That Feeling When Your Kid Asks You About Sex

photo by Jeremiah Kemper

My mouth was watering too much. My body somehow sensed that I might barf. My kid was asking me about sex.

There are times over the course of my career as a deputy prosecutor when I’ve felt so uncomfortable that I’ve had an actual physical response. Usually, it’s sweating from the heat of my own burning insides. My shirts get pitted out and little beads form on my forehead and moisture gathers on my upper lip and the back of my neck.

But none, and I do mean none of those experiences compared to the sweating I experienced this month when my nine year old daughter started asking me questions about sex.

Did you hear me? I said my nine year old daughter. What in the hell is wrong with chasing puppies and blowing dandelions and bouncing around in a pink-striped dress and singing Jesus Loves Me? Huh? Why must my child do this? What I’d really like is to get five minutes alone with the fourth-grader that squealed this vital information a full year ahead of the “end of the innocence” schedule I had planned. It would be a very non-criminal, non-physical, non-permanently-scarring kind of confrontation. It would be memorable.

The moment came at night, in the dark, like a clandestine operation gone terribly wrong. It all started out so nicely. Sweet Pea and I rarely have the privilege of being alone because we find ourselves rushing from home to school to errands and we always have her little brother on board, in hot pursuit, or eavesdropping. But this night was different. Her brother had been banished to his room for committing a heinous deed which shall remain classified except to say that it involved a small plastic Middle Eastern dagger and protests of “Molon Labe!” as I stripped the offending weapon from his seven year-old grip. Her father was gone (of course he was) so my daughter was all snuggled in to my bed. The fan was humming a lullaby as we hunkered down under the billowy down comforter, the cold air blasting in and the drone of the motor creating the perfect amount of coolness and white noise for a fall slumber. I was just drifting off to sleep when her sweet little voice broke the silence.

“Mom, isn’t it true that to make a baby a man puts his private parts into a woman’s private parts?”

I thought about fake-snoring. I thought if I kept quiet it might go away. I thought if I faked my own death … and that’s when the saliva started to build up under my tongue and I was forced to swallow.

“Mom? Is it really true?”

She seemed disturbed by this news more than inquisitive, which I completely understood. I remember the first time it was explained to me by a gaggle of 5th grade boys and referred to as “humping.” I had already given her the basics over the summer, anticipating that she was starting to have questions that could no longer be explained by the phrase “you came from my tummy” when we went sports-bra shopping. But they were very basic basics. And now … she wanted mechanics. And specifics.

Now, I consider myself a pretty highly educated, open-minded, worldly kind of “sex is a natural part of life” person, but I was unprepared to have this conversation at age nine. I covered the high points, trying to calmly remember the words used by my high school health teacher. I left out the part about fluid exchange, or really any bodily fluids of any kind. I wrapped it all up neatly instead with the all-important love and marriage bit, and released a completing sigh of relief. I intended that sound, in the dark, to signal an unspoken “the end” to her relatively benign line of questioning. Unfortunately, my daughter is a keen listener with an inquisitive mind and an attorney for a mother. More


And the Winner Is …

My video debut!  Wow. I just realized I’m much funnier on paper. And I’m much prettier when my face isn’t involved.

Big thanks to The Home Depot for supplying the booty! Oh, and there was a last-minute change to the rules. We were unable to pull the name from a hat. Turns out hats of the brimmed variety that don’t flop over when you reach in are in relatively short supply in my house. I guess I didn’t consider there might not be a top-hat in my closet. Since Husband did not authorize the use of his cover, I was relegated to a bowl. A boring old bowl. It still worked fine, but this contest went WAY old-school in the end. I still love Rafflecopter, but doing it this way was fun, too.

Congratulations to the winner!  Man, now that I know who it is, I want a full guest post on what you did with your prizes. Well, without further delay … here is the drawing!

Too Close To Call

The Home Depot Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat Giveaway is now closed.

On Wednesday I’m speaking at the school Veteran’s Day assembly, but after that’s done we will be copying all of your ridiculous emails onto miniature slips of paper and doing this thing the old-fashioned way: drawing a name out of a hat. We will announce the winner right here on Thursday! Good luck everyone!

And God Bless our President. He’s gonna need it.

I Have a Present. For You.

I’ve never endorsed products for money or engaged in other marketing opportunities of that ilk on Witty Little Secret for one simple reason: this blog isn’t about the money. It’s about sharing stories, telling it like it is, and finding some peace. And I’m not going to change that now, just because The Home Depot hired me to report about some of their Celebration of Service Projects, a campaign I would not have even considered if I didn’t sincerely believe in their mission to dedicate $50 million to Veterans projects across the country.

