Disclaimer/Warning: If you
a) are uncomfortable reading about/discussing/thinking about the human body and procreation to the point of shrieking “EWWWWWW!” when the topic comes up…
b) have an unfounded sense of respect for the angelic life I’ve led….
c) are under the age of 13…
d) still think that babies come from storks, cabbage leaves or the Build a Baby Workshop…
You’ll want to exit this blog and peruse the writings of someone who never seems to have anything to say, but writes anyway, such as Victoria Osteen, Lisa Welchel from The Facts of Life, or Celine Dion.
With the legalities out of the way, my team of attorneys are now satisfied and I can continue with the blog entry.
The other day, Andrew, my eight year old son’s last day of second grade, I was horrified to learn that he knows about the “S” word. Yes, the three letter one that ends in “EX!” Yes, THAT “S” word. The biggie. Every parent’s one syllable nightmare.
As we were driving home from school, he let it slip as he was telling me about Taylor and Haven chasing him and David around the playground trying to kiss them. (Girls these days!!!! I was never so forward! But, that’s a whole ‘nuther blog entry.) The conversation went something like this…
Andrew: “We were all trying to play kick ball and the girls wouldn’t leave me and David alone. So, we took off running to hide behind the big tree by the fourth grade wing. When Taylor and Haven got to the tree, we kept dodging them, so they started pretending like they were having sex with the tree.”
Hearing that word come out of my supposedly innocent son’s mouth sent my naïve brain over the edge and my Saturn Vue swerving off Brookhaven Drive. I ran over three orange cones and side swiped the guy holding the “stop/slow” sign. (Those new neon green highway department vests don’t make the workers a bit more visible, especially to a panicked mom, who’s just seen her young son’s innocence crash and burn before her eyes.)
ME: “What did you just say?”
ME: ‘Don’t give me that. You know what you said.”
ANDREW: “I said they were kissing the tree.”
ME: “’Kissing’ is certainly NOT the verb that came out of your mouth and you know it.”
Too late for him to take it back. The “S” word was out there, hovering between the front and back seats, like a cloud of chokingly offensive flatulence that both Andrew and I wished he’d never released.
I admit that I’m naïve; most kids know more about sex by age seven than I probably did in high school (well, up until eleventh grade, anyway). I just wasn’t ready to go into any of this with Andrew. He was supposed to think of girls in the context of having cooties, playing Barbies, and painting their nails with glitter glue. He certainly shouldn’t be witnessing second grade pole dancing exhibitions on an elm tree.
As a mom, I pride myself on doing my “homework,” staying abreast (bad word choice) on every upcoming life stage before it even happens. However, in the car that day, I had no preparation whatsoever for talking sex with someone I’d given birth to, no database of knowledge to pull from. I searched my brain trying to retrieve some smidgeon of useful information, some guidance from The Blind Sighted Parents’ Guide to Talking Sex with Elementary School Offspring. But unfortunately that book hasn’t been written yet. Four clear options began forming in my head.
Should I …
A) say “That’s it, Son. I’m home schooling you and we’re becoming radical fundamentalists who grow all our own food, make our clothes and have no contact with the outside world except to sell our crops at the farmers’ market where you’ll be monitored every second. So, no making eyes at milk maids or feeling the melons.”
B) say “That’s great that you know about sex. Some of my fondest memories happened in the backseat of an ’89 Camaro*. Ahhh, those were the days.”
C) Go dig out my old Anatomy & Physiology texts from college and prepare for an in-depth lesson on procreation. Okay, who am I kidding? I never took A&P. The furthest I got in learning body parts was the hammer and the stamen and the anther and the Acchilles heel.
D) Swallow hard, veer back onto the road and immediately change the subject. “Hey, Andrew, I hear there’s a new episode of Drake and Josh on today.”
Turns out, my choice was ‘E” none of the above and then “D” just to make it through the drive home. Before jumping to any conclusions, I decided to do some investigative questioning to learn what Andrew knew about sex. I shouldn’t assume that just because he used the “S” word meant that he was ready to teach sex education to first graders.
