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  • Wherein We Speak of YKW

    February 19, 2012

    Today’s topic is YKW, which shall be code for ‘you know what’ which shall be code for well, you know. . .  It’s not that I am Victorian when it comes to the topic of YKW, it’s just that I’d prefer Google not send a certain audience of seekers to my humble wholesome blog, so therefore I have developed my own dorky top secret code.  So then, now you are in the know about YKW.

    * * * * *

    Sean prefers to sit with AD and I in our Sunday school class.  And we don’t mind, we like having him with us.  He brings a book to read.  But he is also listening.  He’s always listening.  We know this because usually sometime around Wednesday, out of the blue, he’ll make some observation about something the teacher said.

    For the past several weeks, a family and marriage therapist has been leading the class on various aspects of the marriage relationship.  The next class, we were warned, would be on marital intimacy.  So of course we told Sean that he would have to go to his own class.  “Why!?” he protested, “Because you’re going to talk about s+x?”  Yes, I said, for that very reason.  “But I promise I won’t answer any of the questions!” he said.

    Sean has a good understanding of YKW.  He understands the physiology.  He knows that God created male and female, each with their own unique components for reproduction.  He does not yet fully understand how the components come together to make that happen because he is not ready for that.

    We decided early on that we would approach the topic honestly anytime the opportunity presented.  And one thing that has helped in that regard is that Sean has always been keenly interested in wild life and animals.  We have watched a lot of Animal Planet, where the topic is unavoidable and usually narrated in a British voice.  Which somehow makes everything seem more proper.

    One time when Sean was about five and my parents were visiting, Sean and my dad were sitting on the couch watching an episode of Animal Planet while the British guy gave a play by play of two lions engaged in YKW.  Sean, ever the educator, turns to my dad and flatly informs him, “The male is the one top.”  To which my dad replied, “Oh.” and then quickly excused himself to the kitchen to refill his glass of tea.

    Everyone has to develop their own parenting philosophy in terms of how and when to teach their children about YKW, so what follows is not to comment upon what anyone else is doing, but merely to say what has worked for us. Thus far.  We may find out years from now that our philosophy was a complete and utter failure.

    If I were to offer any advice in regards to how you decide to educate your children on this topic it would be to decide.  That is to say give some thought as to what, when and how you want your children to learn about YKW, and not wait to see how the world fills the void.

    Parenting often occurs in reaction to and against our own experience and this may be part of how our thinking on this topic developed — we looked back on our own experience and decided that maybe there was a better way.  I think for many of us Baby Boomers the best practice of the day was that somewhere around puberty, your mother or some other well-intended adult would ominously sit you down and give you THE TALK, maybe give you a book which covered the basic physiology illustrated with line drawings.  They would then dust their hands, relieved that the task was complete, thankful that we could all move on with our lives and pretend it never happened.

    The problem with this approach in my view is that it’s like getting a bucket of cold water in the face.  There was no information leading up to THE TALK (except maybe from unreliable peer sources), there was no context, and definitely no follow-up.  And it was incredibly awkward at a time when your life is one big hot steaming bowl of awkward.

    In light of that we decided to forego the bucket method, and opted instead for the dribble method – we would start early and give him little bits of accurate and age-appropriate information as the opportunity presented.  There would be no cabbage patch or stork or cute names for body parts.

    THE TALK approach, to me, always seemed to confer upon it a sense of shame, that somehow after THE TALK you don’t talk about it, ever, again.  We want Sean to talk to us openly and freely, about everything, but at the same time YKW is not a topic we want him discussing openly and freely outside of our family, for many reasons, but not the least of which is because just like Santa Claus, other families might be going the stork route and we want to respect that.  We don’t want Sean to be a spoiler or to get in the way of how other people are teaching their children.  So, we constantly remind Sean that this is a topic that we only talk about at home among the three of us, and never with others.

    When I was coming of age, my knowledge on the topic was like a book that was missing every other page.  I had bits and pieces of information here and there, but by no means did I have a complete picture or a useful understanding.  And I knew it.  I can still remember my freshman year of high school, the panicky feeling of knowing that I didn’t know what I thought everyone else knew, and trying to pretend that I did.  And that panic and pretending is awful, because you’re just waiting to be found out as the dumbest person ever.  And I don’t want for Sean.  I want him to have confidence in who he is and what he knows. I don’t want to leave wide open gaps for the world to fill with panic and ugly half-truths.

