4th of July, 2010How 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.
So, my novel has some fireworks.
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!
Heroes 1984I 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?
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 reassure me 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.
~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.