This weekend we had a barbecue with some friends at a park by Lake Michigan. The sun shone, a breeze blew, the kids played while the grown-ups talked. It was picturesque and lovely and perfect.
And then our 10-year-old, Dolittle, came up running up to me.
“Mom, come here. I want to show you something.”
“What is it?”
“Anya and I found this thing, but we don’t know what it is.”
“Well, what does it look like?
“Just come look.”
She starts leading me away from the picnic area, toward the sidewalk.
“It looks kind of like a long, white balloon.”
“Ooohhh . . .”
I then recall that despite it’s loveliness during the day, the park we’re in has a reputation for some unsavory activities at night. We walk a little further. I brace myself. Dolittle points to the ground.
Yep. Sure enough, right there in the middle of the sidewalk, is a used condom. Used. In the middle of the sidewalk. I swallow and think.
“Did you guys touch it?”
“No. What is it?”
I take a deep breath and do some quick mental parental gymnastics. Ordinarily, we’re very open with our kids when they ask about sex, but condom use isn’t something I expected to come up at a barbecue. I hate to pass up a learning opportunity, especially when it’s literally dropped right in front of us. If we’d been alone, I’d have just told her. But I knew it would be too hard for her not to talk about it with Anya, and I was pretty sure our friends didn’t invite us to a barbecue so our 10-year-old could teach their 10-year-old about safe sex.
“Ummm . . . well . . . it’s something called a condom.”
“You know, normally I’d tell you, but since there are other kids here I’m going to have to explain it to you later. I’m not sure if Anya knows about yet, and it really should be her parents that tell her. We’ll talk about it when there aren’t any other kids around okay?”
“Okay. Is it disgusting?”
“Umm . . . well . . . you’ll probably think it’s disgusting.”
“Maybe I don’t want to know.”
“It’s okay for you to know. I just don’t think we should talk about it with other kids around.”
She takes my hand as we start walking back to the picnic tables.
“Anya said her parents would talk to her about it later, too.”
HA! At least we’re all on the same page.
What do you think, parents? Would you have handled that differently?