Toronto
3 min

Honesty is the best policy

But how do you tell your kid about your sex toys?

Honesty is the best policy. Or so most of us get guilted into thinking. But just when you decide to have everything up front between you and your lover, you have to explain how it is that the bike courier girl at work has time to have coffee with you, especially when you seem to have so many things for rush delivery.



I thought honesty was a good parenting policy when I started out as an eager-to-be-perfect mom. Kids need to have their questions answered, right? Not to mention that it’s way more ridiculous to tell her I found her in a cabbage patch than what really happens, especially since I don’t even know if cabbage is grown in Canada.



So we’ve talked about love and we’ve talked about divorce. We’ve talked about the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, the president of the United States and the nasty premier of Ontario. We’ve talked about god, goddesses, being queer, being straight and being in debt to Mastercard. But I never dreamed that talking about sex would include going over the contents of my sex-toy box.



I never intended it that way. But if you live your life openly, you have to expect that someone (even your innocent little daughter) might point to something one day and say: “What’s that?”



And so it was one spring afternoon not long after her seventh birthday. Hanging over the edge of my bed, which is also pretty much hers, she dragged a very plain looking shoe box out from under and said, “Hey, what’s this?”



With her natural curiosity, I was sure she would pull everything out and want a detailed explanation of it all, right there. I hummed and hesitated (how do you start lying to someone you’ve never lied to?). Then I said, “That’s mine and it’s private and I don’t want to show it to you right now.” To which she said, “Why not?”



Just as my mouth was drying up and my palms were sweating and my mind was racing for some harmless fib, the doorbell rang.



It was a good friend, someone my daughter likes immensely, just dropping by to see if we were home. So for the moment the subject was dropped. Either the goddess of sex toys or the goddess of honesty (I’m sure they’re not the same one) was watching over me that day.



But the unexpected visit could only buy me time. The down side to being honest is that when you say you don’t want to talk about something it kind of sticks out.



My daughter asked me about the box again and was especially curious to know why I couldn’t just answer her questions like I usually did. So I harnessed my courage and told her that, okay, one day I would show her what was in it. I intended to get to there before her and remove some of the things I preferred not to explain. Not that I have a lot. I just wanted to avoid the silicon penises in non-human colours, if I could.



But, bless her active little brain, she kept bringing it up and, one day after a kid-free weekend, I mistakenly thought that not everything had been put back. So I agreed to talk to her. She pulled out the box, opened it up, and with a sinking heart I realized that everything was in it.



One of the interesting things about having a child is that you never know how they’re going to see things. They don’t necessarily make the same assumptions an adult would. Grabbing a dildo by its, er, shaft, she placed it balls-side down on the carpet and said: “It’s a dog’s foot!”



Then she marched it around the bedroom floor in the way you’d expect a one-legged dog to walk. I was caught between the sweet relief of not having to explain what it really was and a huge reluctance to let her go on thinking that I kept a collection of rubber dog’s feet under my bed in a “private” box.



Fortunately, she resolved my dilemma. Mid doggie-step, she said, “No it’s not, it’s a penis!” So then we had to talk about how some girls might want to “pretend” to be boys sometimes, or “pretend” to have a penis (things have to be explained on a pretty simple level, you understand). I thought we were over the worst when she pulled out the harness. I explained it as a piece of “sexy” clothing. But she’s no dummy, especially not since so many educational toys teach even little wee babies how to match shapes to holes.



“I get it,” she said confidently as she shoved the hole in the harness over the end of the dildo, “this goes in here.” It amazed me how easily she handled everything. She could work in a sex toy store. Finally, her curiosity was satisfied and we put everything away. This hands-on part of her sex education was over, thank god.



Contrary to conservative fears about sex education, she wasn’t immediately corrupted by the information and didn’t go out the next day to buy her own set. If anything, she’s been kind of helpful.



On Pride Day that year, when the subject of sex toys inevitably came up, a friend mentioned wanting to get a new one. My seven-year-old daughter overheard the comment and stopped her sidewalk skipping long enough to say, “Well you should buy it at the fair.” I couldn’t have made a better suggestion.