When a person thinks about becoming a parent, we think about all the fun, froofy things that come along with having a child. Buying adorable outfits in adorable itsy bitsy sizes, that wonderful baby smell that you will remember even after your children have long outgrown it and the sweet feeling of their breath on your neck when you hold them. The unpleasant stuff gets pushed to the back of your mind. Stuff like that whole “birds and bees” talk. Out of all the mothers I have known, not a single one rejoiced in that conversation.
I grew up in a household where things were referred to in code. Private parts were assigned cutesy names, like tee-tee’s and pocket books. Using proper anatomical terms was an absolute heresy. When I look back on it, I am sure my parents were likely embarrassed by sensitive topics and hoped that ignoring them could make them go away. I learned about periods by reading Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret”. I was ashamed to tell my mother when I first got mine, because I thought it was something dirty and private. I expected her to be disappointed in me, as though it were something I could have prevented. The most I knew about sex was that I shouldn’t allow boys to “touch” me, because then I would have babies. You can imagine the paranoia that resulted from that conversation.
I don’t fault my parents for the way I was raised with regards to the birds and the bees. Some subject matter is just very difficult to discuss with children. At the time that my parents grew up, maybe those kinds of talks weren’t all that necessary. When I look at how far society has come as far as so-called sexual liberation, I know it is a topic I can’t avoid. My children have to be educated. And when I see a twelve year old girl pushing her very own living and breathing baby in a stroller that she can barely see over, I know I can’t wait long.
I had this fabulous idea in my head of how I would approach the subject. I would pull out my old Anatomy and Physiology textbook and explain things from a completely scientific view. My children would understand how natural it was for change to take place within their bodies. But I made the mistake of thinking I still had time before having the big talk. My son accompanied me to the grocery store one Saturday afternoon. He looked like he had something on his mind, but he isn’t one of those kids that you can pry things out of. He eventually brought up what had been troubling him and his face would have been beet red if not for his milk chocolate complexion. “Mom?” he asked. “How come sometimes a man and woman get together without any clothes on?” Ahhh, this wasn’t supposed to happen on his schedule. The discussion as supposed to take place when I was ready, with a PowerPoint presentation and everything. I was not at all prepared. At that moment, I understood why my parents didn’t have that talk with me. But there was no turning back. Apparently, my son couldn’t sleep the night before and decided to watch a movie (damn you, Netflix) with some questionable content.
It really was my own fault for having waited so long. I explained (using proper anatomical terms, of course), where babies come from, how they are made, and so forth. As difficult as the conversation was, I would much rather he learned about the birds and bees from me than from a Playboy magazine snuck into school in the backpack of a classmate, which really did happen by the way. That’s a post for another day, though.
I guess the point that I am trying to make is that you can’t keep your children innocent by keeping them uninformed. However unpleasant the topic may be, arming our children with knowledge is ultimately the best way to help them make good decisions.