Thursday, September 17, 2009

Family Matters: The "S-Word"

How did you find out? I was barely ten, chatting in my pink striped bedroom with Karen and Linda. Karen and I were the oldest kids in our family, and Linda was #3 in hers. Oldest kids are always a bit dorky in worldly ways. Our parents were content to assume we were too young. Third kids had knowledgeable siblings to clue them in, and Linda was passing on her wisdom.

I was horrified and accused her of lying; the story was totally unacceptable, and gross. I heard the same lie again from Brenda on the swings at recess. Later, I read a novel that hinted it was all true. By the time my parents finally told me, one very embarrassing Sunday night when I was in ninth grade (they had a booklet and everything) I figured I knew as much as they did. But I acted like it was all new to me, and just listened and waited (mortified) for it to be over.

It was obliquely referred to by my parents after that, but I was engaged before it really come up again in a conversation. Mom told me to "be careful because passion can be explosive." She said she and dad had "come close" before they were married, but they had "stayed strong." I was vastly impressed! Not only had they stayed strong...they had come close! Wow! These parents of mine had a past!

"Gotta tell 'em sometime."
Heroes 1984

I decided to take the bull by the horns with my own kids. Rather than have a huge tell-all discussion that would be uncomfortable for everyone, I'd keep them informed throughout their childhood, and make it all feel normal. I would answer every question appropriately and we would be an open, natural family. Of course, I didn't count on questions being asked in front of their single uncle while they were splashing in the tub ("Is this where the baby comes out?") or on an elevator full of people ("How did daddy plant the seed?") or at a birthday party when I was calling out that I needed cooperation ("Oh no! Are you pregnant again?") There were many other times their appropriate questions were asked in an inappropriate setting. I must have given out vibes that this wasn't a subject I wanted to discuss on demand.

They stopped asking. So, I got a book, which I would occasionally break out for an ice-breaker when the mood was right for questions. Gabi, at 10, declared that I was perverted. "Why do you always talk about this stuff?" Josh left the room in disgust whenever he could tell I was about to bring it up. Micah, however, was fascinated. He loved the pictures and seemed mildly excited by the topic, even as a 7-year-old little boy. Dee sat in horror, hoping I would not bring him into the discussion. His parents had never told him, and he had discovered everything all on his own. Couldn't we just handle it in that time-honored way?

(I haven't read this.)

The last four kids weren't as difficult; they absorbed all the hush-hush information by eavesdropping on their sibling's conversations. The S-word was part of their vocabulary, although they obviously hoped we wouldn't get too technical. It's troublesome for kids to imagine that their parents are savvy in this area. "Mom, don't go there . . . too much information," is a phrase I became familiar with.

How do parents tell kids nowadays? Do they say, "Go watch channel five?" The whole truth is graphically depicted everywhere. My grandkids illustrate that carnal knowledge still comes gradually and in a piecemeal way. They hide their eyes when Superman kisses Lois Lane, and cover their ears so they can't hear "yukky kissing sounds." They innocently ask if the lovers in the movie are having "a sleepover" and hide the bare-naked Barbie from a baby brother's gaze.

Jake was eight when he told me he'd save me from a cauldron of spiders or snakes. He'd even save me from monsters. "I'm not scared of anything," he informed me. I said I had a really scary scenario for him. What if I was in a room full of giggling girls who all wanted to kiss him? Would he save me? "NO WAY!!" he screamed. "Unless I was older and they were pretty," he whispered.

Jake 2007

Hmmm, there's no getting around it. Those are still the facts of life.


Homework: Choose any or all, or be inspired.

~Comment on books you'd recommend (or not) to teach kids of all ages about sex.

~Write about how you found out about sex. Prompt: "My parents didn't tell me; I found out from____."

~"Do Oma and Opa do the special hug?" Record something funny you've heard a kid say about sex.

~Think through an answer.  You're standing behind a very pregnant woman in the grocery store check-out line, and you four-year-old asks loudly, "Mom, how will her baby get out?" 

*If you do any part of this assignment on your blog, please link it back to TravelinOma and provide proper attribution. Leave a comment here (with a link to your homework if you want to share it) and/or a link to your blog (so we can get to know you.) School Days has open enrollment so join anytime. No make-up work required! If you're new, click here for an orientation.

