detail, and that is that Saltz only describes one way to make a baby. It states that “When a man and a woman love each other and decide that they want to have a child, they will do something called ‘sexual intercourse’ or ‘having sex.’” Although I do agree with Saltz that what we, as parents, say will have an impact on our children and that this is a crucial time to set up guidelines for our children, I disagree that we give them the notion that only those who are in love can make a baby. But I did use this part of the book to elaborate that you can make a baby without being in love (although I would like it if they waited until they’re ready) and that different family dynamics, like gays and lesbians, can still have babies through other means.

It took us a while to finish reading Saltz’ book. The book was only a tool to help me discuss reproduction to my child, so we made a lot of stops along the way to explain in details the diagrams, answer questions, and expand on certain subjects.

My kids have a better understanding of human reproduction after this and Changing You has become one of their favorite books. Why, they asked my spouse and I to read it 5 days in a row because they enjoyed it so much.

I feel that the more we make sex a taboo topic, the more our children will seek elsewhere for answers. Sex is much more than just intercourse. It is about sexuality, reproduction, healthy boundaries, and more. I would rather have my children ask me and I provide facts than my children hear inaccurate information from their peers. And besides, sex and sexuality isn’t bad. There is nothing to be ashamed of.

Disney’s “Frozen”

Disney-Frozen

I walked into the Disney store a month ago because the kids wanted to look at “Frozen” merchandise: Elsa and Anna dolls, a singing Olaf, dresses, wigs, and many more. I caught a glimpse of a sign that read, “Froze: Coming to DVD March 18.” Little Mermaid saw the sign as well. She turned to me and asked if we could buy the “DVuhD” as how she calls them.

“We’ll come back when it’s out,” I replied to her.

The store associate nearby heard me and said, “You can preorder the movie. If you preorder it, you’ll get lithograhs from the animation, while supplies last.”

Why not? I am planning on buying the DVuhD anyway. The movie stills will be a bonus.

“Frozen” has been on repeat since I picked it up from the mall Wednesday.

Let it Go

elsa-magic

Disney is doing a better job at redefining the role of a princess. It has been some process, but it is slowly changing. “Tangled,” “Brave,” and now “Frozen.” Merida (Brave) and Queen Elsa (Frozen) have to be my favorite Disney princess/queen by far.

“Frozen” is about two princesses, Elsa and Anna, who live in Arandelle. Elsa, is born with a power to turn things into ice and snow. One day Elsa accidentally hurts Anna with her magic. From then on, Elsa isolates herself in fear of harming the ones she love. On the day of her coronation as Queen of Arandelle, Elsa inadvertently freezes her kingdom and vanishes into the mountains. Anna follows her to find a way to stop the eternal freeze. This is a story about finding oneself and the meaning of “true love.”

The film’s soundtrack is lovely. Our favorites are “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” “Let It Go,” and “In Summer.”

Queen Elsa sings “Let It Go” after she disappears into the mountains. This is when she embraces herself and her powers.

“Let It Go” is such an amazing song. There are two (US) versions: the pop version sung by Demi Lovato and the original ballad in the movie, sung by Idina Menzel. I do prefer the movie version over the pop version. And it seems many do as well, since it’s being played on the radio and it also won Best Original Song at the 86th Academy Awards.

Elsa and Miley Cyrus?

I stumbled onto an article on NPR a while ago about “Let It Go.”

Anne Powers, NPR Pop music critic, talks about Elsa and the song’s meaning. Powers stated that during the performance of “Let It Go,” Elsa “claims talent and decides that she’s going to be herself.” This song is about self-empowerment, said Powers. And I do agree. “Let It Go” is loved by many because of its theme of self-empowerment, self-love and acceptance. Elsa has been told to “conceal, don’t feel” for so long that when she freezes Arandelle and runs away, she embraces her talent and just let. it. go.

Powers continued on to say, “Every 10-year-old girl is coming out of her shell and coming into her own and she needs this kind of song to grab onto. And it’s really important that it not be overly sexual or sexy. These are girls who have been heartbroken by Miley Cyrus and her transformation. They need these kind of pure emotional songs.”

What?! How did Miley get dragged into this?

Yes, Miley is no longer Hannah Montana. The little Disney princess is gone. Miley has completely transformed herself into… well, you can guess… herself! Just like Elsa. Miley is embracing herself for who she is at the moment. How she changes in the future is completely up to her. If we are to compare Elsa and Miley, then they are very much alike. Elsa decides to let whatever it was holding her back go and be her true self. Miley did the same. She shed the Hannah Montana look and decides that she was going to be who she wants to be. Elsa transforms into a much sexier self—makeup, poofy hair, glittery blue dress with slit, and heels. Miley took off her clothes and swung on a wrecking ball.

But Elsa didn’t take off her clothes, twerk, or lick a hammer!

This is about the idea of change, self-empowerment, and self-acceptance, not about who is sexier or over-sexualized, or slut-shaming. That is another topic altogether.

My point is, when Powers mentioned Cyrus, all I could think about was, “But Miley is just being herself as is Elsa. What is wrong with that?” We cannot shame one who is on a journey to claim her identity and praise another for doing the same thing, even if the former is different from what we deem as “acceptable.”

“You can’t marry a man you just met.”

One of my favorite lines in the movie has to be when Elsa tells Anna that she can’t marry someone she just met. Anna responds with, “You can, if it’s true love.” And Anna fights for her true love, only to be betrayed and only to find out in the end that true love comes in many forms—in her case, true sisterly love. I like to believe that Disney is poking fun at themselves with Anna’s line because previous Disney princesses have found “true love” in someone they’ve just met—which we all know, doesn’t work in real life.

