How I Had 'The Talk' With My 5-Year-Old

by Lisa Shaw
Originally Published: 
the talk
Lisa Shaw

“Mommy, what is the sex?” Max asked, picking at the tag on his Batman pajama top.

“Um, well, it’s complicated. We need to get to school. Today you get to finish your Leprechaun traps!”

Thank god we’re running late. Again.

I knew this day would come. I just had no idea it would be set against a backdrop of tooth fairy visits, safety-pinning superhero capes, and reading The Cat in the Hat for the seven hundredth time.

According to a web search using the words “sex talk 5 year old,” I should answer his question ASAP to build trust and model a healthy attitude about sex. Evidently his curiosity was normal, but my idea to not talk about it until he was 37 was ill-advised.

I Googled and Googled and Googled some more to try to figure out exactly what to say. The pressure mounted as I began to see this as a chance to be the “good mom” I see in my mind’s eye. Good moms were everywhere I looked, except in the mirror. You know the kind, right? The ones whose kitchen cabinets open without Tupperware lids frisbeeing onto the floor, the ones who wipe the top of the ketchup bottle every time, and the ones who gently tend the garden in pearls and painted nails.

Above all else, good moms are prepared when it comes to having The Talk with their child.

When Max got home from school that day, I made him a snack of celery and peanut butter with raisins, spacing the shriveled grapes equidistant apart, so they resembled the famed “ants on a log” I saw on Pinterest.

We sat down at the kitchen table. I took a deep breath, and with my face arranged in an expression of casual reverence, I began slowly and deliberately.

“Sweetie, I wanted to answer your question from this morning.”


“What question? And what’s wrong with your face?” he asked.

“About…you know…what you asked me about this morning,” I said, hoping he’d forgotten entirely.


“Oh yeah, the sex. My friend Haley told me her mommy and daddy did the sex and now she has a baby in her tummy and that her Mommy was going to poop it out soon.”


“Honey, please chew with your mouth closed, OK?”

“OK. I really like this ceruly, Mommy.”





“Never mind,” I said, feeling my left eye starting to twitch.

“Do you have a baby in your tummy right now, Mommy?” he asked, looking at the food baby that I’d been trying to abort since 1992.

“No, honey, I don’t.”

“Maybe you should have the sex with Haley’s daddy, so you can get one.”

Now both eyes are twitching. I took a deep breath and then another.

“It doesn’t work like that, Max.”

Actually it does, but Haley’s dad has those meth teeth and I’m pretty sure my husband would not approve. Dammit, focus Lisa.

“Sex is something that happens when you love…or really, really like a girl or a boy or both…sometimes at the same time.”


Whenever I get nervous I tend to lose the ability to filter the smorgasbord of words in my brain. Job interviews do not go well for me.

“My friend Josh told me you get a baby by kissing and hugging someone really tight,” he said, licking the peanut butter out of the groove.

“No honey, that’s not right. Sex is…sex is a special thing you get to do with your body and another person or group of people — not animals or relatives who feel the same way you do.”


Why didn’t I just make peanut butter and jelly?!

“Protection is important if you want to avoid unpleasant side effects like itchiness and children.”

Oh dear god.

“Mommy? Can I have some more ceruly?”

“Uh, sure.”

“Can I eat it downstairs?”


“Please? I’m bored, and I want to watch some TV.”

I have never been so thankful for a 5-year-old’s short attention span in my life! “Yes. Sure. Absolutely.”

He bounced out of his chair, hugged me tight around the neck, and said, “You’re the bestest mommy in the whole wide world.”

With a roll of my eyes and a shake of my head, I put on a string of pearls and tackled the Tupperware cabinet.


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