But they gave me something. Something kinda cool. And I’m giving it to you. Wait, no, this isn’t Oprah’s Favorite Things. You’re not all getting something cool. Just ONE of you.

What it is:

The Home Depot is all about energy efficiency and weatherization this time of year, when power grids blaze with cold-weather consumption. The package they gave me is a weatherization pack, amped up by some really cool new technology:

Estimated retail value of all this stuff is $195.00.

What you do:

You don’t have to like me. You don’t have to tweet me. You don’t have to share me or become a fan of this page. You just need to identify yourself in some meaningful way that lets me contact you if you win. That’s it. No strings attached. I don’t keep, sell, or make fun of your email names (That’s totally a lie; I consistently make fun of some of your email names and it provides such valuable dinner-time conversation that I don’t intend to stop).

Just leave a comment of any kind and I’ll have your info.

How and when we’ll chose you:

We’re going to pull your name out of a hat. Really. An actual hat. We’re going to hand-write your ridiculous email names on pieces of paper, mix them up, and draw a name. And we’re going to do it on Tuesday, November 6th, and we’re going to video tape it. And then we’re going to announce it. And then we’re going to mail it to you. And because this is a military spouse blog, no international restrictions apply. If you’re in Germany, Italy, Japan, or even the Middle East, I’m still mailing it to you. I’m not sure you want caulk shipped to the Middle East, but still, theoretically, I’m sending it where you want me to send it, and it doesn’t matter to me where you are.

Ready …… go comment!  [comments are now closed]

This giveaway also listed on:


Disclosure: This is a personal blog written and edited by me. Home Depot paid me to report on events related to their annual “Celebration of Service” campaign. However, I did not accept any form of cash advertising, sponsorship, or paid topic insertions, and Home Depot has not instructed me what to write or required me to endorse any products or services. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own. I only endorse products or services that I believe worthy. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.


Everyone should get this kind of homecoming, at least once. I’m so happy to be back with my babies who, as evidenced by this video, are not so small any more.

Fine. Yes, I cried. Welcome home, me.

Inadvertent Exposure

Steaming Coffee by Dan Derrett

Mondays always start so clean and crisp.

There are neat stacks of white paper in rows, and a full calendar and freshly brewed coffee. There are smiling people, refreshed from the weekend, and I have to do lists and emails that are unread, waiting all clear and hopeful and new in chronological order. I’m holding a healthy sack lunch in a recycled bag in one hand as I enter the break room to greet a colleague, and there is a smiling receptionist who greets me. I make my way to my office, stack my briefcase near my coat, and lay my gym bag next to my door. It’s morning, and I’m ahead, and there’s a new list to tick off.

But by Friday the scene has changed drastically. My gym bag is overflowing with sweaty clothes and wet towels which I have neglected for two days but serves as a useful tool for keeping unwanted others out of my office. The briefcase is stuffed with crumpled drafts I took home with good intention, and the emails are half-read, half-answered, blinking angrily. I’m working on about twenty cumulative hours of sleep for the whole week, and my lunch will consist, if I remember to eat, of whatever might still be left in a vending machine or my bottom drawer stash. By 3:30 on Friday I am slumped over the slop piles at my desk, peering over the week’s morass of requests, motions, and deadlines. I’m starting to shuffle the leftover piles into “on fire” or “already smoldering” for the Monday morning charade, and my colleagues are all doing the same.

This was exactly the scene when my cell phone rang this Friday. I sprang to life believing it was from friends who wanted me to come to happy hour. Every Friday I beg and hope and will it to ring. My excitement was dashed when the caller ID blinked “school” back at me. I answered immediately, hoping it wasn’t an injury but knowing it was probably a behavior report. As I heard the patient voice of my son’s saintly teacher, I knew it was the latter. I had one hand on a pile of hand-written notes and I noticed my palm starting to sweat, melting the blue ink.

I shouldn’t sweat like a Pavlovian Mom when the teacher calls, but Coop, also known as NAFOD – which in military speak stands for “No Apparent Fear of Death” – has had trouble dealing with his world lately and it usually results in a phone call from school. Bottom line, Cooper believes he’s the world’s youngest SEAL. Everything he does is a mission, and everyone he encounters is a threat “in his world.” He actually uses that phrase: “in my world,” as if the rest of us are just spectators. And we are. When my husband was still in the desert, I attended three parent-teacher conferences in the first six weeks of Kindergarten. I reasoned the difficulty then stemmed from only getting half as much discipline. Now, with my husband home, it’s even worse: he’s now getting twice as much discipline.

The teacher’s words shocked me back to reality, breaking my train of thought on the discipline express. “I need to let you know what another parent reported to me today. I thought you’d want to know. I’m sorry.”

