Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Wedded Wednesday: The Birds and the Bees

Tiffani wants to know: At what age do you discuss sex with your kids? I think our oldest (he'll be 10) knows there's more to this Mommy and Daddy thing, and as he's growing other things crop up. What about the girls? We're not prudes by any means and I know there is an appropriate amount of information, etc. Just curious how y'all handled it.

(This is John, the husband)
This is a great question, Tiffani.  I really believe that when it comes to this topic you have to pay close attention to your child, how they're growing/maturing, who their friends are, questions they're asking, etc. It's a tenuous thing because you want them to be prepared but at the same time you don't want to give them more than they can handle.  What you're doing is essentially teaching your children how to handle dynamite.  There is no such thing as "safe sex" - our sexuality is a powerful, dangerously beautiful, intensely human facet of who we are, so talking about it with your kids is much more than just "this is what happens" and "this is the equipment."  As Eugene Peterson said so truthfully in The Message - "there's more to sex than mere skin on skin."

I first talked seriously with Will when he was nine.  Something had happened at school which precipitated our talk.  I wrote about it here.  That was four years ago and I stand by what I wrote, especially the "talking about it while doing something else" part.  Please hear me on this - I do not believe we as parents can get this right.  We do what we feel is best at the time/in the moment and we see what a sense, rolling the dice.  It's learning when to hold 'em and knowing when to fold, walk away, run, all that gambler stuff.  You may not like that imagery as it hints at chance or luck, but I believe that's the way it is with a living, breathing creation; our children are not robots.  You put batteries in a flashlight and, all things considered, it should turn on and illuminate the darkness.  You talk to your son about sex and he may start crying, laughing, tell you he already knows all that stuff, he might fall asleep, or he might even teach you a thing or two.  You just never can you do your best and constantly whisper those two important words - have mercy.

This is Meredith (the wife)
By the way, it cracks me up every time I type "the wife")

I've had "the talk" with Sarah, but not with Abbey. Sarah had just finished third grade and was almost nine years old when the subject came up. I really felt that she was too young to handle the information, but she was getting all sorts of faulty information from some friends. I'm thankful she came to me with her questions, but honestly, I put her off a little (I'll tell you more when you're older, I'll tell you more when I think you're ready, etc.) probably because I wasn't ready. But, like I said, she was hearing things that weren't accurate, and I wanted to have control over the information she was given.

I remember that we were outside pulling weeds one summer afternoon and she kept persisting. I attempted to put her off (again) and she sighed and said, "Mom, it's just the two of us right now, and I'm old enough to know." So I took a deep breath, whispered a prayer for wisdom, and just started talking. It was all very factual and matter of fact. She asked lots of questions, and I answered all of them.

Since then, she has continued to come to me with questions, and  I love that. Sometimes I have to put her off (like in the car with younger ears listening, or things that aren't appropriate for mixed company) but I always come back and answer her.

More than anything, I desire this to be an ongoing conversation with our kids. My huge hope is that our kids will ALWAYS feel comfortable talking to us about sex/sexuality...without shame. As I've talked with my peers about delving into this with our kids, the biggest takeaway from our collective childhood is the shame associated with talking about "the birds and the bees" with our parents, and that shame caused huge communication breakdowns. My guess is that most of you can relate to that.

A couple of things:
One older, wiser friend shared this tidbit of parenting wisdom with us over dinner one evening. I loved it so much I wrote it down, and I think it fits well with this topic of conversation: "In all things spiritual, be as natural as possible. In all things natural, be as spiritual as possible."

One great resource for girls is  The Care and Keeping of You by American Girl. We gave Sarah this book for her 9th birthday. I've read through it with her, and have told her it's not to be shared with her little sister (for the time being); right now, it's "just for us". It talks about body changes, body image, hygeine, and many other puberty-related things in a wholesome way. It has prompted more good questions and discussion for us. I highly recommend it!

