Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Minecraft and We Come Alive!

Of late, Raghav has been asking a lot of questions about his body and I kind of sensed what was on its way.....but never in my wildest of dreams did I think that it would come up through Minecraft!

Here are some of the questions that came up from him just before he was getting ready for a bath a few days ago:
What are these two things? (feeling his breast area and nipples)
Why do men and boys have them?
Why are they different for women?
Why does this (pointing to his penis) stand up erect after I go to the bathroom?
I have seen you 'nanga panga' (naked) many a time, but I haven't seen your thing (my genitals). How is it different for you?
Why do only men have these two things hanging (pointing to his testes)? I know they are the testes and I think they produce the sperm cells. But why don't women have these?
Does it hurt for babies when the umbilical cord is cut? Why do they have to cut it? Won't it just fall off by itself?
I think there are more girls than boys in the world. Is that right? Why is it like that? Why are there not equal numbers of both?

These were questions that I don't remember asking anyone while I was growing up. No one talked to me about growing up, puberty, sex and my body. All that I remember is that my parents handed me a book on sex education when I had just started my periods I think. And that was that. Most conversations on these topics were with school friends and our Biology teacher (he had an awesome sense of humour by the way, which freed us and our thoughts and feelings). Somehow I don't remember being so curious about my body and asking so many questions. Perhaps school and being with friends (it was a co-ed school from KG till the 12th) took care of all the curiosity. So in many ways, I am grateful to Life for not giving me experiences that 'conditioned' me (at least to a large extent) in a 'negative' way, at least in this one aspect of my life. I formed my own opinions about my body and my sexuality. And so I was able, today, to share my thoughts and some knowledge with my son with a pure innocence, without thinking about what I should tell him and how. However, I also remembered the day Raghav came back home from school and sobbed and sobbed asking me why he was not allowed to sit next to, hug and talk to his best friend (who happened to be a girl), when all he was doing was showing how much he loved her.....just like the way the three of us hugged each other at home.....and he was all of four then!

The questions for which I knew the answers, I gave him. I felt it was important to name all the parts by their 'real' names first. So that was what I did....and for the rest, reminded him about BrainPop, the Kidshealth.org website that we often go to and the Human Body Encyclopaedia that we have. And also suggested he have a man-to-man chat with his father when he came back home. Most often, I find that Raghav just needs this little nudge or a pointer rather, as to where and how to look or find out, and then he is often neck deep in whatever he has chosen to explore :)

He then went on to explain to me how he had seen a video on Brainpop about how sperms are produced and how when the egg meets the sperm, an embryo is formed. Then the conversation flowed to AIDS, what it stands for and how one gets it. In all this, there was no talk about 'how' exactly the body fluids meet and what actually happens. But I let that be and decided not give him what he did not ask for now.

I also had a feeling after this barrage of questions, that he would very soon ask me if he could see my genitals, as he has mentioned that before in passing. That is going to be a huge test for me and I also know deep down that I have to face the fear that I have about that. But I also feel that it is better if he asks me and I can tell or show him, rather than his getting misinformation from somewhere else some day. Not that that would make a huge difference, because we are all anyway constantly unlearning stuff! But I would. I would want to if it comes to that. However I feel about it now.

I also remembered a conversation some of us had at the special school I was working at years ago, on sexuality and the disabled. I remembered how a mother who was also on the staff rolls, shared with us how she would not hesitate to help her son masturbate or seek sexual gratification from a prostitute even, instead of curbing his natural urges. That conversation has stuck in my head. That opened up so much for me. And I am thankful to that truly magical place that has given me so much in my life, made me question everything that I believed in, and constantly spurred me to think and see things with new eyes.

Today, while we were driving for our weekly veggie shopping, instead of listening to music like we usually do , Raghav decided he would talk about a Minecraft Mod. The name of the Mod was "Minecraft Comes Alive". And what was that about? Marriage, having children, relationships, happiness levels, doing chores, and much more!
"Yes amma, this is much more real than the other mods," Raghav beamed, and went on to explain what one could do with this mod.
"But I don't understand why you would need to get married to have children. I mean....marriage was invented by humans right? It is not something of the body.....the body does not say - ok, now marriage is invented, so I can reproduce or have children...I am sure and I know that before marriage was invented people must have just had children....just like that," he added.
I agreed and also shared how some people adopt kids, how some people have kids and then get divorced, and so they are no longer 'married' in that sense, and how some people just have children without getting married at all. But I was quite baffled with his previous comments and asked him how he knew all that about marriage.

"I have been to marriages before haven't I....with you? I know because I have seen what we do in them....we have all those ceremonies and stuff.....all that has to be man-made right? But it is not what the body asks for is it?", he said.
"Yes....what does marriage mean to you then? How are babies born then?", I prodded on.
"I don't know....but I know that marriage is man-made, and that you don't need to be married to have children.... and when the sperm cells somehow are around the female, babies are formed," he added.
I smiled, realizing finally that this was the innocence of a child speaking. He knew so much and was even able to think through so much on his own and form his own opinions, and yet he did not know how exactly the sperm and the egg came together to form a baby. And so I told him. I gave him the word for it and explained how a baby could form - how the male organ had to get inside the female organ. We spoke about periods and how that was linked to the egg being produced. We also talked about what the chances were of girls and boys being born and why, connected it to pollination in plants and the countless seeds that a plant produces just to help it survive, how nature works and does whatever possible to make things survive.  Then he brought up 'happiness levels' and how villagers in Minecraft could go away if their happiness levels get below a particular point. And we spoke about how in the real world, we choose to stay on or walk away from relationships and why, how we don't always seek an easy, quick solution to a problem, just because we are unhappy and so on. He also wondered how the children in this Mod, can walk and talk and understand words, just soon after they were born! "How is that even possible amma?", he asked. And we laughed....at the realism and unreal-ism in Minecraft. What a conversation that was!

I am grateful to Minecraft for bringing these topics up in a fun, light way. I guess it made my job all the more easy, although I never dreamed that this talk would actually happen in this way! :)
I am also grateful to Life for showing me the way yet again, to trust my child, and trust what he wants to learn and how. I know that many more questions will come up, now that we have dug into this mine, and I will wait for them patiently, knowing that he will ask us without fear, and that Life will show me the way.

I just have to trust Life completely. I just have to wake up to being real and alive, messy and human, innocent and vulnerable, as many times as Life asks me to. There is just no other way. For me.

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