    That is why we want Sean to hear from us first on the topic of YKW – like the local news, we want to be his first and most trusted source of information!  Back to you AD in the studio!

    That he should hear from us first on this topic is the cornerstone of our philosophy — the two people who love him most and know him best, who have his best interest at heart and in whom he knows he can trust completely.

    We want to provide him with information on a level that is appropriate for him, in the context of our beliefs and values, with the understanding that physiology and faith are partners, not opponents, that one without the other is incomplete.  We want him to feel he can talk to us anytime, openly and without reserve or shame.  We want him to understand that this is a topic that is to be handled with respect, and therefore is private (not secret) and not public.

    If our philosophy is sound and works the way we hope, when the topic of YKW comes up on the playground, as it will if it hasn’t already, he’s heard it before, it is old news.  And hopefully he’ll yawn confidently and walk away.

    If not, he can discuss it with his future family and marriage therapist.

    17 Comments »

    1. Melanie says:

      Amen! I’ve always thought YKW education should be a conversation that is ongoing, too. My only difference is the cute names. While my kids know the proper terminology, I’ve never made it a sticking point, mostly because I don’t for any other body part. If they have a tummy ache, that’s what they say, I don’t make them tell me about their abdominal pain. I’ve never really gotten the whole “only call it by the proper names” when that standard is not applied to other body parts. But, I could be wrong :) So glad to hear from you this beautiful Sunday morning.

      * * *
      I agree on “tummy”. While he knows that a female has a uterus, we say he grew in my tummy. We tend to insist more upon the proper terms for the private body part just to avoid the inevitable vulgarities.

      February 19th, 2012 at 9:17 am

    2. debm says:

      Well put, and well taught. I handled YKW very much the same way when raising my son. The way he treats the subject, his body and the females in his life to date (26 years old) is one of the things I am most proud of him. May sound silly to some, but I personally have dealt with men of all ages, and still do who do not know how to respect any of these things.

      My Nature Channel moment came while standing in line at the grocery store. Son was about 4 years old. The not quite 5-foot-tall woman in line in front of us appeared to be in her late 70’s. Son looked her in the eyes and with true thoughts of imparting important knowledge, asked “Do you know the mating habits of the cave cricket?” I thought the store manager would have to call 911. I just looked at her and said “The Nature Channel.” When we got in the car and while putting groceries away I did have a discussion with him about with whom we talk about mating habits. I say discussion because from before he was 2 it was never a one way conversation.

      Thanks for sharing, and don’t worry. You’re doing a fine job of MOMing. Blessings

      February 19th, 2012 at 9:54 am

    3. Iota says:

      Great philosophy. I’m also a big believer in having an age-appropriate book or two around the house. Then the child can investigate at his/her own pace, without always having to ask Mom or Dad. This becomes more important as they get older, and something drives them to want to know things from people other than boring Mom or Dad. They might need to spend an hour cogitating the issue, but probably won’t want Mom and Dad to know that (and certainly won’t want to discuss it with them for an hour).

      But YKW knowledge from parents first, I’m definitely with you there. Good book second, rather than peers second, though.

      * * *
      Good point on having an age appropriate book and opportunity for self-investigation – hadn’t thought about it from that point of view. I love being able to learn from my readers who have been down the road before me.

      February 19th, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    4. lu says:

      l found my son asked questions at an earlier age than his sister, due to having seen me pregnent. When they were both small we never made a fuss if they incounted us dressing, this changed as they got older. We tried to answer questions as they arose. I bought one childrens book which was on the subject of the whole body, as I felt parts connected with ykw should not be talked about in isolation. Which was a coment my human biology teacher made years ago, at the time only the girls were taking the subject, which covered the whole body in great detail, the boys took phyisics, some one ask our teacher how she would feel if she had to teach the boys about certain parts of the topic. Her reply was she would only feel happy teaching the whole subject and not just bits

      February 19th, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    5. Meghan says:

      I was going to ask you if you used any resources like picture books to help with your discussions, then I saw Iota’s comment and your response. If you come across something that you like, let me know.

