it’s so amazing…

After reading It’s Not the Stork with my children, I had high hopes for It’s So Amazing, the next book in the series by Robie Harris, geared for ages 7 and up. I decided to read the book before sharing it with my children, as I wasn’t quite certain what the difference between the two books would be. For the most part, the book builds on information presented in It’s Not the Stork, with the added topics of puberty and HIV/AIDS.

Harris addresses HIV in her previous matter of fact manner. She also takes a similar view point for bringing up the terms of hetero- and homosexuality. After going over the basics of puberty and briefly discussing sexual intercourse, birth control is mentioned, which may be uncomfortable for some families. However, it is not a definitive guide, only mentioning condoms and birth control pills, and is more an opening to discuss the concept with your children, ending with the fact that abstinence is the only way to completely avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

I had the same complaint with this book as its predecessor in regards to its reference to intact penises as uncircumcised. In this book, she goes further to say that both are normal. While our society’s vernacular isn’t quite what it used to be, accepted would be a better term for circumcised penises than normal. Society accepts individuals with both intact and circumcised penises, but there is nothing normal about cutting off a part of someone’s body. She also once again mentions in her discussion of okay versus not okay touches that it is acceptable for a doctor or nurse to touch a child’s private parts. It is never acceptable for one person to touch another person without their permission.

She also lost a little respect in this book by presenting to the mainstream crowd when it comes to childbirth. Not everyone chooses to have an attendant, which isn’t left as an unsaid option in this book. Women, in almost all cases except for when there are rare problems, are perfectly capable of birthing a child and do better when not inhibited and without interventions. Mainstream choices such as immediate cord cutting and delayed skin contact with the mother are also stated as fact rather than choice. While she mentions c-sections as an alternative birthing method, the word normal is once again inappropriately used. Surgery, while accepted, is never normal.

I ended up choosing not to share this book with my children. The greatest reason is that they haven’t shown any interest in discussing puberty more than we already have. They are still young, although we will probably be discussing the topic in greater detail in the next couple of years. However, I think there must be a better book out there for when they decide they do want to explore the topic in more depth.

it’s not the stork…

Due to recent discussions and inquiries about sex at our house, I had requested the book It’s Not the Stork by Robie Harris from our local library. Based on some of the reviews on Amazon, I was expecting a book for older kids and was a little surprised to see the circle on the front as saying it was for ages 4 +.  I agree that this book is completely appropriate for that age group.

The book is honest and straight forward and answers some seemingly complex questions in a simple way that children can understand. The simple cartoon-like illustrations, while anatomically correct, are modest and not at all graphic. Harris addresses both similarities and differences between the bodies of men and women, girls and boys. She takes a non-biased view on issues, keeping everything to the facts.

I liked the fact that while it stated that most babies are born in the hospital (I would personally add in the United States to this statement), that some are born at home. While not mentioning it specifically, he doesn’t leave out unassisted birth due to his statement that many moms have someone help them out and equally mentions doctors and nurses along with midwives and doulas. No where is it stated that all women utilize these people.

The first part of the book focuses on correct terminology of body parts, utilizing a style shown in many board books where body parts are labeled with a line pointing to them. It focuses solely on reproduction after introducing terminology, mainly focusing on anatomy and what happens after the egg is fertilized. One statement explains that the man places his penis into the woman’s vagina during sex. This is the only mention of that and frankly, it’s needed after your children pass the stage where they want to know exactly how sperm reaches the egg. Contrary to one Amazon reviewers claim that the associated illustrated is soft porn, the picture merely shows a man and woman in bed covered up with a quilt. Since most people in our society sleep in bed with some type of covering, I’m not certain how that could be construed as something else.

The book goes on to cover how a baby is formed and grows. Despite the cartoonish nature of the drawings, I’ve noticed my five year old picking the book up to look at the babies and the mother’s pregnant bellies. Harris briefly mentions some of the needs newborn babies have, again taking an unbiased view on topics such as breastfeeding and bottle feeding. I was delighted to see an illustration of a mother tandem nursing her newborn twins.

After addressing reproduction, the author briefly goes over what are okay touches and what are not –  that it’s okay for you to touch your private parts if it tickles and feels good but that it is not okay for others to touch you. She also mentions that families can look very different, including all of the many children in our society who live in a family that doesn’t conform to the typical nuclear family.

Besides some initial giggling from my children at the beginning of the book with the mention of poop (why is it that children find poop so funny?), I mainly thought the book was very well written and illustrated. There were two things I would change. In the illustrations which show the differences between an intact penis and a circumcised penis, discussed with Harris’s unbiased writing style, the intact penis is labelled uncircumcised. Since penises are naturally intact, this really is not a correct way to describe them. The other part was in the discussion of who is allowed to touch your private parts. The author mentions that it is okay for doctors to touch you in order to help you. I personally skipped over that part. It’s my opinion that it is unacceptable for anyone to touch another person’s private parts without permission.

The book is geared for toddlers and preschool age children. With younger children, one could easily skip over parts that they weren’t quite ready for. I was pleased with the content of the book and look forward to exploring some of the author’s books for older children.

let’s talk about sex…

Let’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be. Let’s talk about sex.

In early highschool, I had a friend who sang this refrain to me every time he called me…until the day he accidentally sang it to my mother. He was a great guy – supportive and friendly – and never anymore than just a friend. He made me laugh every time he sang the song to me. I missed his singing after that accidental serenade to my mother, but my mother and I did have a good laugh about it. She had known my friend since he was little and was very fond of him. A lot of my friends thought of my mother as a cool mom and would talk to her about things they were uncomfortable bringing up to their own parents, depsite the fact that I had the oldest mother out of all of my friends.

My mother was pretty forthright about sex, to an extent. She was definitely progressive compared with most parents I knew at the time. I was adament before we had kids that we would be open and honest with them about sex, just as we are with any other subject. We’ve always used correct terminology with our children and have answered questions as they come up at an age (and maturity) appropriate level, whether it’s about how babies are formed or what the term homosexual means. We’ve modeled a healthy view of nudity and also tried to word our answers in a manner which allows our children to know that we are always supportive of them and will continue to be. Over the past couple of weeks or so, we’ve had some more in-depth questions.

The last of our nightly rituals, after everyone has gotten ready for bed, after we’ve nursed, snuggled and read, and when everyone is securely tucked into our family bed, is generally for everyone to tell everyone else that they love each other, by name. It’s very Walden-esque, and I’m not certain how it got started. Over the last week or so, we’ve also had some sex questions at this time. At one point my 7 year old son said, “I’m not exactly certain what sex looks like. I’ve never actually seen you and Dad have sex.”

My knee jerk reaction was to say, “That’s because sex is private. You won’t ever see us have sex.” My husband confirmed this with a “Yes. Sex is very private.” However, my response has been bugging me. I can’t predict the future. As our children get older, it is very possible that they might some day accidentally walk in on us having sex. As Dr. Sears once said, “If your kids have never walked in on you having sex, you aren’t having enough sex.” If that ever happens, we will treat it matter of factly and discuss with them any thoughts or feelings they may have.

I want my children to have a healthy view of sex and their bodies and to be confident in their choices. My husband and I kiss, hug, and caress one another in front of the kids. We believe that modeling a loving relationship will help them in their future relationships. We plan to continue  answering questions in an open and honest manner. We want them to feel free to discuss anything with us. I do believe that we have reached the point where it’s time to bring some books in on the subject. I’ve requested It’s So Amazing and It’s Not the Stork from our public library. The listed reviews make it seem like these will be a good reference for our children, but I want to check them out before spending money on them.