My nephew Liam is from Oldham. I was born there and my older brother still lives there. However, the boys still saw a lot of each other growing up, including holidays.
One day, we were all sat in our living room, while they were visiting. The word ‘Lesbian’ came up on TV.
It’s always worrying as a parent when anything arises, that stands even a glimmer of a chance of turning the conversation around to the ‘s’ word. I’d already had a number of experiences into these murky waters (some of which are documented on this very blog) and I preferred, if at all possible, not going back there.
So I immediately thought “Oh no. Here we go.”
Then Liam pipes up “There’s a girl in my class who’s a Lesbian.”
I look at Jeff, at a loss for words, so Jeff asks . . .
“Really? You’re 8 years old Liam.”
I could feel the first rumbles of laughter boiling up like a cauldron.
Ben and Joe’s ears prick up and there’s a distinct “I’m not sure what the hell’s going on, but this all sounds fascinating” look on their faces.
Jeff and I are trying SO hard to keep the laughter from breaking through our confused frowns, but it’s all proving too much.
Then with due trepidation, I asked “What make you think she’s a Lesbian Liam?”
“She doesn’t eat meat.”
Jeff and I were done for. Broken. Guilty.
“Son . .. “ said Jeff, “that’s a “Vegetarian!”
We are now both folded in half like deck chairs.
And that’s the problem. The comedic value of the simplest, honest mistake. We couldn’t help laughing. We knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, but lost the plot anyway.
The boys were all laughing, with Liam looking very sheepish and embarrassed.
“It’s ok Liam, we are just joking with you. You got mixed up, so don’t worry. Even you laughed . . . see?”
Confused he said “So, what’s a Lesbian?”
Lesbians are girls that like other girls, rather than boys . . . “
“Oh yeah, I know what you mean.”
Thank goodness, I thought.
Once again though, I felt at a loss. What DO I tell them about ‘stuff’? Was that enough? If they were 18, it would be a piece of cake, but 8?
You don’t want them to be confused, so you have to answer all their questions, but sometimes it’s hard deciding exactly what to tell them to suit their age.
The last thing I ever wanted was for them to think things are taboo, or have to learn from another ‘sex guru’ 8 year old. At that age they really do listen to anyone who seems more knowledgeable than them. So I want to be the source of the sensitive or important information.
I’ve tried to be as open as possible and always told them they can talk to me about anything. However, that doesn’t mean I’m fully equipped with the right answers when they do.
As they got older and ‘got it’ I joked with them all the time about stuff, I still do. But back them it felt like a minefield.
Anyway, after more laughter they all toddled off to play and Jeff and I could finally wipe our eyes and reflect on the brilliance of it all.