      If we lived closer, I would sure love you to be my mentor! :)

      * * *
      I would love it if you lived nearby too! I didn’t use picture books when he was younger, but probably will as he gets older. I never made it anything formal and just kind of dealt with it as it came up in conversation or as the opportunity presented, and Animal Planet presented a lot of opportunities.

      February 19th, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    6. Lisa Smith @stretchmarkmama says:

      I follow the same exact identical philosophy. I also like to speak using redundancies. :D

      I love the “It’s Not the Stork” series of books and have read them a good handful of times to my boys. I wrote a post about this topic (and those books) that is linked to via this comment.

      * * *
      Here’s a link to Lisa’s post on the this topic with a list of books she recommends:

      http://stretchmarkmama.blogspot.com/2007/06/let-me-tell-ya-bout-birds-and-bees.html

      February 19th, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    7. Erica says:

      This is precisely the approach my parents took with us, although by Sean’s age I knew all the mechanics, and they did throw in a formal middle school “talk” each to make sur they hadn’t left any gaps that I might want filled. In a family of all girls, I did actually have some questions about what boys were going through, so that was helpful. I remember going to school and sitting through the health classes on the topic and listening to my friends talk and wondering what the big deal was, they seemed like smart people, didn’t they know about this stuff? And in the next breath, whoa! They are speaking so confidently about such wrong information, what does that say about kids my age? I kept all that to myself and went home to discuss the topic owing my Mom, who so clearly knew more than they did.

      With my kids, they seem to have inherited my family’s blurry lines about what is private and what is public (we have a wee bit of cluelessness there sometimes) so your words on how you frame the conversation for your son, this is private because it deserves to be treated with respect, we’re really helpful for me. Thank you.

      February 20th, 2012 at 7:47 am

    8. Jackie says:

      We were always open and honest with Blake. When he was in K he told us he knew what YKW was. I said oh yeah, what do you think it is. He said its when two people kiss and lay in bed together. I told him well that’s not quite right. I don’t think you are old enough to know yet but, I promise I will talk to you when you are a bit older. At the end of grade K while we are leaving the old DQ that’s now an Italian Resturant he tells us I know what YKW is. Oh you do. Yes it’s when to people kiss and laydown in bed and touch their from parts together. I laughed my husband was freaked out. Then I found out that the boy who told him at day care said he had been doing YKW with his sister! That freaked me out so I spoke to the day care school director. Not sure whatever happened with that. But, the bottom line is kids talk starting at a very young age. We as parents can only do the best we can. What you are doing with Sean is fantastic. My son is now 20 and off to college and the three of us have a very open relashionship. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

      Jackie :-)

      February 20th, 2012 at 10:03 am

    9. Shannon says:

      Sounds like you’re handling it just perfectly. We’ve taken the same approach, and we see it bearing lots of fruit in the teenage years. Our boys and frank, honest, and startlingly non-awkward in their questions to us. I’m glad about that.

      We have cautioned them that anything they hear about YKW from buddies is almost certainly wrong, or at least skewed. We’ve told them if they’ll come to us privately, we’ll be happy to set the record straight. They have, many times, and I think they trust us that we address their questions seriously.

      February 20th, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    10. Susan says:

      I completely agree with your thoughts! I was just wondering though, why doesn’t he go to his own Sunday School class? We’ve had people in our class who brought their school aged children and I kind of always wanted to ask why weren’t the kids in the childrens area? Ours has a great age appropriate curriculum, it isn’t like they are just being babysat.

      * * *

      That’s a reasonable question Susan and all I can tell you is that he likes to sit with us and we don’t mind, unless the topic is something like YKW where his presence in class might make others uncomfortable — then of course we are sensitive to and respect that.

      Last week an attorney taught our class and Sean sat with us and we all learned about the construction and make up of the Sanhedrin, its history and the role it played in the trial of Jesus and how it relates and compares to our modern day court system. That has made for some very interesting discussion at our house this week!

