During what I have deemed “sex-ed season” in our house, there are many colorful dinner table conversations. It seems all three school-aged children learn varying degrees of human body functions and processes that information in my kitchen during the month of May.
One night The Husband had them all rolling on the floor laughing, as he recounted his 9th grade (not until 9th Grade? Clearly, we’ve advanced since then) class wherein they listed all the slang terms for genitalia.
Talk about breaking the ice and fighting the stigma.
I love that the kids feel safe enough to come home and talk about it. Sex-Ed in school offers the chance to have some important conversations at home. We can talk about values and beliefs in a way that would be otherwise nearly impossible to engage in much less initiate.
Let me be clear, The Husband and I are almost always stomach-turningly anxious during every exchange, but we power through for the love of children and their future (way in the future I hope!) as sexual human beings.
One day as all three (2 years apart in age, so 4-8th grade) were lounging around on the couch with me after a long day, the conversation inevitably turned to what was learned in class that week.
What I was able to glean from their nervous-laughter filled exchange was that they were all pretty solid on the mechanics of intercourse between hetero and homosexual beings. They had the process of the baby-making portion of the act, (yes, even the 4th grader) down, but they were all completely in the dark about the emotion and even the physical feelings that come with the biology of sex.
I mean, holy-cow. Talk about stomach-turningly nervous. As a mom who wants to educate my kids but also never wants to talk about sex, I was at a crossroads.
Should I delve into the emotion and other purposes of sex or should I just leave that to television and Cosmo magazine; the teachers I relied on back in the day?
Two things happened that helped me decide. First, one of the older two remarked about learning about the nuance of sex from Gilmore Girls (ok?). Second, I remembered another stomach-turning conversation wherein my own mother revealed she really enjoyed sex. (Ew.)
I decided it was better my kids hear from me about relations having more to them than just mechanics and “explosions” as the youngest so eloquently put it.
I waited a spell for the laughter to ebb and the 4th grader to leave the room. I’m ok if he still thinks it’s all just gross for now. I wanted to have a conversation with my teenager and I could sense the tween was hanging around the room for a reason, so I left him and figured he would self-select when he got too weirded out.
I wished in that moment I were as devout a Catholic as my own mother, because suddenly it seemed warning of the evils of premarital sex would be much easier than having an honest conversation.
Alas, I do not subscribe to all of the exact tenets of my faith so honest it had to be. Sorry, mom.
I didn’t get in to any of my own personal nitty gritty (to the relief of ALL of us), but I did emphasize the emotional component of human relations and told them that it was a bigger deal for both men and women than some popular outlets may have you believe.
I let them know that I thought any messages that said otherwise were likely the work of fiction or bad television. Sex is an act(s) that asks for maybe the ultimate vulnerability. So, if there is not enough trust, tread lightly with yourself.
Turns out, I may not subscribe to the Catholic doctrine around sex and marriage and procreation, but I do subscribe to my own philosophy that your heart and your organs are inextricably linked and one should remember that when sharing either with others.
We talked about the physical component too and how that could be achieved together or alone. That part was exactly as painful a conversation as you would imagine with two teenagers. I’m still a little queasy just writing about it.
What I really wanted my babies (they’ll always be that no matter how adult the conversation) to hear from me was:
- their bodies are important
- their feelings are just as important
- the decision to share either is theirs to make alone
- that decision has far reaching consequences that last more than the relatively short time allotted for the physical act
One asked questions. One listened intently while pretending not to listen. We all squirmed and averted our eyes and periodically let out loud sighs of plain old awkwardness.
I wanted my kids to hear from me, while they still listen, that sex is mostly more than just parts put together for the purposes of procreation or quick release. (Sometimes it is just that but you’re better off understanding the difference.)
I wanted them to hear how important they are and how they should trust themselves to make the best decisions for their bodies and hearts because they have all the information they need to do so.
Talking about this stuff is not easy, but I sure hope it’s worth it in the end. Knowing what I wanted to communicate made it easier than going in blind. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel at ease talking about sex with my kids, but a little preparation and insight helps a lot.
Looking for support when having tough conversations with kids? Check out our new group: A Mom for All Seasons for support, guidance and the village you need to raise your kids and take care of you.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.