Let me set the scene for you:
My son and I are driving down the street listening to a morning radio show. Queen Latifah is the guest. He is about nine years old.
The Boy: Huh. I thought Queen was a guy.
Me: What? Queen? Oh! Do you mean the rock band Queen?
The Boy: Yeah, We Are The Champions.
Me: That’s a rock band. The lead singer is Freddie Mercury. (Secretly relieved I know this bit of trivia.)
The Boy: Oh, yeah. What’s he doing now?
Me: He died a long time ago.
The Boy: What did he die from?
*At this point The Boy lets out an exasperated sigh. He gives me the look I have grown much too accustomed to. You know the one, the look that says “my mom is the stupidest person to ever live.”
The Boy: Mom! (all annoyed and incredulous voice here.) To AID someone is to help them. (insert eye roll)
*Really? He is nine. How am I already stupid? This is decidedly unfair.
Me: Oh, AIDS is an illness some people get.
The Boy: Okay. How do you get it?
Me: It develops after you catch a virus called HIV. It makes your body unable to fight off infections.
The Boy: (eyes are a little wide now) How do you get HIV?
*Oh, shit. Remember age appropriate. What do you say about this? You don’t want him to be needlessly afraid. My mind is racing a thousand miles a minute. DON’T screw this up. You don’t want to break your kid.
Me: Ummm. You used to get it from blood transfusions, but now they screen blood so you don’t have anything to worry about.
The Boy: Why did Freddie Mercury have to have a blood transfusion?
*Oh, crap. Seriously kid? Now, remember this is not a civics lesson. You do not have to go into Gay rights or how we don’t judge people who are different.Get it together.
Me: Well, you can get it from exchanging bodily fluid. Moms who have HIV can pass it on in breast milk, some people get it from doing drugs, and you can get it from unprotected sex.
The Boy: Oh. Okay.
*Wait a minute! Why is he not asking what that is? Hmmmm. I wonder if he knows what protection is. I kinda hope not.
Me: Do you know what I mean when I say unprotected sex? Do you know what protection is?
The Boy: Yes, I sure do. You always wear your cup!
Me: (After breathing a huge sigh of relief) Yes, you do. Never take it off.
This short exchange was a turning point for me as a mother. I managed to have a somewhat informative conversation with my son and even managed to say “sex” to him without nearly vomiting. I find him endlessly clever and I was quite impressed by his insightful questions. I probably could have done without his assumptions about my inherent stupidity… but, you take what you can get.
Do you have any funny stories like this? How did you handle these questions about adult topics with your kids?
Photo of Freddie Mercury borrowed from this website.