      Sean, much like his parents, doesn’t fit in the demographically-designed church boxes very well. And, I guess, if I have to make something an issue with him, I think I’d rather it be over something more consequential than what Bible class he’s attending – I’m saving my bullets for a bigger bear. :-D

      February 21st, 2012 at 7:06 am

    11. Adrianna Espino says:

      If a 70 yo grandmother may put in her two cents worth: I like your approach very much. We used a similar approach with our boys (now 40 and 38.) I’ve always thought, and have told others, “If you have taught him/them yourself, you KNOW what they know. If you leave it to their friends/classmates/peers et al, you don’t know what misinformation or skewed outlook they may have picked up.”

      February 21st, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    12. Roxanne says:

      Both of our children have asked questions at various times, but there came A Time when the question could no longer be answered without some deeper revelations. I have happened to be The Parent on deck for both both children–the daughter and the son. I WANTED to holler out the door to hubs, “Come the The Boy about YKW.” Because he (hubs) had skirted the issue the week before, which left me holding the bag. . .or skirt as the case may be.

      Like another commenter, I have found with both kids that having a book available is a wonderful thing. We have one that is illustrated by Marc Brown of “Arthur” fame. The illustrations are familiar, though (thankfully) NOT of Aardvarks. I also bought my daughter a copy of “The Care and Keeping of You” from American Girl. It’s a great resource that she has used from 10-13 1/2. . .and will use for many more years.

      February 21st, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    13. tom says:

      I think you both have struck a very wise and edifying balance in your approach to providing him information about YKW: Age-appropriate, factual and un-charged.

      Well done. I pray that Jackie and I are as comfortable and prepared when the time comes to talk to Michael about it. So far his interest in the subject has ranged from mild to disgusted.

      February 24th, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    14. Cyndi says:

      Well said, as always. I will just give a contrast to Lisa’s recommendation about “It’s Not The Stork” – we read this with our boys and there were several sections that I thought were unnecessary at their age (we read the 4-7 version when they were 7). I had planned to preread it after checking it out of the library and may not have used it, but they got to it before I could read it all. My husband didn’t enjoy the loud question about circumcision in the gigantic state fair bathroom ;-)

      February 26th, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    15. Paulla says:

      I loved this post and couldn’t agree more. We did this with our children (who are now 25, 19 and 18) and they are still very open with us. What a blessing. There are things my oldest has told me that I often wish he hadn’t, lol, but I’m so thankful for it!

      I do remember, however, when my youngest was 10, I heard some of her friends talking about ykw (we homeschooled, but she had many friends who went to traditional school). So I sat her down one day and asked if she knew what they were talking about. I hadn’t actually ever told her the specific dynamics of “what went where” even though she had seen those same animal planet shows. But I thought it was time, as she would soon be hearing it from her friends, if not. So I told her, very gently. She was appalled. And her response: “Mom, I’m too young to know that!”

      We still laugh about it today. :) At least she heard it from me, first! Keep up the good work – you are setting up a wonderful lifetime relationship with your son.

      February 29th, 2012 at 7:55 am

    16. Brigitte says:

      The British accent DOES seem to make it all more proper, somehow!

      We do use cutesie names for body parts, but our 7-yr-old also knows the real names. There’s been some nature show exposure and an age-appropriate book in her room. Oddly, she’s never seemed very curious about it and never asks us anything! Maybe we’re already giving her the info as fast as she’s comfortable with . . I hope.

      March 1st, 2012 at 7:27 am

    17. Kelly @ Love Well says:

      This is so good, and it comes at the perfect time for me, as my oldest daughter is 10. We are right on the edge of Revealing More Information. Some has been talked about, but not You Know What specifically.

      But here’s my question, if I may, and I realize it betrays some of my own past issues: I desperately want to portray YKW as a God-given gift, to be enjoyed fully in the right time. (Not, as Mark Driscoll once said, like the church often talks about it: It’s dirty, wrong and gross and you should save it for the one you love.) BUT. I still remember when a friend whispered the truth to me under a blanket at summer camp. I was totally repulsed. “The WHAT goes WHERE?!” I honestly thought she was lying.

      My parents were more of the generation where The Talk was the norm. Certainly, I was more able to ask questions of them (versus my husband, who was handed a book on gerbil reproduction, end of story). But as you mentioned, the early teen years are awkward enough. Enter lots of twisted cultural views into my own brain.

      Thoughts, AM? Share your wisdom.

      March 1st, 2012 at 6:54 pm

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