Denial Ain't Just a River In Egypt
Now, I've tried really hard to keep the lines of commnunication open with my boys.
My upbringing was extremely conservative and sex was just not discussed. Ever. Well, except for one awkward and purely technical conversation with my father (my mother couldn't bring herself to do it) when I was 11, after I'd used the F word in mixed company. An insert tab A into slot B, sort of thing.
Even my advent into womanhood went unremarked upon. A box of Tampax appeared in the bathroom cabinet and that, as they say, was that.
I don't blame my parents. The time they lived in fostered a sense of shame and secrecy regarding sexuality. And I would venture to guess that a lot of you have a similar story to tell. It's just the way things were.
A lot of my sex education occurred on the playground and, amusingly enough, in the pages of ersatz adult novels. I distinctly remember a tattered volume hidden away behind the John Jakes paperbacks. It was titled "Her Secret Kinks".
Whew. Talk abut titillating. I couldn't very well NOT crack that sucker open, now could I?
It was a most illuminating read.
And useful as well. It was really my own personal sexual dictionary, and I referred to it often. It was my go to guide to sexual congress and carnal vernacular.
Once, some young playground romeo, affecting a sexual sophistication that I am now certain was entirely feigned, had slyly informed me that he would like to "screw" me.
My reaction was one of blase indifference, but on the inside I was all aflutter. Though I wasn't entirely certain of his meaning, I knew it was a sexual proposition of some sort.
Having covertly read "Her Secret Kinks" cover to cover, and then gone back to re-read the really good parts, I was fairly certain it had been used as a euphemism for sexual intercourse. A quick referral confirmed that, and the next day I kicked said young man squarely in his secret kinks.
Unfortunately, having such a book at my disposal did not make me completely immune from forming entirely erroneous and sometimes exceedingly ridiculous notions about sex. And it didn't cover the really heavy emotional stuff that comes with physical intimacy.
So. I try to talk to my kids about sex and let them know that I am always available to answer questions. I want them to know that they can always come to me.
To my satisfaction and chagrin, they do.
The discussion with the Moms turned to one young woman in the neighborhood, who was rumored to be providing oral services to a number of young men.
One woman, whose son had just entered Middle School, expressed disbelief.
"I just don't think thirteen year olds are giving blow jobs for heaven's sake! I didn't even know what a blow job was when I was thirteen! I was still playing with Barbie dolls!"
Well, I was too. But I wasn't unaware of sex. Indeed, I had discovered my own sexuality at a very early age through unabashed exploration.
And people, this is where our problem lies. We forget that children are sexual beings. They have the same parts as we do. They experience the same feelings of pleasure and the same urges.
Who among us, with a little boy, hasn't had to feign nonchalance when that first erection is met with joy and wonder and announced with enthusiasm to anyone within earshot?
Who, with a daughter, has not had to explain that we don't put our fingers in there when other people are around?
They are thinking about sex. They are having sex. And we have to face that head on (no pun intended).
I drive carpool every third day. It's an excellent opportunity to find out exactly what is going on in their world. Sometimes I talk, but mostly I listen. And they think I don't hear, so their discussions are not tempered by caution.
My cargo is comprised of one fourth grade girl, and two fifth grade boys.
Yesterday, this conversation took place.
Fifth grade boy: "Did you break up with that guy?"
Fourth grade girl: "No."
Fifth grade boy: "I thought you were?"
Fourth grade girl: "No. My friend said I should. She was like 'You should totally break up with him.' and I was like, 'No' and she was like, 'Well, don't come crying to me when he cheats on you.' and I was like, 'Shut up'."
Fifth grade boy: "Oh."
Fourth grade girl: "Yeah. AND, my other friend told me that he told her brother that he is totally in love with me. She was like 'All he wants is you. All he thinks about is you. He is totally committed.'"
Fifth grade boy: "Oh well, I guess that's good then."
Diminutive One just looked bemused and bewildered, and offered no input whatsover.
FOURTH GRADE, PEOPLE.
Even I, seasoned though I consider myself to be, was a little taken aback.
What is my point? I promise, there is one.
We have to talk to our kids about sex.
And we can't wait until they are asking the tough questions. We can't just bury our heads in the sand and hope it will go away.
We have to foster an attitude of normalcy and acceptance regarding their sexuality. It's super important that we don't project the feelings of shame and embarassment with which we were raised, onto them.
Because if they think you're embarassed, then they become embarassed too. If they think it's shameful, they feel ashamed.
And they won't talk to you.
Look, I didn't particularly relish talking to my 13 year old son about anal sex. But it had to be done. And afterward, I felt ridiculously proud of myself for maintaining my composure and being honest and direct with him.
And now I know, that he knows, that if he can talk to me about anal sex, he can talk to me about any friggen' thing.
Diminutive One is, as, I've mentioned before, a horse of a different color. He marches to his own beat. In some ways, he's light years ahead of his peers, but in others, he is obviously far behind.
When issues of sex arise, more often than not, he holds up his hands and says, "I don't need to hear about that. I'm only 10 for cripes sake."
That's fine with me.
But I'm not naieve enough to think that will be the case for long. Middle School looms on the horizon. I know there are more discussions about anal sex in my future.
And knowing him, he will find new and even more effective ways to test my parenting mettle, not to mention my capacity for withstanding embarassment and pretending I am completely at ease.
I'll keep you posted.