Overheard in Toronto: or, Things I never thought I’d have to explain at this stage

I have kids with precocious minds. They start at step a, and skip forwards to step g on a pretty regular basis. They make connections in very fast and scary ways – and maybe most kids are like that, but I don’t often hear other parents of 8- and 9-year-olds talking about their kids in the same way.

Maybe it’s that my kids know that I’ll answer pretty much every question they ask, so they ask more of them than the average kid might. And WOW, do they ask questions, in the most awkward of locations. My children regularly ask me questions related to sex while riding public transit. Perhaps they feel like I’m a captive audience while we’re crammed into the subway or streetcar, maybe that’s just the time that these things pop into their heads. I don’t know the answer to why it’s almost exclusively in moving, crowded vehicles.

Because these questions were asked in public, I have no issue with sharing them here. After all, some who read this may think to themselves, “Hey, I know that kid! I remember almost peeing myself on the subway that day!” Anyway. Here’s a selected sample of the questions (and my responses) that have come up while trapped in public.

1) Mom, what’s a whore?
Nothing like easing me into the pool there, buddy. Deep breath, turn it back, and ask what he thinks the word means. He doesn’t know, but says he heard it while we watched Mean Girls together. Ah, yes. Quickly formulate age-appropriate answer on my feet.

“It’s a not very nice word for an individual who has sex for money. [pause] Do you need more information?”

“NO. I’m good. [pause] People DO that?!?”

2) Mama, he called me a bitch!
“Do you know what the word means?”

Of course not. So I explain that a bitch is the technical term for a female dog, and it is a very inappropriate word to use to describe female humans. I think I also gave them the definition related to possession or ownership, in a sexual way.

(I should probably mention here that one of my children is completely horrified by the idea of sex. Unfortunately, he’s also the kid who keeps using words without knowing what they mean, so he’s ending up with a very rich education on the subject in spite of himself.)

3) My friend and I were playing, and then we called this kid a bastard.
“Do you know what that word means?”
Nope. He thought it meant some kind of weakling.
“It’s an individual whose parents weren’t married when she or he was born.”
“… Hey, that’s us!”
“Yes. Yes, it is. You are bastards.”
“Wait ’till I tell my friends!”

4) You are such a douchebag!
Again, do you have any idea what you’re saying?
“It’s like a hot water bottle, but it has a tube and a nozzle on it.”
“Oh please don’t keep talking.”
“You’re sure?”
“I’m pretty sure, yes. It’s another one of those things I don’t ever want to know about.”
“See what I mean about always making sure you know what a word means before you repeat it?
“UGH. Yes. Never again.”

5) Why can’t I watch Torchwood again?
My son is obsessed with Doctor Who. He’s seen every episode of the 2000s series, as well as the first three seasons of The Sarah Jane Adventures. When he found out that Captain Jack Harkness led the Cardiff Torchwood office, he wanted in. Until of course I told him that the series was far more violent, and there were more sexual elements that would probably make him uncomfortable.

So I reminded him: “What was the reason I told you the last time you asked”
“Because it’s violent and there’s sex, and blah blah blah – hey wait! They’re just acting, right?”
“… I don’t know what you mean.”
“They’re just pretending to have sex.”
“Oh, yes. There’s no actual sex on Torchwood, no.”
“Cause that would be awful. No one would do that, right? No one would have ACTUAL sex in a tv show.”
“WHAT?!?!?! You’re KIDDING me. Please tell me you’re lying. It’s a joke, right?”
“No, there are films where people actually have sex on camera.”
“OMG. You haven’t seen any, though.”
“I think it’s time to change the topic now.”

It may be one of the things that makes me a weirdo, but I look forward to whatever bizarre conversation point one or the other will initiate next. I will not lie to them about sex, because I don’t ever want them to associate sexuality with dishonesty. I do, however, strive to answer their questions in very age-appropriate ways. I always give them an out, they can always decide whether or not they want the answer. If they say no, I stop, showing respect for their need to take in the information they’re seeking on their own timeline. I know they’ll come back to whatever they say no to, and when they’re ready, I’m there.



  1. chryse said,

    April 18, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    In the changing room at the pool the other day, a small boy announced that I didn’t have a penis and that he did. I really trying not to laugh, because it was SO CUTE and the poor Mom was so embarrassed.

  2. solemom said,

    April 19, 2010 at 8:55 am

    You, m’dear, rock.
    I must remember this post when Felix hits that awesome age.

  3. Freyja said,

    April 19, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    LOL — sounds like a lot of the conversations I have with my kids. Usually in the car. My favorite was the used bookstore where my daughter asked (loudly of course) “what does ‘cunt’ mean?” (Guess what book was right at her eyeline? I think she was somewhere between 7 and 9 at the time.)

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