Sex ed and the stepparent. (Long, and Warning: Some potentially triggering background.) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 01-27-2010, 08:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My husband has told me he trusts me, completely, to answer things honestly if his daughter asks. And, as I'm pregnant, she's been asking--mostly anatomical questions, "how big is the baby now?" "Is it going to hurt when it comes out?"--and those have been pretty easy to answer ("I've heard it's peach-sized; let's look at a picture of a 15-week fetus"; "It hurts for most people, but there are ways to manage the pain").

She asks me these questions because, well, I'm the pregnant one. Her dad can answer questions about fetal size and whatnot (he's there when we look at pictures), but not necessarily on what things feel like. Further, her mother has made it clear that she doesn't want to answer questions about my pregnancy (she's actually been remarkably cool about the whole thing, but understandably doesn't want to talk about my uterus).

So no biggie there.

Eventually, though, there will be harder questions. SD has already asked her dad why Freddie Mercury died and how he got sick (and he answered that one honestly, though not graphically). She put 2+2 together and is thoroughly grossed out by the idea that her dad and I did that thing that the naked line drawings in "It's Not The Stork" did to make a baby.

I've already stammered over "what does a clitoris do?" because I couldn't really answer that one in simple anatomical terms. (I answered something along the lines of, it can help make sex feel good. She already knows from her book that "sex" is how we usually make babies. But it's not a great answer.)

My husband has already said he trusts my judgment on age-appropriateness and also on the "values" discussions, if asked (we're on the exact same page regarding values, so I won't be telling her anything he'd disagree with).

However, I'm not positive I'm comfortable with all that...it kind of feels like "not my place," though my SD sometimes just wants a female voice and sometimes feels uncomfortable going to her mother.

***(Here's the possibly triggering part.)

SD's mother is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and as a result and by her own admission, has not had a healthy view toward sexuality. I won't go into details, but she has answered what seem like normal 7-year-old curiosity questions (keep in mind, SD has an age-appropriate comprehensive sex ed book, that her mom gave my husband the go-ahead to introduce, so while "what does semen look like?" may seem shocking from a 7-year-old, the concepts have been introduced) with a shocked, borderline angry "Where did you HEAR about that?!!!" (and then a panicked phone call to us--this is how we know). Or, her mom clams up completely and changes the subject.

So, SD sometimes hesitates in asking her questions, and so she comes to her dad or me. But I *know* her mom would freak if she knew I was answering questions beyond basic anatomy and my own pregnancy.

If you were in this situation...what would you do? I can't defer to Dad when she clearly wants female input, deferring to Mom won't help (and may actually harm) if all that will happen is SD will get yelled at, but I still feel out of place answering myself.

If you got through all this, thanks.

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#2 of 12 Old 01-27-2010, 08:35 PM
 
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Oh, I think that's a tough one. IMO, if you and your husband decided to parent your DSD together and you are both on the same page and trust each other, I would do whatever you feel in your heart is the best and most appropriate thing for your DSD (same way you would approach any other parenting issue.)

However, I know things are not always so ideal. In my case, because my DSD's mom was such a bomb waiting for any excuse to explode, we were incredibly cautious. We didn't even tell DSD that her brother (my DS) was born at home in the water. I think she would be incredibly interested and it would be good for her to know a lot of the details, even see pictures, but in this case my DP and I made the decision that it might be better to leave a lot of the details out and try to avoid the topic (I know, very sad.)

The most ideal thing would be for all parents to be in agreement on parenting issues, but some topics are really hard for some people, especially if your DSD's mom has sexual abuse in her history.

Sorry I don't have a clear answer. I'm sort of telling you to do the opposite of what I did, if the mom won't go completely crazy against you and your DH. I strongly believe in being honest with children, using age appropriate language. If they ask, that means they're ready to know. Avoiding the questions is never good, IMO.
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#3 of 12 Old 01-27-2010, 09:10 PM
 
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She put 2+2 together and is thoroughly grossed out by the idea that her dad and I did that thing that the naked line drawings in "It's Not The Stork" did to make a baby.
hahahaha - we got the same from the 11 yr old That was an interesting night of questions! Especially when she finally got to "you did it more then once?!?!?!" LOL LOL LOL

