I was listening to a podcast, and the women on it started talking about a father who left a note for his son when he discovered the son’s Internet porn stash (as it were). Toward the end of the discussion, they started talking about how they were going to talk to their children about sex (and/or porn).
The tone of the commentary was one of fear. One of the women even said, “I’m terrified about talking to my children about this stuff.” There was also some discussion about *who* would talk to kids about sex — mom, dad, both, school — and when? One of the moms said that she had already started, even when her kids were young (pre-school age), and just kept talking about it even though it felt so awkward. I admired her for that.
I was kind of curious about this among my peers. I posed the question on Twitter: “Who’s going to talk to your kids about sex? And when are you going to start?”
Now, in the interest of full disclosure: I’ve already started talking to my kids about sex (kind of). Really, it’s more about their bodies. Genitals are like any other part of the body at this point. They have no sexual context for the children yet — even though touching them feels good, that good feeling doesn’t mean “SEX”; it means something more like COMFORT. Even knowing where babies come from (and how they are made) is more about functionality at this point than sexuality.
Is it easy to talk to my kids about this? No, not really. I am (to my husband’s chagrin) much too forthcoming with basic information. My semi-coherent idea about this is that if I can answer my kids’ questions about their bodies now, and be open and honest (and refrain from giggling like a 12-year-old), as they grow in understanding and in sexuality, then they will come to trust me to deal with these issues matter-of-factly.
Responses on Twitter echoed those of the podcast. A lot of “GAH!” and “La la la, I can’t hear you.” It made me smile, because I totally understand that instinct. It’s terrifying to think about our children discovering porn and having sex (maybe this stops once they get married?). Dan has no intention of talking about sex with the girls — he’s the one who coined the term “lady business” (we also use “boy business” for M, obviously). When Flora asked him what being romantic meant, he answered, “Sitting alone and reading books.” To which I responded: *facepalm*.
I think part of the other reason I answer these questions (like I answer all my children’s questions to the best of my ability) is because I don’t want to sit down some day with my children when they are on the edge of puberty and try to give them the whole spiel at once. I don’t want to have a big, long “birds and bees” talk. I think that can be overwhelming — even when they’re on the verge of puberty. I’d rather give them discrete and age-appropriate bits of information.
I think it will become tricky when the moral component needs to be included in these discussions. The beginning and end of sex and sexuality talk in my home growing up was, “Don’t have sex until you get married.” This was radically unsatisfying to me (and I imagine it will be unsatisfying to my children as well). My Catholic school was pretty comprehensive when it came to sex education, but boiled down the message was: “Don’t have sex until you get married because you will ruin your life and/or die a horrible and awful death.” Even religion class didn’t address the WHY of the question. WHY was virginity so important to God? WHY should I wait until I get married to “do it”?
And honestly I’m still not 100 percent clear on how I’m going to express this to my own children. What I’m going to tell them is that our bodies, our sexuality, and sex are gifts from God. And like any gifts from God, we need to use them wisely and carefully — not to pleasure ourselves only, but to give glory to God. Sex is special, not something to be shared with a lot of people. Sex is to be part of the intimate bond of a committed couple, to bring them and keep them close.
Will this work? Will it keep my children virgins until they are married? I have no idea. Will I be called out for my own hypocrisy (I was not a virgin when I got married, not even close)? Possibly. I’m still working on that part of the discussion. Will I forbid discussion of birth control medication, condoms and other barrier methods, Planned Parenthood, and/or abortion? No, I will not. That seems futile. But to talk about those issues and still be able to say (without terrifying them), but this is why you still should wait until marriage — that’s what I’m aiming for. And also to do it in such a way that if they decide differently, I can deal with that with them too.
What’s your plan for teaching your kids (or the children in your life) about their bodies and sex? And what are you waiting for?