The Mango Talk: Sex-Positive Conversations with Kids

By Kendra Holliday | May 14, 2017

Sex is like a mango

I wrote this post six years ago, when my daughter was ten. Now she is sixteen, and still working through her teenage hormones! 

Being pregnant was an incredibly interesting experience.

Having a baby was cute, fun and exhausting.

Toddlerhood was my least favorite stage – I felt like a classical music lover at a speed metal concert.

The solid kid stage (4-9) was the best, and I thought I’d get to enjoy it for another year or two, as my daughter just turned 10.

After all, I didn’t start freaking out until I was 12, and I got my period when I was 13. My mom didn’t get hers until she was 14.

Girls are developing much eariler these days thanks to improved health and diet. Surprise! My daughter is tweening, and it’s giving me whiplash.

One night this summer, the hormone fairy snuck in and replaced my sweet child with this half-finished mutant version of myself.

She’s starting to develop. She’s insisting on training bras and sanitary napkins for just in case. She’s crying one second and laughing the next. Have you ever heard about how bitchy trans folks get when they have their hormone shots? My daughter is as dramatic as a drag queen downing diva cocktails.

I picked her up from her first day of school and she tearfully announced, “My new teacher is EVIL and I want to commit suicide.” Then she asked me to play her favorite song – James Blunt’s Tears and Rain. Moments later she was laughing at how cute our guinea pig is, her eyes sparkling with joy.

I can’t stop staring at the tiny pimple on her nose. She has crushes on Japanese cartoon characters. This new stage of her sweet young life has me flabbergasted.

I got the book How to Hug a Porcupine: Negotiating the Prickly Points of the Tween Years and have been reading up on how to deal with the emotional roller coaster. I remember being like this. I had no idea how annoying it was. My mom snapped at me a couple of times and I felt so hurt and misunderstood. So far I’m handling it with patience and grace.

I worry that she’s on this precarious brink where the wrong parenting step  could turn her into an ill-behaved rotten little princess. For lords sake, I don’t want to fuck it up.

The other day she put me to the test when she asked:

“What does sex feel like?”

Some people raise their children to be innocent, but I raise mine to be knowing, which means I don’t shield her from the truth. Nor do I avoid sensitive subjects. My open and honest policy extends to my parenting style.

I told her, “Sex feels incredible. It’s really great. But…” I searched for the right words. “You know how your favorite fruit is the mango?”

She nodded.

“Imagine you have this mango, but it’s not ripe yet. So what, you’re impatient and hungry, so you’re going to eat it right now. Yikes, you can hardly cut it, it’s so tough and stringy. It’s bitter, not sweet at all. It’s green, and it gives you a terrible tummy ache. You might not even like mangos anymore after this experience.”

I let that sink in and continued. “But! If you wait a little longer until it’s ripe, that same mango will be soft and delicious. It will smell wonderful and be easy to cut. Its sweet juice will drip down your face, and it will provide wonderful nourishment. That mango will taste so good, you’ll want to eat it every day!”

She kept nodding, comprehension spreading over her face like a tropical sunrise.

I concluded, “That’s what sex is like. If you do it with the wrong person or before you’re ready, it can be a terrible experience. But if you wait to do it and make sure it’s on your own terms and with someone you really like, it’s one of the best things in the world.”

She laughed and said, “My mango isn’t ripe yet!”

“That’s right,” I said, smiling. “You’re in charge of your mango. You tell those boys, ‘It ain’t ripe yet!'”

She sashayed around the room practicing her mango speech.

Carmen Miranda would be so proud.

Comments

Phil 2011-05-31 13:48:41

Brilliant. Truly.

Reply

    Kendra 2011-06-01 08:02:56

    Thank you so much! I’m so glad that conversation went the way it did.

    Reply

      M 2015-07-05 19:40:45

      Perfect, Kendra. I hope you don’t mind if I archive this one for when my daughter asks that question, in ten or twelve more years.

      Reply

Sonora 2011-06-03 19:38:04

Delightful read, and wonderful analogy. Thanks for sharing!

Reply

Isabelle 2011-06-24 13:23:41

That was truly amazing! You can tell through this one example that through you teaching your daughter about her sexuality and not shielding her from it, that you have also taught her how precious it is and that it should be treasured and respected (by her and others!)

Reply

Dan 2011-07-03 09:44:35

Sweet and nourishing. Thanks for the great analogy and advice.

Reply

Vickie 2011-07-04 08:08:13

I love the analogy. My daughter is only 4.5 but I’ll have to remember this one. 🙂

Reply

Trevor 2012-10-05 16:35:10

That was beautiful.

Reply

WD 2013-05-12 14:28:32

I echo these other wise reader’s comments. And Happy Mother’s Day, you’re the BEST MOM EVER!!!

Reply

santa 2013-05-13 01:08:34

I think you are one of the most amazing persons I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet!!!!

Reply

Anna 2013-05-13 10:50:31

Good one! And I will tell my son he has to wait and be *absolutely sure* the mango is ripe and bursting with juice before he tries to eat it.

Reply

himself 2013-05-13 11:36:43

@Phil nailed it. “Brilliant” is indeed the word.

And yes, Happy Mothers’ Day, someday (no doubt AFTER her teenage years, when she straightens out and again becomes a human being) she’ll fully realize what a great mom she is so lucky to have.

Reply

bimotarich 2015-12-29 08:01:05

I liked your analogy… my son is only 8 and so far seems to have no sexual identity at all yet, and my daughter is only 2… so we still have some time… i suspect it will be a bit easier here (Japan) to be sex positive since there is very little shame in sex itself here… no Judaeo Christian BS to wade through and overcome… and the mama’s are both reasonable and intelligent women with fairly healthy sexual attitudes… so I hope we can pull it off… thanks for sharing… hope your talk does well!

Reply

claudia 2016-01-29 16:33:45

I love this! My daughter loves mangos, too, and interestingly, she was raised sex-positive before I even knew what the term was. She is now at the wise old age of 17, teaching other girls not to be controlled or manipulated by their boyfriends, and I am working on teaching her how to have her own identity as a single mom without a partner. All great stuff!

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