How young is old enough?

That is the question. I have been thinking upon those lines since last Friday.

Following is a conversation I had with the 7 year old kid I babysit, Thomas:

Him: How old are you?

Me: I am 21.

Him: So, are you married?

Me: No, I am not married.

Him: When will you get married?

Me: I really don’t know, sweetie.

Him: 50 days?

Me: Let’s say in 900 days

Him (giggling now): Are you going to do sex when you marry?

Me: What? Where did you learn that word?

It took plenty of coaxing to make him sit with me and talk about this.

Me: So, where did you learn that word?

Him: Mama told me about it.

Me: No, that’s not true! Who told you about this? Did you learn it at school?

Him: No-no-no, not school. I learned it from myself.

Me: You know that’s not possible. Now, you tell me where did you learn it?

Him: My friend told me.

Me: And do you know what sex is?

Him: Ya it puts baby in you. And when you do sex you have no clothes. In sex, Mama touches Daddy’s peepee and Daddy touches that (points to my breast).

Astounding as it was for me, the word precocious falls short in the case.

Pardon me for being orthodox or just being born/brought up in India, but this was NOT acceptable for me. There is an age for everything. Maybe it’s not necessarily as late as 16 but my rational sense denies that 7 is the right age.

Parents are hardly to blame here. They don’t know what the kids are learning at school. And as I just saw the kids are smart enough to know exactly what to keep from their parents.

It is the television and Internet that did this. And it’s simply impossible to keep a kid away from these. From the first day I started babysitting, my basic conditional was, ‘Thomas, if you don’t do so and so, no tv for you today’. They want tv and they do everything they are told for it. How correct bribing a kid this way is, is debatable. Again, you don’t want your kids becoming social misfits by keeping them away from tv, right?

I am no mother and I don’t claim to know if knowing about sex as early as this has any long term adverse effect. But I know one thing for sure – at that age no kid understands that it is just a normal process of life.

And then I see that Thomas explicitly and correctly knew what it is. There is hardly anything wrong in his information which leads me to believe that it might not be a bad thing for him to have his first education of the subject this way. Therefore by pushing him towards secrecy, I wouldn’t want Thomas to inadvertently start believing that sex is a semi-taboo.

But he giggled before he popped the question about sex to me and then consistently dodged my inquiries; it means he KNOWS that he is not supposed to know about this.

Would it have been better if his parents really had told him about it? Maybe he’d be more clear and receptive if he was told about it at home.

Problem lies here: I wish to tell his mother about it. But really is it the right age for his parents to be educating him on sex? Or should I let it be because eventually he might know better?

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19 thoughts on “How young is old enough?

  1. As I am a parent of soon to be eight, I would want to know. Children pick things up from God knows where, but the parents should be the ones to put back the pieces.

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  2. Well, I guess I was in second grade when the kids at school were talking about what the word scrawled in black Sharpie on the hallway column meant. And in my case the informants were correct on the mechanics. So I don’t think he is abnormally young. If you do keep him a lot, I would tell his parents that he has been asking you questions about sex so they can start a dialogue with him. So he knows he can approach them with questions. And at that age, kids don’t want a 30-page manual. Usually just a few answers and their curiosity is satisfied. It is unbelievable what they are exposed to and at what age nowadays. But that is an entirely didn’t beast.

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  3. I remember I picked up the idea that sex was a man laying on top of a naked woman. I think I was around that age, seven or eight, and I picked it up from my older cousin. I can only imagine how much worse it is trying to properly educate kids in this environment, so it’s important to keep information open (like you said, so it doesn’t become an avenue for shame). Whew! A difficult talk at that age, for sure.

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  4. When I was in second grade (7), my best friend and I collected a dollar from each kid in our class for telling them (accurately, as I recall) how babies are made. Now, I have a son who’s in the same age range as that you’re describing, and I’ll tell you that he has known about the basic mechanics of sex for several years. We have never foisted sexual knowledge on him, and never will, but we have never shied away from answering the questions that he asks honestly, and as openly as appropriate, and never will.

    We let him guide us on the question of what he’s ready to hear, and he’s a wise guide.

    Moral judgments about what kids SHOULD know when tend to create tension when there’s a distance between what we think they should know and what they want to know. Particularly now that, with two minutes alone on a browser, a 7-year-old can find the answer to any question they might have on their own.

    This all seems to me good. I like answering our son’s questions. I find the challenge of answering them in a way that’s simultaneously respectful, appropriate, and honest one of the hardest, and most rewarding, aspects of parenting.

    My only words of advice to you are that you do your best to restrain your judgment. How parents and kids talk about sex is highly personal. There’s no “right” answer; there are just right answers for families. My approach almost certainly wouldn’t work for you. That doesn’t make it wrong. It makes it wrong for YOU. So go easy….

    N.

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  5. My 8 year old has never asked me about sex, nor have I broached the subject with her yet. I personally think she’s too young, and unless she hears about it and asks me, I’m not having that talk for a few more years. But I know I am old fashioned. I would highly recommend you tell the parents, so that they can address his questions, since he’s having them.

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  6. Like Jamie, I’d mention it to his parents so they know he’s curious. That way they can talk to him about it in whatever way they deem is appropriate.

    I, personally, don’t think 7 is too young to know about sex in a limited context. A lot of my five year old’s friends have pregnant mothers so she asks questions about pregnancy and where babies come from which I think is normal. It’s important to me to be honest with my kid about that kind of stuff without over sharing so I tell her the basic facts in a scientific (as opposed to highly sexualized) way.

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  7. I think I was nine or ten when my mom first talked to me about it. But back then there was no internet, and I think we grew up just a little slower than kids grow up today. I think you should definitely tell the parents. If I were them, I would want to know so I could figure out how to handle it.

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  8. As a mom I’d want to know. It’s tough as the kids go to school and talk to friends; parents aren’t the only source of info. He sounds adorable.

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  9. I also vote for telling the parents. He already knows some, and they should be aware so they can teach him what THEY want him to know about it. As soon as my kids started asking questions, I tried to be honest, but with age-appropriate answers.

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  10. If I was this child’s parents, I would want to know, so I could have the opportunity to have conversations with him about sex/sexuality. I would also want to discuss the topic with you and other child care providers, so everybody was on the same page regarding further discussions with the child (extent of topic, terminology, etc.). N is right, every family has different approaches to discussions about sexuality. It’s important to be aware of and honor that.

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  11. Here’s my 2 cents based on being the mom of a 6.5 year old boy. 7 is too young to understand, which is a much bigger picture, in my opinion, than just knowing. If I were you, as awkward as the conversation would be, I’d suggest telling the mom the conversation, just as you did us, and let her decide how to handle. If this will cause issues with the mom and child, and/or you and the child, you may want to warn the child that you spoke to the mom. The mom should know what her kid is talking about, but it shouldn’t undermine the trust that you all need in that relationship. Good luck.

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  12. I’m frightened to think how old my daughter will be when she first learns these things. She’ll probably be a lot younger than when I hope she’ll be…like 19 or so.

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  13. I would tell the parents… they should definitely know about it, and they probably have a sense of where to go with the issue. I remember knowing about sex that young, though yes, I didn’t tell my parents! I guess the subject makes it through the grapevine that early in life sometimes.

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