If you’ve yet to have children, remember this: toddlers are extremely curious and creative little creatures.
When you’re taking a bath or in the kitchen, they will dig through your drawers or under your bed looking for play clothing or monsters or a lost Toy Story Buzz Lightyear. And when they do, they will find whatever it is that you’ve hoped they would never ask about. And then they will ask about everything single thing they discover.
This is what happened to me one lazy Saturday afternoon while my husband was out and I was engrossed in the latest John Grisham novel with my feet up on the backside of the couch. In marches my 3 and a half-year-old, proudly pulling a makeshift caddy of all our private pleasure toys that we keep stored under the bed. My blindfold is casually wrapped around her waist like a little fashionista belt, and she sports one fuzzy pink handcuff pushed way up to her shoulder, like some cool punk rocker.
“Mommy, Mommy! Lookit! Toys!” she exclaims to me, excited about her bounty. And then the questions begin as she presents each item in a quick flurry, her curly hair bouncing. She pulls out a simple straight, non-penis looking vibrator and somehow actually manages to twist it just right to start it humming.
“Why does it move like that? It tickles.” I gently take the toy from her and turn it off. This is a delicate moment to handle; I don’t believe there’s any shame in sex, but I also believe that 3 ½ is far too early to introduce the concept. I’ve heard stories from friends whose mothers taught them that sexuality was improper, keeping the facts of life from them until they were well into their teenage years. By then, of course, they had learned all the truly improper – that is, inaccurate – information from their friends. One close pal was even slapped in the face by her mother when she unintentionally found mom’s vibrator and asked about it over lunch in front of other ladies.
This would never be my approach. I consider my response and give her as close to the truth as I think is appropriate.
“That’s for when mommy’s back hurts.” I tell her.
“Can I put it on your back?” She asks, all innocent.
“That’s sweet, honey, but my back doesn’t hurt right now.”
She seems content with this answer and moves onto the feather tickler, sticking it in her hair like an Indian. She poses fiercely for me. I cower in mock fear. Then she removes it and tickles my nose with it, so I giggle.
“Tickle me back!” So I do and she giggles. “Why do you have this, mommy?”
“For tickling, of course.”
“Right!” And she tickles me again. We have a good laugh. Then, suddenly, she runs back into the bedroom and brings back my wedge.
“Mommy, what’s this?” Her face is screwed up with a completely confused expression, her head tilted to the side like a dog that’s just heard a funny sound.
“What does it look like it’s for?” I ask. She pauses. Then, with great accomplishment:
“A slide!” And she plops down on the high end and slides down to the floor, squealing. It’s not a very long slide, but it does the trick. She jumps back up and this time rolls down it, turning over about twice and laughing dizzily at the bottom.
I leave John Grisham on the couch for the rest of the afternoon while I watch my daughter play with the blindfold, feather, cuff and wedge. The rest of the toys go back in the bedroom, but this time on a high shelf in the closet. Some day I know we’ll have a good laugh about this day. She may even think I’m kind of cool. Or maybe, when she’s a bit more grown up, she’ll come to me with more adult questions about sexuality because she knows she can trust that I’m as open and honest as I can be, given the circumstances. Maybe she’ll remember that I let her play and use her imagination, knowing that she wasn’t being “tainted” or shamed in any way.
Until then, of course, as far as she’s concerned, a feather is just a feather.
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