Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tell All Tuesday:The Talk

*You should probably know that in this post I'm going to talk about S-E-X. There won't be pictures or anything (sorry if that disappoints you) and it's really about the topic of talking to your kids about "the horizontal hula", but I know that makes some people uncomfortable, so I thought I should let you know before you started reading.

**Also, I should let you know that I know that this topic is kind of a heated one sometimes. I generally don't do "controversial" on my blog, because I'm really not looking to pick a fight or experience the joy that is hate mail. Still, I will express my opinion about how we feel is the best way to have "The Talk". If you feel differently that's totally cool. If you want to comment and say as much, that's totally cool too. If you want to go on a crazy person diatribe, that's not cool-and anyway, comment moderation is enabled, so no one but me will see it anyway. Anyway...on to the post.
At about 7 I got "the talk" from my biological mother-which consisted mostly of diagrams of childbirth and euphemisms for sexual organs. And yes, her opening words actually WERE "When a Husband and a Wife love each other very much...." While that certainly held me over as a 7 year old, I am monumentally grateful for my dad. He was honest, open, and available about sex. For starters, he could actually say the word "sex".

As an adult I realize now how uncomfortable Dad must have been about this. We're talking about the man who didn't want to see ultrasounds of his grandchildren because (a) he'd have to accept the fact that his girls are women (b) he'd have to acknowledge the fact that someone DID THAT to his daughter...and she liked it... and (c) in his own words, seeing a blurry black and white two dimensional picture of a uterus with a baby in it is "gross".

Still, no matter what his personal feelings on the subject, my dad was always available to have real talks about sex. Sure he gave me the old "how babies are made" speech, but he also talked to me about WHY people have sex, how sex affects you as a person, and how it effects your relationship. There was never a sex question that my dad wouldn't answer. I think that's why I am the way I am about sex. Open. Honest. Practical.

Because of him I knew all about the risks of sex-the emotional (how attached it makes you feel, which can be misleading if you're not actually in a committed relationship), the physical (you know, crotch rot and other nasties), and the long term (ie would you be willing to co-parent with this person should you conceive). With the information I had I was able to rationally lay out the pros and cons of having sex, and make an educated decision about when and with whom to have sex...and I absolutely give my dad 100% credit for that.

So how, exactly, does one teach their kids about sex in a way that will help them have a healthy attitude about it?

Obviously whatever you do depends on your beliefs, your goals, and your parenting style. There are a million books to coach parents through this, and it's all about finding the one you feel most comfortable with. After much discussion Hubby and I came up with our own strategy (though I'm sure it's not an original thought)-it's an age-dependent three stage program for our kids. Stage One: Anatomy. Stage Two: Baby Making. Stage Three: The Sex Talk.

Monkey has already passed Stage One. It all began when he started telling us he was a cow. Right around the time he turned four he would insist to us over and over and over again that he WAS a cow. At first it was cute, but then he started drawing self portraits in which he was a cow. So we checked in with him. Explained that it's okay to pretend to be a cow, but FYI you're a person. He just insisted NO! I'm a COW! So we asked-what makes you think you're a cow?

Because Mommy, I have an udder.

Oh yes. It was time for the anatomy talk. You know-what you got, what the "opposition" has, and what's the difference. He actually took the news that he was not a cow very well, and while he still finds cows fascinating, he now knows the difference between an udder and a penis. Mission accomplished.

Now that he's 5 and a half and has experienced the miracle of baby sisters, he's cruising very steadily along to Stage Two. I can feel the rumblings. He talks a lot about where babies come from....at the moment he thinks he did it. He tells everyone "I went to grandma and grandpa's house, and that's how The Bean was born!" It's only a matter of time before he asks for details. And once he does, we're ready for him! We've got books. We've got DVDs. We've got pamphlets. You name it, we have it. We're totally ready-we know, we've practiced. That's right, Hubby and I have practiced the How Babies Are Made speech. I think that's helped us a lot.

Sooner than I'd probably hope (we estimate it to be around age 12 or 13, but we're not there yet, so we certainly can't say) it will be time for Stage Three. The Sex Talk. All about the whys and wherefores of sex and relationships. For us, that also means time to pull out the birth control. I'll tell you one thing-I'm kind of hoping they have a male pill by then. We plan on talking about the responsibility that comes with sex, the affect it has on you as an individual and you as a couple, how to keep yourself as safe as possible (but that there is no such thing as 100% safe). Then we plan on doing a lot of listening, and what will probably be a very long Q & A, for which Mommy will excuse herself and let the guys talk about Man Stuff (until the girls reach this stage, at which point Daddy is free to run for it when the Q & A portion arrives).