My second favorite line is when Kristoff exclaims to Anna, “You want to marry a man you just met?!” Even Kristoff knows it’s impossible to fall in love and marry someone you don’t know. Their funny conversation goes on with Kristoff questioning Anna to see how well she knows her “true love.”

I really didn’t expect much from “Frozen” because it is a Disney animation film. I didn’t want to be disappointed with the fantasy of true love, evil villains, or happily ever after. It just happened that one day in late November, early December (I forget), Mermaid just said we (kids included) were going to the movies and watching whatever’s playing that was suitable for children. And it turned out to be “Frozen.

“Frozen” is different from previous Disney princess movies. I have to give Disney some credit for making progress. Should I look forward to upcoming Disney princess movies? We shall see….

olaf-flower

My favorite “Let It Go” cover:

Best parody (I dedicate this to all the people who have to endure my children singing “Let It Go” nonstop:

On Santa’s lap

The holidays are approaching.  The mall just had their tree-lighting ceremony last weekend.  I already see Christmas decorations and Christmas merchandise in department stores way before Halloween.  Every year, Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier.

One of my family’s Christmas traditions is to take a walk down Christmas Tree Lane.  Three years ago, we went on opening night.  Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and the elves were there.  I asked Little Mermaid, who was 2 at the time, if she wanted to take a picture and talk with Santa.  We excitedly got in line when she said yes.  When we got to Santa, my child would not sit on Santa’s lap.  She hugged my legs as she peered at this strange man in front of her.  Before I knew it, one of the elves tried to help my daughter on to Santa’s lap, but she cried and I pulled my child away.

“It seems she is scared of Santa,” I said to the elf.  I turned to Little Mermaid whose face was stained with tears and asked, “Koj ntshai Santa lod (Are you scared of Santa)?”

She nodded.

“Okay, ces peb mus xwb mas (Then we can leave),” I said.

But she didn’t want to leave until we got a picture with Santa.  So we stood next to Santa Claus and took our picture.

It’s interesting that we teach our children about the dangers of strangers, but tell them it’s okay to sit on a strange bearded man’s lap for pictures.  But that’s okay because Santa is a nice person. So is the pedophile who lost his puppy or the relative who pays too much attention to a child.

Every year, as I shop at the mall during the holidays, I would pass by the Santa station.  Sometimes I stop to watch.  I have seen children jump excitedly on Santa’s lap and tell him their long list of Christmas wishes.  I have also seen children cry because they don’t want to sit on a stranger’s lap.  I see their parents pushing them and telling them that they have to or that it’s okay.  Some even threaten, “If you don’t, Santa’s not bringing you anything for Christmas this year.”

I furrow my brows and shake my head.  This situation (or any similar) always makes me feel uncomfortable.

My family and I were at the mall yesterday.  Santa was there.  My children wanted to stop by and say hi.  Little Mermaid was happy. Mini Mermaid did not want to go near Santa.  The visit lasted about 2 minutes.  It was an awkward moment.  Although Little Mermaid was sitting next to Santa, she didn’t talk with him.  He gave her two candy canes and a paper reindeer hat.  When her younger sister saw that, she hesitantly walked up to Santa and he gave the same goodies.  And that was it—the visit.  I asked my children if they wanted to talk with Santa, tell him their Christmas wishes.  Little Mermaid looked at me and shook her head.  The younger one just stood by my side.  So I said, “It’s okay.  You don’t have to talk with Santa if you don’t want to.  Let’s go.”  And we did.

Santa was our last stop at the mall, so when we got to the car, I reminded my children about the dangers of strangers, even if they are Santa.  “If someone offers you candy in exchange to touch your body, what do you say?” I asked in Hmong.

“No,” my older one replied.

“Yes, even if he is Santa Claus.”

Children should get a say on their physical boundaries, whether it is with Santa, a relative, or even you—the parent.  If your children do not want to hug, don’t force them.  If they don’t want to kiss, don’t force them.  By dictating that they should, you are undermining their feelings of comfort.  This tells them that they are not the owner of their bodies and should discard their instincts, which makes them vulnerable to being sexually abused.

Irene van der Zande is the co-founder and executive director of Kidpower, a nonprofit empowering and educating people of all ages to stay safe.

I have had to tell friends and relatives many times that my children do not want to be hugged.  Fortunately for me, no one has gotten offended by it (or if they have, they have not said anything to me).  Some reply, “Maybe in 5-10 minutes when they have settled.”  And in 5-10 minutes when my children have familiarized themselves with the people and surrounding, they usually run up to hug their auntie or uncle who was asking for a hug earlier.

I don’t have a say in who they want or do not want to be affectionate with.  When my children tell me they dislike someone, we have a conversation about it.  I remind them that they cannot be mean to that person, but they don’t have to like them.  Just because I am their parent does not mean I have to make them like someone they do not.  How would you feel if someone told you you have to like someone just because they are another person’s friend or relative?

Some have said that I am too liberal and giving my very young children too much freedom—which may lead to them being out of control, vulnerable to abuse, and promiscuous.  I beg to differ.  My spouse and I have rules in the house and are consistent in reinforcing and punishing our children.  I just believe that my children get to express their emotions and make decisions on their physical boundaries.  Why am I going to force my children to do something that they feel is wrong and/or uncomfortable?  Like Irene van der Zande stated above, by making children “submit to unwanted affection…, we teach them that their bodies do not belong to them….  This leads to children getting sexually abused.”