According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2007), a good third of middle schoolers have had sex before they enter high school. This statistic made me choke on my coffee! I heard it on the Today Show when they interviewed Amber Madison who is the author of the book, Talking Sex with Your Kids. Next time I get to the bookstore, I’m going to get it. That statistic blew me away – 1 in 3 kids. I mean, I’m not naive in thinking that kids aren’t sexually active, it was just the high % at the early age. Yikes!
Well, I’m sure a lot of parents struggle with discussing this topic with their children (or is it just me?). My s-e-x talk between my mother and me was, let’s just say, not very informative. My mom inherited my grandmother’s sense of modesty and just couldn’t bring herself to do it (love you, mom!). I really got all of my B&B information from my friends and, as you know, that information is not always accurate or reliable.
So, I have decided to take the opposite approach to these “discussions” with my children. My two lovely daughters (15 & 13) are SO different (which is to be expected), so that requires different strategies in approaching this topic. It’s hard enough coming up with one strategy let alone two! My son is next on the radar, but I’m thinking Mike should take this over. I mean, I’m not sure Jack will want to hear this information from his Mother, right? But, I will do what a mother has to do.
“Shock & Awe” Strategy
My oldest daughter is the modest one (she gets that from her dad – clearly not moi) – I can’t even talk about shaving legs in front of her! She gets too embarrassed – wow, she has been the tough one. That girl can talk 14 hours straight (it has been documented), but she WILL NOT give me an opening to talk about anything birdie or buzzy. I know that every kid is different in how they process information etc. But, I can’t help wondering if we marred her sensibilities early on when she was impressionable. I can recall one instance that was (embarrassingly) relayed to us one afternoon by her grandparents (Mike’s parents):
My in-laws were watching Rachel and she had to be around 3 years old. As I recall the story, Nancy was talking to Rachel about graduating from baths to showers and had recommended to Rachel that she try it by taking a shower with her mommy some time. And, Rachel, right on cue says to my mom-in-law, “You mean like daddy does?”. Ba-da-bum!
Because she has refused to lend me a hand in any way, I’ve labeled her B&B talk strategy ” Shock & Awe”. Shock and awe, technically known as rapid dominance, is a military doctrine based on the use of overwhelming power, dominant battlefield awareness, dominant maneuvers, and spectacular displays of force to paralyze an adversary’s (or child’s) perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight.
My first attempts at talking with Rachel began between 5th and 6th grade and I had to create my own opportunities. BTW, that is VERY hard to do if you want to be sly and sneaky, and not “Honey, I think it’s time for the talk”. So, I usually talk to her in the car because she can’t escape. Fortunately, she hasn’t caught on to this because she keeps joining me on my errand runs! Any way, my “Shock & Awe” strategy involves pouncing on her with talk, ignoring the inevitable protests and trying to “destroy her will to fight” (see above definition of S&A). What else can I do? She doesn’t leave me any options, so she gets info whether she wants it or not. Of course, then she gets all huffy, BUT she has to listen because she is trapped in a moving vehicle :). I get the “Do we have to talk about this now?” AND a big giant eye roll.
Since she doesn’t give me any hints or openings for discussion, I have to guess what topics should be expounded upon – I think I’ve done okay so far (but, how can I really know?). My usual tact is to take a news headline and start the conversation that way. Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on how you want to view it), the news outlets have an endless supply of material for me.
The one drawback to the “Shock & Awe” strategy is information retention. Is she really retaining anything I’m saying? I just don’t know – instead of paying attention to the words coming out of my mouth, she is probably internally reacting to the surprise of the unexpected conversation and then beginning to plot on how to get me to just “shut up about it”. Hmmmm, which Harry Potter spell would be best? “Stupefy!” – knocks out an opponent; “Imperio!” – power to control your opponent; or maybe, “Immobulus!” – renders your target immobile. Meanwhile during Rachel’s internal struggle, I’m imparting the wisdom of the ages! HEL-LO!!
I’m not sure what to do about this unintended side effect, I can’t really give her a semester exam to see what she knows and what we need to review.