I looked at the piles on my desk and wondered who had the rougher week. My money was on the teacher. I didn’t try to talk. I just waited quietly until the awkward silence forced a response from her.

“He told another boy that there are places where ladies get naked and men pay to see them.”

“I  – I – he – he …”

I attempted to articulate a response but after some stuttering all I managed to say was, “thanks for letting me know. We will discuss it.” I wanted the conversation to be over so badly. I imagined my kid, in his camo, huddled football-style in a circle of six year-old boys on the playground, imparting his vast knowledge of naked ladies. This was the very definition of ring-leader. Was he really going to be that kid? I assumed he would not be invited to any sleepovers in the near future, which I thought was a good thing. I hate sleepovers.

Knowing Cooper, he told that kid. The one who had no older siblings. The one who had never seen a naked lady, not even his own mom. The one who had told his mother within two seconds of being picked up at school what men can do for money in some places.

The teacher tried to make me feel better by saying “I’m sure it was an inadvertent exposure, like something he saw on the television or the internet.” I started to agree with this sound logic until I wondered what she must think of my television and internet selections. Then, in the continuing uncomfortable silence, the actual “inadvertent exposure” came when she concluded with, “because in all my years I’ve never heard a kid his age say anything like that.”

Wonderful. I really needed that happy hour call, now.

Later as I picked up the kids we sat stoicly once everyone was loaded up, and I was very serious. I wore my very serious mom face which I reserved for very important conversations. The radio was off and I wasn’t chatting about the day. The engine was idling. There was a moment of silence. My son looked at me gravely and was uncharacteristically quiet as well, sensing that the seriousness in my demeanor should concern him. I waded into the naked lady waters with a straightforward, “I need to ask you a serious question.”

“Who me?”

These are the words of guilty man, I thought. We had been down this whole denial road before. I was skipping the part of the cross-examination where he turned the tables on me. I was going for something more direct, more pointed.

“Yes, you. Today Mrs. Hutchin called me.”


“She says you told another boy something that really worried her. Do you know what that might be?”

I was giving him the chance to come clean. He looked at me and blinked. It was that moment where he was making a decision about the merits of volunteering the truth versus the risk of playing the game a moment longer. He finessed his way through the first question by using the tool I utilized for Santa Clause questions: answer a question with a question. So he tried it a second time.

“What did Mrs. Hutchin say?”

“Objection. Nonresponsive. I asked if you know what that might be.”

“I don’t.”

So there it was. This was going to be a longer conversation than I had hoped. It was going to be a conversation not just about naked ladies, but about honesty and integrity and becoming a man. And of course, it was going to be had by me, a woman, because his father was gone on a trip. Again. I sighed and took a shortcut.

“She says you told another boy about naked ladies. Know anything about that?”

I was bracing for the answer. This was the moment. The only thing standing between me and my boy’s naiveté was the weight of the words he was about to speak. It was truly the end of the innocence. I felt a tear well up in one eye.

“Well Yeah. You know, mom. Naked ladies. Dancing ones, too.”

The innocence wasn’t just gone, it had been rightly trampled upon. I wanted to gasp and let my mouth hang open and press my manicured fingertips to my chest as if I had been offended by such a statement. But he wasn’t smirking or even looking up at me. He was fiddling with a piece of paper, folding it perfectly into a precision aircraft.

“No. I don’t know. Enlighten me.”

That’s when I got his attention. He heard the sarcasm and realized there was something strange going on. He rolled his eyes, as if to say that I knew very well what naked ladies were, and let the air push out of his mouth in a loud, “huhhn” before continuing. Then he took another deep breath, and he began to sing:

“There’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance. There’s a hole in the wall where the men can see it all. But they really don’t care ‘cause they’re in their underwear.”

Olivia snickered, covering her mouth as if it would somehow hide her audible laugh and smiling eyes. “Where did you hear that song!?” I demanded, looking at the snickerer. The response was his golden ticket straight out of trouble, and probably the one and only thing he could have said to form a viable defense:

“Nana taught it to me.”

My own mother. The beloved Nana. The one who has them believing in fairies, watching out the back deck for wolves to protect the Elven village presumably living in the woods behind our house because of the notes they leave us. Nana. The one who feeds them brownie mix for dinner. Nana. The one who encourages them to paint in their brand new white shirts and tells them to become Democrats despite what their parents might think. Nana. The one who lets them taste wine, “just a sip, just a sip, just to taste …”


I’m on to you, Nana. This is not the end. I’m so totally on to you.

By the way, I’m giving Mrs. Hutchin your phone number.

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