Monthly Archives: March 2015
“Their parents never talked about anything, so they want to talk about everything.” Modern family’s Alex Dunphy on the topic of her parents and sex
It would not be fair to say that my own parents never talked about anything in regards to sex, but let’s just say it was a highly infrequent topic that was never brought up at the dinner table. The truth is that with our sons, it was also not a frequent matter of conversation and almost always initiated by a parent– maybe a gender difference, personality preferences, or more uptight parents? I don’t know the exact reasons, but it is the honest truth that talk of developmental and reproductive matters happens much more often as I am now parent to two teetering on the edge of adolescence girls.
The one boundary I have set is that they may ask me any question at all about the general topic but specific questions about the sex life of their dad and me are out of bounds. And in our household, we have two girls who are extremely curious and one who will ask out loud absolutely anything that comes to mind, and she has done so from a very young age. Her sister then puts up her “elephant ears” and takes it all in and processes it deeply. We have lots of books that we have read together and separately. After the school’s human growth and development unit, we have dinner table discussions about what was learned and new questions are discussed. We laugh and just keep working through any discomfort. Their daddy is a good sport and fields the “how do boys work” topics with grace, even if inside it kills him to think of his little girls as sexual creatures.
I imagine that the same sentiment is sometimes felt by their three grown brothers. Our quieter, yet deeply thoughtful child, often makes profound observations. Several months ago when one of the brothers was visiting during the week of human growth and development, his “out there with everything” sister came to the dinner table each night loaded with curiosities and questions. Dad was out of town and not able to field the male specific questions. This poor brother threw his food down as quickly as possible and excused himself ASAP. His deep thinker sister made this observation about each of her brothers in relationship to their probable approach to talking about human growth and development (the order has been changed to protect brother identity): Brother B would be all “laughy, laughy”; Brother C would get all serious; and Brother A just gets up from the table and walks away. What is a brother, or a parent, to do?
As a child and teenager who grew up in a conservative church, the sex topic was a fairly confusing one. In youth group I learned that God created this beautiful, wonderful thing, but don’t you dare think about doing it or expressing that part of yourself in any way! Figuring it all out for myself has taken support and mental shifts throughout the years. I wish for something different and less shameful and confusing for my daughters. But how to pull that off is a bit tricky.
I hear the horror stories of the sexual promiscuity going on very frequently in middle schools and beyond. Girls are often used and abused and thought of as a play toy. Disease and long term health issues abound. Current social media options has opened up a whole new world. One moment of bad judgment can lead to tremendous and humiliating consequences – sending that provocative picture to get attention from a male and in minutes it has gone viral. Television and movies send out unhealthy and unrealistic images. It can strike fear and panic in the heart of a parent.
An aside – I was driving a car full of 6th graders to our local health center for a talk on nutrition. Most of them had gone to the same center for the famous 5th grade human growth and development program. I wanted to liven up the conversation, so I asked how many of them remembered that special 5th grade field trip. The chatter began immediately. One girl pronounced, “I didn’t need to go there. I’ve learned everything I need to know from my parents….and tv!” I couldn’t help myself – I had to communicate that while parents are often a good resource, tv not so much. Several others talked about how their younger sibling asked all the questions and they just listened carefully – my elephant ears girl and I locked eyes through the rearview mirror and smiled.
So here in our home, we will keep talking and inviting questions all along the way. It is around the dinner table when we are all together that these things often come up. We will keep making that a priority. Sometimes it is at bedtime when I am not too exhausted to take a few minutes and snuggle in bed. I will keep walking the tight rope of enough age appropriate information for the moment delivered with confidence, grace and respect for myself and our girls.
PS I recently read a very touching and hilarious blog by one of my very favorite writers on this same topic of sex talk with kids. I highly recommend you read this.