While making dinner and contemplating how I’d discreetly pry Andrew’s level of sex knowledge from him without him dying of embarrassment, my husband James came in sweaty from running on the treadmill that he eventually broke. (How does one break a treadmill? Again, a whole ‘nuther blog entry) I immediately began blabbering about our son’s lost innocence exclaiming “He knows about S—E—X!!!” I had wrongly assumed that James would have the same panic attack I’d suffered. Instead, he chuckled, “Honey, he’ll ALWAYS know more than you think he does.”
“Oh, thanks, Babe. That’s reassuring.”
Experts (whoever they are) say that parents discuss sex with their children in much the same way it was approached with them by their parents. If this is true, then I was completely handicapped. Sex, procreation, body parts, none of that stuff was ever discussed in my household. I learned some from finding my dad’s stash of Playboys and from a book my mom gave me when I was in fourth grade. It was called Susie’s Babies. That was as far as my mom came to the sex talk. In the text, “Susie” was a squirrel who met a male squirrel (who the authors didn’t bother naming or maybe Susie was the kind of girl who didn’t bother getting her mates’ names). Then Susie became pregnant with a litter of squirrel-lets, or squirrel pups, or squirrelkinz or whatever you call them. The story chronicled Susie’s journey to motherhood. The only problem is that I’m not a squirrel.
The Susie’s Babies approach might have worked to teach some youngsters about what would happen to them and their own bodies one day, but it left me clueless and confused. First of all, my mother happens to be named Susie. That didn’t help things. I, with an IQ that barely breaks 100, wondered if perhaps we start out life as squirrels and morph into humans, like tadpoles and frogs, or caterpillars and butterflies. I had always loved Clusters Cereal. Perhaps that wasn’t a coincidence. Then, there were all these terms in the book floating around with no definitions, like fallopian tubes, ovaries, testes, Missionary Position, bump-n-grind.
My sister Pamela saw me pondering over Susie’s Babies and decided that she’d better do the charitable thing and give it to me straight, based on her own knowledge. She told me EVERYTHING. At her vivid descriptions, I went pale and began to dry heave. I wondered how in the world any babies were ever born, being the result of such a vile and disgusting act. I just assumed that the whole thing was probably an accident. People would NEVER intentionally do something like that. They were probably just hugging and a part got loose and landed in the wrong place. That explanation satisfied my grossed-out nine year old mind and I rarely thought about sex again until Mr. ’89 Camaro* entered my life.
So back to June, 2009. That night, at bedtime, with lots of prayer and rehearsing under my belt, I entered Andrew’s bedroom and reminded him of our earlier conversation. His face changed into the expression of a trapped squirrel (not Susie, but perhaps one of her numerous offspring). “Andrew,” I began gently. “You mentioned ‘sex’ earlier. Just what do you know about it?”
As if he’d come straight from a Sunday school purity retreat, he repeated stoically, holding his breath, “I know that it’s wrong and I should never do it or talk about it.” Okay, that’s a start. “But, do you know what sex is?” I asked. “Well Mason talks about having sex and he always does this when he says sex.” Andrew’s demonstration of “THIS” was to thrust his hips back and forth like Elvis or Justin Timberlake. OMG, I wanted to laugh so hard, a horrified laugh, yet funny too. If Andrew was telling the truth, he didn’t know much, but got the general gist of things. The situation was slightly less worrisome than I’d thought, yet should still be monitored. I replied “Andrew, sex isn’t bad; God made our bodies and he made sex. But sex is only for married people, not for kids to know about, talk about and certainly not to act out on trees. Stay away from Taylor and Haven and Mason too. FOREVER. Okay?”
I have no idea if I handled the situation correctly. I’m sure it’ll come up again. Maybe I’ll ask my mom if she still has Susie’s Babies lying around. No, kidding. Yard rodents should not be used as models for teaching your kids about reproduction. That’s just wrong. I wonder why the author used squirrels. Why not wombats or pot bellied pigs or meerkats or PEOPLE!!!!! Hey, there’s a thought.
Right now I’m reading Teaching Your Children Healthy Sexuality – A Biblical Approach to Prepare Then for Life, By Jim Burns. I highly recommend it.
If any of you gentle readers (now I’m Miss Manners) have suggestions on approaching this delicate subject with your offspring, please drop me a hint, PRIVATELY. Or if you’d like to share an equally embarrassing story on the topic, I’d love to hear it and promise not to publish it.
* – Make and model of vehicle have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.