It’s sex-ed season in our house, which means many colorful dinner table conversations as all three children learn varying degrees of human body functions and processes in the month of May. The other night The Husband had them all rolling on the floor laughing, as he recounted his 9th grade (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 they all come home and talk about it, because it offers the chance to have some important conversations about values and beliefs 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.
The other day, as all three were lounging around with me after a long day, the conversation inevitably turned to what was learned in class for each that week. What I was able to glean from their nervous-laughter filled exchange was that while they were all pretty solid on the mechanics of intercourse between hetero and homosexual beings and the baby-making portion of the act, (yes, even the 4th grader) they were completely in the dark about the emotion and even physical feelings that come with the biology of sex.
Talk about stomach-turningly nervous, 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, like the teachers I relied on back in the day. Then, two things happened. One of the older two remarked about learning about the nuance of sex from Gilmore Girls and I remembered another stomach-turning conversation wherein my own mother revealed she 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 puts 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 a 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 big, damn deal for both men and women, and any messages otherwise were likely the work of fiction or bad television. It is an act(s) that requires maybe the ultimate vulnerability, therefore 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 that their bodies are important, their feelings are just as important and the decision to share either is theirs to make alone and 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. And 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 more than just parts put together for the purposes of procreation. Then I wanted them to hear how important they are and how they should trust themselves to make the best decisions for their 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.