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Originally Posted by lvngmm View Post
Oh, I think that's a tough one. IMO, if you and your husband decided to parent your DSD together and you are both on the same page and trust each other, I would do whatever you feel in your heart is the best and most appropriate thing for your DSD (same way you would approach any other parenting issue.)
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Sorry I don't have a clear answer. I'm sort of telling you to do the opposite of what I did, if the mom won't go completely crazy against you and your DH. I strongly believe in being honest with children, using age appropriate language. If they ask, that means they're ready to know. Avoiding the questions is never good, IMO.
I agree with the above. I can't remember *how* bad your relationship with the ex can get, so that might change this. I'm going with the assumption that sometimes ok, sometimes not so much. I wonder if it is possible to ask her mom how she feels you should approach the subject WHEN IT IS BROUGHT TO YOU. I emphasize that because, IMO, you definitely want the mom to know you aren't trying to step on toes here.

My DSDs mom also had some bad past on this subject (I heard in very general terms from DP). He has always been 100% open and honest on this subject, with the understanding that he wants his daughter to always feel comfortable coming to him to talk or for advice. That said, she's a girl and sometimes she's going to want to talk to another girl. And me being NOT her mom, seems to make that easier. I went through the same and my parents aren't divorced, and there isn't any past trauma there for me or my mom.

So. Yep, I've had to answer my share of questions. And I answered them honestly, or I would say (if I felt I should) that it either A) was private information about me that I didn't feel comfortable sharing (like when she asked about my birth control), or B) gave a general answer and told her she would learn more when she was older. And I admit to not having asked her mom first, but I did know how important it was to DP to keep the lines of communication open so I just went with it and prayed the consequences wouldn't be extreme. So, I guess my opinion (in my circumstances) was that the open communication was way more important then anything else. Not because the answers now are so important, but because the comfort in asking you will be VERY important when she gets into the teen years.

Loving mama to Aden (8/5/2010) and DSD (15).
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#4 of 12 Old 01-27-2010, 09:22 PM
 
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She put 2+2 together and is thoroughly grossed out by the idea that her dad and I did that thing that the naked line drawings in "It's Not The Stork" did to make a baby.
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Originally Posted by neonalee View Post
hahahaha - we got the same from the 11 yr old That was an interesting night of questions! Especially when she finally got to "you did it more then once?!?!?!" LOL LOL LOL
It doesn't change when they're fifteen either!


What are the chances that your dsd's mom would be happy that you are dealing with it, so that she doesn't have to?
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#5 of 12 Old 01-27-2010, 09:26 PM
 
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I don't know how well this would work because I don't know Bio mom but is it possible to just have a frank conversation with her? Tell her that SD is really starting to ramp up the questions and you wanted to run it by her first to see how she feels about you answering them. I would just give her an out such as " it seems like these questions are uncomfortable for you to address sometimes" and that even though it's not really your "job" that you wouldn't mind addressing it with SD. I don't know, maybe she'll freak out on you. IIRC you were concerned about her even knowing you were preggo so I'm sure there are tons of background issues involved, but maybe the direct approach would be best with this on and see what she says.

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#6 of 12 Old 01-27-2010, 09:34 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So, I guess my opinion (in my circumstances) was that the open communication was way more important then anything else. Not because the answers now are so important, but because the comfort in asking you will be VERY important when she gets into the teen years.
Yeah, that's a very important consideration...my husband has already told me flat out he wouldn't mind if I took a teenage SD to Planned Parenthood myself, without telling him, if she asked for birth control and my confidence. (As he put it, "I'd rather be in the dark than be a grandfather at 42.") While I'm not sure that would be necessary, I do understand where he's coming from. We'll see.

I do want her to be able to come to me in case of a health or safety issue...she may be reluctant to approach her dad because he's male and reluctant to approach her mom because her mom may not react calmly.

I don't share overly personal information, either ("that's private" has come out of my mouth more than once).

I generally get along reasonably with SD's mom, but there are occasional blow-ups (I don't blow up at all, but she and my husband can have it out). She doesn't seem to worry too much about me taking over as mom (which she knows I don't try to do)--she's actually grateful I'm a stable presence over here. So who knows...maybe she actually would be OK with me talking. Dunno...