Last thing: if you didn't click on that link in John's section (when he and Will had "the talk") go read it now. It's full of wisdom AND characteristic JohnB humor. It's really good stuff, I promise!


Tiffani said...

Yay! Thank you for answering! I love you both and I always love you sharing your lives here!

Great thoughts and that quote is just GUHREAT!!

I always appreciate your truthfulness and honesty! Gonna check out the AG book for JuJu (for way later of course)!

Kelly @ Love Well said...

Seeing as our oldest is 8, I've been wondering about this myself. What great advice from parents who are right in the thick of it.

And I love the quote, Mer. Perfect.

Gretchen said...

I'll also add a prop to the American Girl Care and Keeping book. It even talks about things like braces, and focuses on a lot of puberty stuff w/o a lot of sex stuff.

And the sex talks? We started them at about the same age. My poor son came home some time in 5th grade, so agitated and worried and tearful. "What's going on, Bud?" I asked. "Can't we JUST CELL DIVIDE????" he wailed. Probably told you that story.

Scary events coming down the pike tho...texting/sexting. Wowza. Time to keep keeping it real, and bringing it back to God's gift to us, as in Mer's quote. Lurve this, guys. You're fantastic!

Brenda said...

I agree. I was of the era where I just had to figure things out on my own.

I was determined that no matter how uncomfortable I felt I was going to be open with my oldest daughter. Since we were homeschoolers, I was more at liberty to not feel pressured into doing 'the talk' until I felt it was appropriate. We talked girl stuff when she was around 9 or so.
Unfortunately, when she had just turned 12 and without our permission, her girl's Bible class was invited to join the teens class to hear a guest speaker giving her 'testimony' on sex and STD's (which is when I walked in) I just so happened to find out where she was, went in and as politely as I could had her come out. She told me later how uncomfortable she was being in there and didn't know what to do. Needless to say, my husband and I were LIVID. Our Pastor called us the next day expressing his apologies that her class was in there without parental consent.

Shortly after that I became pregnant with our 2nd daughter, and that was my perfect opportunity to have 'the talk'! (minus STD's!)
Grace will be 9 next month, yet I don't feel she's ready for any of it yet.

Carpool Queen said...

I've had snippets of conversations with the boys. I've learned that just answering what they've asked works for everyone.

I hope soon that they'll be asking Dad these questions, though!

Anonymous said...

That truly is a great quote!

B just turned 9 this year. He's asked us no questions whatsoever. He has a small group of friends and they're al really into Legos and Bionicles and Star Wars and not so much the other stuff....yet. Pretty sheltered and I'm perfectly okay with that.

But I know my day's coming. I dread it, but I want to be ready! Thanks for the good AG book idea. I'll store that idea away for later when A's ready.

Gina said...

I'm all for full disclosure. As soon as they ask, I tell them only what they want to know. Straight on, no blushing. BUT, our 10 year old got the talk this year whether he wanted it or not, because he hadn't asked, and because I KNEW he was hearing it at school. And we all know that everything spread around the playground is Gospel-truth.
We put big emphasis on sex being a beautiful and enjoyable thing if it is shared in a marriage. We also put big emphasis on the consequences of sex outside of marriage.
And we use medical terminology- no slang here, baby!

Unknown said...

Excellent advice!

Our "policy" (as if we planned and prepared for these events) has been to truthfully answer their questions when asked.

For example:

6 years ago, in the men's bathroom in a GA gas station there was a certain machine that sold certain products...and my boy had just learned to read..

We were traveling across the country in two cars so after we had everybody buckled into car seats (me with the kids in the van, the Mister in his car alone) we headed further east on the highway.

"What do you do with those certain products?" he asked while we drove 75 miles down I20.

My answer?

"Your dad will tell you."

I figure he needs to handle all question that has to deal with plumbing i don't have.

All funny stories aside, I do want my kids to feel like they can come to us first, so we have done the best we know how with our messed up and broken selves. Lord willing, we can give them the best of what God has healed in us and pray that the Lord will direct them in the ways they need.