THE Talk

in Essential Ramblings

I was speaking with a friend the other day and she asked — do you think it is it time for THE TALK?  Her daughter has started talking about crushes and boys and all of the giggling that 4th grade begins.  And it started me thinking about the topic in general, so as we begin the school year and head into the dangers of “playground talk” I thought I might as well share my thoughts with all of you as well.

When I say “playground talk” I am referring to the incredible misinformation that goes on on playgrounds throughout our fine nation — girls giggling and talking about boys, boys turning red while talking about girls, trash talking about crushes/dating/sex/homosexuality, using adult words that they have heard at home, or in movies — or from the dreaded older siblings…the worst kind of information.  I have to say whenever I hear my boys telling me something that someone said, I nearly always hear it from someone who is not the first in their family — second and third and more kids always know more than firsts and are all too happy to share (and yes, I know that this includes MY second).  That aside, there is always someone with the intel on the playground and the game is to either get ahead of it or to be alert from signs that your child has gotten the info and be ready to talk when it slips out.  And yes, it will slip out.

I have a pretty sensitive older child — and when I started hearing him talk about kids who were just BAD on the playground, my ears perked up.  What do you mean bad?  Kid: BAD mom, I can’t tell you why.  Mom: Like throwing rocks bad?  Kid: No, WORSE.  Mom: Hmmmmm…. And so the talk began.  With his hands clamped firmly over his ears, I wondered aloud whether they were maybe talking about “boy-girl” stuff?  Kid: gross mom, stop talking!  Mom: It’s totally normal, and what might sound gross to you may not be as bad as you think.  Kid: No way, it is definitely as bad as I think.  Mom: Let me tell you a little bit about it because I wonder if the kids are telling you some stuff that isn’t that accurate…Here I launch into a very watered down version of penises and vaginas and babies as this is the first “talk” that we have had…. Kid: Oh, that’s it?  Mom: Yup.  But when you hear kids talking about stuff, I need you to ask me or Dad about it so that you don’t just hear their possibly not totally correct and nice versions, ok?  Kid: Gross.  Mom to self: Ok, class dismissed.  But door opened.

If you read the articles, hear the experts, etc. they will all tell you not to have THE TALK.  Rather, use every day discussions to relay your values, to normalize sexuality, and to educate your children in a way that is open, age appropriate and healthy.  Jump in when you get an opening, hang back when they’ve heard enough, and model healthy relationships for them.

Sounds easy, but I personally think it’s the absolute hardest, most constant job we have other than protecting them in general.  As a parent to boys, it’s about making them GOOD men, teaching them feelings, helping them understand the difference between boys and girls and how, without patronizing women, you need to also protect them.  The difference between understanding how to treat a woman as a strong, capable person, while also giving the message that ultimately women are to be coveted, never to hit, never to hurt.  The difference between teaching a girl to have strong positive feelings about her body and her sexuality, but telling her not to use them by having sex too early or with the wrong person.  The dilemma of wanting them to talk to you about sex, or friendship or dating, but to not be their friend, but rather their guide.

All of this is tough, and you are probably as grossed out as they are, but if you educate yourself and think about it all BEFORE you are faced with the questions, maybe, just maybe, you won’t visibly recoil when they ask.  Below are some resources, from the ultimate resource, Planned Parenthood — because who better to talk about sex than the experts…

Sex & Talking to your kids: click here

Puberty: click here

Books & Resources: click here

Some books we have on hand here at my house….not that the boys would even open them at this point (not ready, totally gross) but available none-the-less…just in case they want to peek.

Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle.  The most beginner of the three, this is a cursory beginning to the question.  And while it definitely has large pictures of male and female bodies and does cover the topic of sexual intercourse, it is in a “tickly” discussion of feelings with a watered down, but accurate description of intercourse.

It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris.  A more in-depth look at body parts, sexual activity, puberty, and the like.  Covers the full range from sex, to bodies, to puberty, to heterosexual vs homosexual, to masturbation, to babies and healthy choices.  The illustrations are good and not terrifyingly large and the content is based at a slightly younger level, but definitely for those entering the first stages of puberty.

Understanding the Facts of Life, by S. Meredith & R. Gee (Usborne Publishing).  A very comprehensive guide to “the facts of life” from growing up and body changes — including puberty, sexuality, healthy choices and taking care of the body, sexual intercourse, sexually transmitted diseases and contraception, all the way to babies and the science of how a baby is formed, grows, and is delivered.

Happy Reading and TALKING!