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#7 of 12 Old 01-27-2010, 11:17 PM
 
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We've had this too. I haven't told DSD that I'm pregnant, but she's super-intuitive and ever since I tested she's been rather baby-focused and keeps talking about me having a baby. She's 5. Example, I told her my stomach hurt, and her brother started thinking about what I may have eaten, and she pipes up with "Maybe you're going to bring a baby!"

When she did this, we had a brief discussion -- she had said something about babies growing in tummies. Now, I cannot help myself here -- I am a very precise, analytical person by nature and there's nothing I can do about it, so without thinking, I told her babies can't grow in tummies -- that's where food and acid are, and babies grow in a uterus and she has one and her brother doesn't. She said the new word a couple of times and seemed happy to have this new info, and we dropped it. Then, later, she saw a picture of a pregnant woman in an ad, and said, "she has a baby in her uterus -- not her tummy." Dh and I, of course, think this is normal and healthy, but then I had a freakout moment. Oh crap, I hope her mom knows what a uterus is and doesn't freak out.

You see, a few years ago we told DSD the name for her private parts, and her mother did not know the word (really? with 2 kids? but, somehow..) and complained bitterly that we taught DSD words that the mom (and her friends!) didn't know, and she then had the kids interviewed by police detectives to see if they showed signs of sexual abuse. So yes, she's a touch nutty. And I hope she knows what a uterus is.

So, you can see I have the same dilemma. The kids come to us with these sorts of questions (can't imagine why!) and I know it will pick up once they know I'm pregnant.

I don't know what the answer is, but my philosophy is to always answer honestly, but not to answer anything that wasn't asked. Does that make sense?

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#8 of 12 Old 01-27-2010, 11:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't know what the answer is, but my philosophy is to always answer honestly, but not to answer anything that wasn't asked. Does that make sense?
Absolutely! That's what I tell clients when I'm preparing them to testify!

Thanks, everyone. Lots to think about.

ProtoLawyer (the now-actual lawyer, this isn't legal advice,  please don't take legal advice from some anonymous yahoo on the Internet)
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#9 of 12 Old 01-28-2010, 12:05 AM
 
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I think you need to refer questions to dad and mom. I also think dad needs to stand up to mom and say she is SOL. At 6 she should be having sex education by you adults. He needs to answer these questions. Do a premptive strick on how that baby got there and how it will get out. Difference between man and woman. It is as much as his job as anyone else.

The ex wants to shelter this child. It isn't healthy. Ex is in denial that her baby is growing up and that dad has moved on.
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#10 of 12 Old 01-28-2010, 05:40 AM
 
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I think you need to refer questions to dad and mom. I also think dad needs to stand up to mom and say she is SOL. At 6 she should be having sex education by you adults. He needs to answer these questions. Do a premptive strick on how that baby got there and how it will get out. Difference between man and woman. It is as much as his job as anyone else.

The ex wants to shelter this child. It isn't healthy. Ex is in denial that her baby is growing up and that dad has moved on.
Or the ex has a hard time letting go of the abusive past and finds it difficult to discuss these things. also If It was up to me at that age I would not have wanted to discuss these things with my dad no way

I do think it would be helpful if your DH talks to XDW and come to an agreement about dsd's sex-ed and other sensitive subjects

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#11 of 12 Old 01-28-2010, 10:06 AM
 
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I think since your DH backs you up then what you are doing is okay. Possibly have him talk to his ex to sort of get her on the same page, or at least let her know that DSD is asking questions and that she feels comfortable talking to you and you are only answering what is asked.

Perhaps she will be grateful because of her history, and that she won't have to deal with it... or not...

But, I think you and your DH have every right to parent the way you guys decide in your own home. And I know not a very popular opinion here... but I think DSD's Mom has to at least learn to accept that her ex is still the Father of their DD and he has parental decision rights and the ability and right to parent (which covers sex ed) in his own home.

DH and I running into similiar things on this, but I'll start a new thread to not hijack yours.

I think you are doing a great job and the right thing by talking honestly with your DSD... it will make a huge difference as she grows up knowing she can talk to you.

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#12 of 12 Old 01-30-2010, 04:13 PM
 
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While I think the parents should normally take the lead when it comes to sex ed, given the situation with Mom it makes sense for you to be involved, IMO. I do think it would be thoughtful of Dad to talk to Mom about it, just to let her know that the child is asking questions and how the two of you are handling it.
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