Boy - What's herpes?
Mother - What? How did you hear about herpes?
Boy - There was an ad on TV about herpes medicine. What's herpes?
Mother - A disease.
Boy - What kind of disease?
Mother - I don't know.
Boy - Do you really not know or are you just saying that because you don't feel like telling me.
Mother - You don't really need to know what herpes is right now in your life.
Boy - I'll just ask the girls.
Mother - No you won't. Herpes is a disease you get from having sex with the wrong people.
Boy - You can get diseases from having sex?
Mother - Yeah, but only if you have sex before you're married and don't ever forget that.
Wise older sister - Well, what if you get married to someone who had pre-marital sex, but you didn't know it when you got married and they had herpes, then you can get it, too, right? How will I know if I can trust someone when they tell me they haven't had pre-marital sex?
Mother - Are you kidding me? Are you going to start this now? Can you leave the room because you're of no help at all.
Boy - Why would you have sex before you're married?
Mother - Well, YOU wouldn't have sex before your married so it really doesn't matter and we can stop talking about this.
Boy - Well, what happens to you when you get herpes.
Mother - Stuff.
Boy - What stuff?
Mother - Gross stuff.
Boy - Like what.
Mother - Well, since you won't give up talking about this - your penis falls off.
Boy - (Makes gasping sound indicating how horrible he thinks that is) If a guy's penis falls off does that mean a girl's vagina would fall off if she got it?
Mother - (excuses herself so she can go say a quick prayer asking God if perhaps she has not handled this in the best way and also, she has to laugh a little because she was not expecting that last question.)
Mother - (returns to room.) Okay, I made up the thing about your penis falling off.
Boy - Oh, good because that was really scary.
Mother - Scary enough to make you never want to engage in premarital sex.
Boy - Yes!
Mother - Then maybe that is what happens to you. I can't say for sure.
Boy - Are you just saying that to scare me?
Mother - Yes, and also I'm a horrible mother who can't handle these conversations anymore so you need to start asking your father all of this stuff otherwise I'm going to start drinking and never come out of my bedroom.
When you tell your children there is nothing that they can't come to you about, that they should only ask you and your husband certain things, they will take you seriously, especially if you have a pattern of actually engaging them in lively conversation. The tricky part is that at first the conversations are simple and sweet and you don't mind answering questions and concerns truthfully, but over time the questions become complicated and annoying and you will be left coming up with answers that are based on lies meant to make your kids scared to leave the house, because if your kids are scared to leave the house then you never have to worry about them getting into trouble and as a parent that is all you want. You want your kids to be safe forever and to never get hurt and to never have to face the world's problems.
But then you go look in the mirror and you realize that actually, it may be you who the kids need to be shielded from. You'll throw your hands up in the air and ask God why exactly he saw fit to give you four children. You'll also realize that TV is evil and this whole conversation most likely never would have happened if you didn't have a TV to begin with, at which point you decide the TV is off limits for quite some time. You may even consider telling your son that not only does herpes make your penis fall off, but so does watching Spongebob Squarepants.
note: In the interest of honesty I must admit something. I posted this this afternoon and took it down a few hours later, fearing I looked like an awful parent and that some people who don't knwo me well would misunderstand and possibly judge the interaction that takes place between me and my children. Then I realized that I was being judgemental in assuming that other people would be judgemental when reading this - or even care about it enough to form an opinion, or even that anyone would be reading this to begin with. I need to remember I am just not that important. To Deb and mom and dad...the thoughts of you guys never seeing this post made me a little sad, so here it is again. And thanks Terri!