20 comments:

KJ said...

my parents told me practically nothing at all other than: don't let anybody touch you there or there. ever. I gleaned the rest in bits and pieces from various sources over the years. It all worked out in the end. ;)

dalene said...

i learned about it in baseball terms. and i still remember the embarrassment i felt as a fifth grader when i first her the correct terms for things during some health class. so i raised my kids to know the right words (even if not all of them were comfortable using them) and i answered questions when they felt like asking them. and my kids were blessed with the best maturation class (at the local elementary school--grades 5 and 6) teachers one could ask for. i feel kind of spoiled in that respect.

so sorry, no book recommendations. but i will tell you my sil and some friends of mine highly recommend the care and keeping of you. it's mostly a book about puberty for girls, but i thought i'd pass it on.

gab said...

Jake is so excited because I told him that the nurse is going to do the "Health Talk" for boys now that he's in 5th grade. He keeps asking when. I don't think she'll tell him anything he doesn't know already...but I'm glad he's "into it." Or am I?

polly said...

I was the health advisor in PTA when my kids were young. One year the nurse couldn't be there so the principal and I did the program for the 5th graders. My poor children, hearing all this information from their mom and in front of everybody too! Way toooo much information!

audrey said...

"Mittens!" is what my family always says in situations when we get "More Information Than Needed" (MITNs). That is always how I feel about this one...

Here.

audrey said...

Addendum: I actually feel that it is very important to talk about it and be open and inform your children. I just still feel like saying "Mittens," when I think about telling them. This will be a hard stage to get to...

LMT said...

I am really loving your seminar. I just wanted to thank you again for sharing your passion, talents and brilliance! I will, most definitely, be showing off my School Days Seminar notebook when it is all done. Then I'll be waiting for the next one. hehe. Thank you. You are wonderful!

Misty said...

Oma, this is Tough Stuff!

audrey said...

I had a funny lunch time conversation with my kids that I wrote as a follow-up post to the one I wrote this morning since it tied in perfectly. You'll have to read it too.

Here.

Diane L said...

I woke up this morning and my daughter Audrey (comment 5 today) asked if I'd read your blog yet. I said no. She said good, she wanted to get hers written before I did. So, here's my side of the story.
week 3 assign 4

Christina said...

This post didn't show up in my google reader this morning, so I'm sorry my homework feels so late. Here's a link to my post. http://howwefelt.blogspot.com/2009/09/questions-you-know-are-coming.html

I'm glad for this assignment- it allowed me to document a recent conversation I'd been wanting to record but hadn't taken the time to yet. Thanks!

Alana said...

Oma, this was so fuuunnnyyy!!! Made my day!!! Oh how we've all been there- on one end or the other.

The Secret

Alana said...

Had to comment again because your post STILL has me laughing.

"couldn't we just handle it in that time-honored way?"

and, "I was vastly impressed... these parents of mine had a past!"

I love it. I'm rolling!!!

Melissa said...

So because I have a 7 week old daughter and I'm doing my Student Teaching I have been reading daily but decided to participate fully in December when I graduate (which means of course participating when the class is over) but I knew there would be some that I would HAVE to write about...this is one of them.

So here is my story, it is just a quick retelling before bed :)

http://mtvoice.blogspot.com/2009/09/birds-and-bees.html

Mrs. Organic said...

My 4 year old has some interesting ideas about this.

My mother only found out today, 30 years later, that she was NOT the first person to tell me the about the Birds and the Bees and that I had known for two years prior to her sitting me down for "the talk." I couldn't spoil her moment.

I've got to read everyone's posts on this one.

Allison said...

I think I mentioned at the beginning that not all of my posts would be on time...

late link

Slightly awkward writing this, but (mostly) in a good way.

Miranda said...

am terrified that my baby will need to know this stuff eventually. this post was hilarious. didn't make me less terrified. :)

~j. said...

Kind of brief and to-the-point.

cannwin said...

I did this one today.

Katie H said...

What a great post!

http://jarednkatie.blogspot.com/2009/10/birds-bees.html