April 28, 2009

Of wigmakers and sex talks

On a two-day break from Rashomon right now. Here's a picture of me in my wigmaker garb.

Don't I look very wigmakeryish? Yeah, I think so, too. At any rate, the show is going really well and we're getting lots of compliments on it, so that's always gratifying. The show closes Sunday and then I am off to Chicago the following weekend for my big birthday celebration with my friend Ann from college. We both turned 40 a couple of weeks ago, so we're going to party like were 20 again. I can't wait.

Switching gears a bit, as I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I've been hooked on Twitter lately. It's been really cool talking with some new and interesting people that I'd never have an opportunity to talk to otherwise. One short discussion I got into with someone was about when it's appropriate to start having the sex talk with your children. I said I don't think it's ever too early and explained how I've been talking to my daughter (who is now 11) since she was four. I basically only waited until I thought she was old enough to have enough awareness of her body to grasp what I was talking about. I started with very simple language and used the words that she associated at the time with her sexual organs.

I also used a book I'd gotten when I was pregnant called A Child is Born by Lennart Nilsson to show her what the male sexual organs looked like so she'd understand that part of the explanation. I didn't get into much detail and just focused on the basics. I let her ask me questions and I told her to come to me anytime she wanted to ask me anything else that she was interested in knowing. From that point, my continuing dialogue with her has been motivated by her follow-up questions. As she's gotten older, I've gone into more detail explaining the biological and physiological processes at work during sex.

In the beginning, I told her sex was something that husbands and wives did together, and I stated it simply without trying to put some extra morality talk on top of that. As she's gotten older and realized that husbands and wives aren't the only people who engage in sex, I've explained that the ideal scenario is that sex takes place between husbands and wives, but that people do have sex when they're not married, but that it's a very personal decision and that sex is absolutely something that should only occur between adults, which means over 18--and that, really, even older than 18 isn't a bad thing.

I've also been very frank with her in explaining that I talk to her about these things because I want her to understand the potential risks she's taking if she was to decide to have sex before she is emotionally and physically ready for it. I told her that as she gets older and moves into high school and starts dating there will come a point where she might feel pressured by a boy or even her friends to have sex and that I want her to have all the information she'll need to make the right decision. I also have explained that she might start hearing things from her friends about sex that don't seem to jibe with the things I've told her and that she should always feel comfortable coming to me to ask me which things are correct and which aren't.

For the most part, I think I've been pretty successful. She still doesn't know everything, (and at this point in her life, she really doesn't need to know EVERYTHING) but I plan to answer any question she throws at me as she gets older. Yes, I plan on talking to her about birth control later on. We're Catholic and she goes to Catholic school and I know the point will come if it hasn't already where she'll be taught the use of artificial birth control is against our religion. I don't plan on telling her that's wrong, but I do plan on explaining to her the different forms of birth control available and the proper way to use them and to explain to her why people choose to use them.

I have been so adamant about her having a good understanding of sex because my first sex ed class took place when I was in 4th grade at age nine and I have never, ever felt that was too early to have learned and I firmly believe having had an understanding before I was old enough to really have to worry about sex in any serious way is what helped me stay sex-free through high school. I am very happy that no matter what, I can truthfully tell her I never had sex as a teen. (And by teen, I really mean high school, because I did have sex in college.)

So if I have any real advice about talking to children about sex, it would be to start early, be as straightforward and honest as you can be about it, and never make them feel stupid or embarrassed to ask you questions. Of the many parenting decisions I've made where I question whether or not I've done the right thing, I have not once felt I've done the wrong thing by opening this conversation with my daughter.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. Thank you 1000x. I loathe the idea of talking about this, but definitely see the benefit. I haven't had a drink of alcohol in nearly 18 years because of a DNA thing, and both my daughters already understand the idea of alcohol and drugs as a result. Not because I slam the use of them, but because of my own affliction. But because of our dialogue, they'll be better prepared to deal with it as they get older. Thank you again. Wow.

The Mother Tongue said...

I love the way you've opened this dialogue with your daughter about sex. My son is 5, and I've begun on (I hope) the same path. Bless you for your common sense and open mind.