Ask Mary Jo

Ready to talk about sex

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I always enjoy questions from 11-year-olds!


Q.I know how babies are made and a bunch of other stuff about sex. I listen to kids, and this kid on my bus tells jokes I know must be dirty but I don’t always get them, but most of the time I do. My problem is my mom and dad think I don’t know anything. They treat me like I’m too young to know what I do already know. Can you tell them I’m old enough, because I wish I could talk with them about this stuff? Thanks!


11-year-old



Mary Jo’s response: Your words are very insightful and honest. Your parents are your first teachers. I’m so very pleased you want to talk with them about “stuff.” I think you’re old enough. If you’re curious and have questions, I believe you’re old enough for answers.


Today’s children face complicated information online and from peers. A child needs a trusted adult to help sort out feelings and correct misinformation. Some parents are concerned about moving too fast. It sounds as if you need to help your parents open up and talk with you. Some ideas:


1. Be honest: Remember your parents want to protect you. Gently share your need to talk with them. Remind them you’re not going to change just because you have answers to your questions. Tell them you’d rather talk with them than anyone else.


2. Share this column: Try saying: “I feel like this.” You might even be brave enough to say, “This is my question to Mary Jo.”


3. Be kind: It may be difficult for your parents to talk about sex and sexual things.


4. Be patient: It’s possible no one ever spoke with your parents as they grew up.


A dear friend of mine, Deborah Roffman, wrote a great book for parents. It’s called, “Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ ‘Go-To’ Person about Sex.” I’d also be happy to meet with your parents. Good luck!



Peer Educator response: Once you get your parents talking, it’s tough to shut them up! It’s good to talk with them, though, so keep trying.


Q.How are twins made? Is it two mothers and two fathers?


11-year-old



Mary Jo’s response: No. Fraternal twins are just like other siblings and are created when two separate ova (eggs) from the mother are fertilized by two separate sperm from the father. The mother has one pregnancy that results in two babies. Identical twins are created when one egg unites with one sperm and splits to become two individuals.


Q.When do women stop making babies? I heard at some point they can’t. I’d like to know when. My mom is 49. My friend at school says her mom went through this thing where they stop and she was always grouchy. My mom’s plenty grouchy. I’ve got four sisters and brothers, and I don’t want any more. I’m sick of the way they all fight with me and each other. Thanks.


11-year-old



Mary Jo’s response: You’re referring to menopause. During menopause, a woman stops releasing eggs (ovulation) and is no longer fertile (able to make babies). The age of menopause is different for every woman. Most women reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. The average age is 51. All people can be moody at different times in their lives; women might be grouchy for many reasons.


Your comments about your family made me smile. They remind me of an old Bill Cosby joke (he’s a comedian). When asked why he had five children, supposedly Cosby said, “Because I don’t want six!”


May I made a suggestion? Please share your feelings about your family with an adult you trust – your mom or dad, your grandma/grandpa or aunt/uncle. I think it’s perfectly normal to grow frustrated with brothers and sisters. I also think your parents would like to know your feelings. It may be possible for you to have some time alone with one or both of your parents.


Each person in your family is a person of worth. Respecting family members doesn’t mean everyone always gets along, it means everyone tries to honor each person’s worth. Sibling fighting and disagreeing isn’t new, but learning to “agree to disagree,” with kindness, might be a positive change. Has your family ever tried a “peace circle”? Instead of fighting and jumping from frustrated feelings directly to anger, people gather in a circle and take turns respectfully talking about whatever is causing the disagreement. Everyone must have a turn to speak.


It may be tough to believe, but often brothers and sisters are great friends when they’re adults. They support each other, share important life events and help when parents are older. I hope your siblings and you find common ground.



Peer Educator response: It’s amazing how most of us get along with our siblings now that we’re older. Of course, some of us have learned to just avoid topics that cause trouble. You’ll figure it out.


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