“Be Prepared!” Strategy
The Scout Motto is: BE PREPARED which means you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your DUTY.
I am borrowing the Boy Scout Motto, “BE PREPARED” for this strategy – all will be revealed when you keep reading. Maddie is the interrogator (I think every family has one and in our family, it was my sister) and the interrogations (pick a topic, ANY topic) seem to most often occur in the car (I guess I know how Rachel feels – Maddie pulls the “shock & awe” on me). She was in 4th or 5th grade when we had the B-I-G talk in the car (how and when did parents have the B&B talks prior to the invention of the automobile?) – she starts the conversation by asking the question, “How do you know when you are pregnant?”. At the time, I think I mentioned that one of her cousins was expecting. Whoa, okay, what?! She was at the age when they’ve seen the “movies” at school and we had already talked about the “monthly visit from Aunt Flo”. So, I guess this was a perfect time to take that discussion to the next level – she gave me an opening and I needed to take it.
Mommy: “You know how we’ve talked about periods?”
Mommy: “Well, when a woman gets pregnant, the lining of the uterus is like food for the fertilized egg. So, when a woman’s period stops, then she knows she pregnant.
Maddie: “Oh, okay. s-i-l-e-n-c-e. How DO you get pregnant anyway?”
Mommy: [What?! I hadn’t planned on having THE talk in the CAR! This must be how Rachel feels.] Hmmmm….. Okay. So I start with the “woman has the egg and the man has the sperm.” ” Both of these pieces together make embryo that eventually develops into a baby.” [Whew! Glad that’s over!]
Maddie: “How does the sperm get to the egg? Do you have to go to a doctor’s office or a hospital to get this done?”
Mommy (giggling a bit): [Oh, My God! When is this going to end? I’m mean I’m trying to drive the car! I’ve always heard that you need to take the cues from your kids and if they keep going, you should as well. So, . . . .] “Ummmm, well, you know how you have a va***a and boys have a p**is (she has seen her little brother walking around in his naked phase). Those parts fit together like puzzle pieces . . . . . “
Maddie: “Puzzle pieces?”
Mommy: [I tried to make an image with my hands (see pic above)] “Yes, puzzle pieces. Men and women were made to fit together and when they do that it is called sex .”
Maddie: [She was quiet, then the] Do you and daddy do that?
Mommy: “Well, yes, we did that for you, your sister and brother.”
Maddie: “Just the three times?”
Mommy: “Ummm, No.” [And, then I proceed to talk about sex and how people do this because they like being close, it’s an expression of love, it’s enjoyable, it’s not for just making babies, etc. Yikes, really not how I would have liked to have had this conversation, but I was not in control!]
Maddie (a slight confused look): “You and daddy? Where do you do this?”
Mommy: [Now, I’m just mentally exhausted!] ” Well, you know how daddy and I share the same bed?”
Maddie (eyes as big as saucers): “EEEEWWWWW! That’s gross!” [Poor thing. Like I said, I think I would have prepared something a little better, but I was working on the fly! Remember, BE PREPARED!]
Now that did it! That final light bulb going on signaled the end of this B&B conversation. But, I did tell her that I don’t think she should share with her friends what we’ve discussed. Her friends’ parents would probably like to provide this information in their own way. She assured me that she definitely would not be sharing this information with her friends (I think it is because she didn’t want to think about it!). I could just picture her going to school and confusing the kids with the puzzle pieces thing and then telling them about what is going on in their parents’ bedrooms! I kept envisioning a call from the Principal’s office, but it never came. Whew!
I have not shared details about any of Rachel’s conversations, because they are NOT conversations in the traditional sense. They more closely resemble lectures.
Of course, every time I have one of those discussions with the girls, I inform Mike so he is up to speed. Whenever I give him the update, he just looks at me like, “I really don’t want to hear this” and is probably having the same internal struggle that Rachel has while talking with me (see Shock & Awe section). So, again, I’m not sure of the information retention.
Parenthood is crazy and I really love it. The kids really keep me on my toes! It is exhausting always being on high alert, isn’t it? Well, that is what we signed up for whether we knew it or not!
Bring it on!