Our approach has worked so far, but if there is one thing I know about kids it's that they surprise you. They like to do that ONE THING that you never thought about just to freak you out. I'd like to hear from parents who have already blazed this trail-what was the sex talk like in your house? Any surprises? How'd it work out (if your kid has reached adulthood)? Of course I'd also love to hear the plans of parents with younger kids-it's always good to get new ideas!

So, if you've read this far and you're still interested, tell me-what did you do/do you plan to do about The Talk?


Peterson Family said...

Stopping by from SITS....

I am planning on having "the talk" with my 10 year old this weekend. I worked on the Labor and Delivery floor and helped deliver over 200 babies, but am not looking forward to this discussion! I guess it is because it means she is growing up. I will let you know how it goes.....

Jessica and Michael said...

I love your post. I remember talking to my parents about this and my mom did the same thing. I somehow braved the topic with my dad and while uncomfortable, I think it was better. Weird, but whatever. Haha. Stopping by from SITS and wanted to say hi. Love your blog!

Jenny said...

I don't remember ever having a particular discussion about this as a kid. I do remember that when I was 10, my cousin got pregnant. She was 19, unmarried and still living with her parents. I overheard SO much about that and how difficult it was for everyone.

Somehow my sister and I chose to wait until marriage for sex. I hope my daughter will also make the same decision.

She did recently ask where babies come from and I told her the truth: God!

Muthering Heights and Other Senseless Sensibility said...

Oh goodness...an udder?? That is hilarious!!!

I'm just planning to be honest during the "talk," and try to keep it age appropriate for when the topic arises...

Jen said...

Great post! I have been starting to think about this for awhile too. My "sex talk" came from my mom. It consisted of her reading the newspaper, while I had to read 2 books WITH PICTURES! about sex. And then she said "do you have any questions?" (Um, no.) And then she said "OH and by the way, don't ever say the f-word. It's a really bad name for sex." And that was that. Little did she know, that because she waited until I was 13 to even tell me tell me the basics..or rather let me read a book about the basics..that I already knew all about it! I pretty much after that never brought up the subject with her again, until I had to announce my SURPRISE pregnancy 7 years later.

So, things will DEFINITELY be different with my kids!

Dreamgirl said...

Very good post. Being Norwegian I do think that we talk a little bit more openly about sex than many Americans. (Just my opinion after living in Oklahoma for 5 years...) I do remember my sex-talks with mom and I'm very happy that both her and dad were so open with me. It made me the person I am today.

So I have had the sex-talk with my son (12) and not yet with my girl (6). The right time and place matters so much...

Thanks for sharing!

missy said...

oh no an udder!?!?!?!? i know you had to chuckle about that later!!!!!!!
"the talk".......we are also very open......and my 2 girls are the oldest and those talks have seemed pretty easy to me. my son is the baby and will be 13 and oh my.....it just feels so much harder to me to talk to a boy!?!?!?!?!? ugh......it could be a long few years?!!?!?

Robynn's Ravings said...

The udder is priceless! I hope he doesn't kill you later for sharing this. :) (As mother to a 14-yr-old I'm constantly busted as to what I THOUGHT was okay to share on the blog!)

We have never had THE sex talk because I made sex just another part of life. I started with appropriate names for body parts - though they also have nicknames - and I determined to get over the giggling weirdness when they were very young so by the time it really mattered, it would be like taking about anything else important in life. And it has been.

Both my kids have spoken openly and honestly with me and do not feel awkward. I have stressed what a beautiful gift sex is and that it is designed to be shared within the context of marriage. Those are our beliefs and values. I have likened it to the fire we enjoy in the fireplace in the winter. It gives off wonderful things in the right context but outside of that - if we decided to have a fire in the middle of the floor - we could be faced with danger and the damage a fire can do.

We also believe in courtship and spending time in groups and with families. That doesn't mean our kids would never be allowed to go on a date alone but we don't feel that should start at 12, like my dating life did. (Bad news.) I tell them I would also never leave them in a donut shop over night (knowing they were hungry) and yet seem surprised when I collected them in the morning, only to find all the donuts mauled and eaten. We can hand our kids too much responsbility and then wonder at their decisions.

Thanks for asking. I have two kids 18 & 14 who have definite clarity and aren't afraid to talk about anything and everything. But they also know we, and they, are not perfect. So, no matter what, we will always be here for them, loving them fully and completely.

As an aside, I heard a song come on the radio the other day and my daughter turned the channel. It glorified unrestrained get-down-on-it sex. I asked her if she changed the channel because I was there. She responded, "No mom. It's not about you anymore. It's about what I want in my life. That doesn't fit who I am with or without you." Her own mind, her own heart, her relationship with God. That's all I can ask.