I consider myself a pretty liberal person when it comes to most things. I believe in gay marriage, taxing the rich, ending the war (any war). I’ve talked to my 5-year-old daughter about the fact that boys can love boys and girls can love girls. I teach her about donating to those in need. She knows what a tampon is, and that it’s something grown-up girls use when they get their periods (ewww!). I haven’t been shy about much when it comes to raising my daughter; I even explained to her that the hole part of her pee-pee is called a vagina.
But when my daughter started yelling, “Penis, penis, penis!” down the sidewalk as we were walking home from school one day last week, all bets were suddenly off. In that instant, I immediately switched camps and joined the 59% of parents “who do not think sex education should be taught to children in school from a young age.”
It’s not because I think my 5-year-old is going to want to have sex once she knows how babies are made, or that she’s suddenly gonna start flipping the channels for soft-core, but hearing the word penis come out of her mouth – and at such an intense decibel – was definitely a shock. It’s partially my fault, too, because when she asked me if I wanted to know what a boy chicken pee-pee was called, I could have said no. In fact, I did say no, but then curiosity got the best of me. I caved and said, “Okay. Tell me what a boy chicken pee-pee is called.”
“I think it’s called a pernis,” she replied, ever-so-hesitantly.
“It’s actually called a penis,” I said. Why? WHY did I say that?!
“Penis?!,” she asked. And then I giggled. That’s what did me in. I laughed at my kindergartner using the fancy word for boy pee-pee, and from that moment on it was just, “PENIS PENIS PENIS!!!” as we walked by a nice, cute, young gay couple headed up the street. I was sure they’d either call child protective services or ask my daughter precisely where all that penis was, so they could take care of it.
“Don’t say that! Shhhh!,” I begged, to no avail, so I tried a tactical change.
“Who taught you that?,” I asked.
“Our teacher did,” my daughter said. She had started to act a bit cocky about it, too, which is only fitting, I suppose. “It was in a book.”
I was stunned. I knew her class was hatching baby chicks in an incubator, but I had no idea there would be penis involved. I was reeling with questions. “Is it bad that she knows what a penis is? Does she really know what it is, or just the word? Do I want her to know about sex? I do, but I don’t. In terms of reproduction, I guess it’s okay. But not for pleasure! Oh God. Do chickens even have sex???” I wondered. “And why don’t I know that?”
It turns out, a rooster’s “penis” – though I can’t seem to find it referred to as anything but an “organ” or a “member” online – remains inside his butt – yes, his butt – until it’s time to do the deed, at which point the rooster mounts the hen and they do it like most animals do: quickly.
Now that that’s out of the way, one question still remains: do I want my kindergartener to receive this type of sex ed? I don’t know. I wish I’d been there to observe the lesson. Then maybe I’d have a stronger feeling one way or the other. It’s hard to know as a parent how to teach what when, but I guess now I don’t have to worry about breaking the penis barrier. It’s already been done for me.
It’s interesting to note that among British parents surveyed about sex ed for youngsters, 22% of them have the same concern about it that I do, which is: does teaching a 5-year-old about chicken penis mean she’s going to develop an interest in the human penis? I’m sure the answer is no, since it hasn’t come up yet. But it’s definitely unsettling to think about. I felt prepared to start to talk about the birds and the bees in a few years, but not now. There’s currently a bill in British Parliament that says, “For children aged three to six teaching is centred around issues like, ‘where do babies come from?’, ‘why are girls’ and boys’ bodies different?’ and ‘which parts of my body are private?’” In our house, we’ve gone over the third question, a little of the second (not the why but the how) and not at all the first. My daughter knows that a girl can’t get pregnant until she’s started her period, but as far as I know, my daughter still thinks girls just “get” a baby, like a manicure. I was content to leave well enough alone. Or maybe I was just too chicken to correct her.
What do you think? How much should a 5-year-old know about sex? At what age should kids know everything there is to know about doin’ it? Or not doin’ it. Gulp.
Source: BBC News