Originally posted Oct. 5, 2009
Guess what? It looks like I'll just be hitting my stride
as a perimenopausal freak of nature right around the time my kids
blossom into full-fledged adolescents.
Sounds like a hot mess to me - or some kind of cosmic joke.
Ready or not, last Thursday night I joined other parents of
Batavia's sixth graders to get the lowdown on the more sensitive
aspects of Rotolo Middle School's health curriculum.
Sex and condoms and STD's! Oh my!
Sometimes I feel like Dorothy from The Wizard of
Oz. Whatever happened to Goodnight Moon and
Where has the time gone?
A few years ago I realized that I had to pick up the pace where
educating my children about puberty and sexuality was concerned
when CNN reported that the earliest documented cases of boys'
nocturnal emissions - or 'wet dreams'- occurred at age eight.
I cringed, because I hadn't gotten around mentioning this
I wasn't alone.
I shared this fascinating factoid with a friend over lunch and
she nearly choked on her chicken. And I quote: "My
eight-year-old still ropes us into wiping his butt after a BM and
now we gotta have 'The Talk?'"
In a word, yeah, unless we're willing to risk that our children
might be unduly rattled by the onset of normal bodily changes and
conclude that something is horribly wrong with them.
I worried I'd been a slacker, but then I realized that we'd
actually been having 'the talk' for years. Enlightening
children about sexuality is a process, not just a plumbing lesson,
and we began by correctly labeling their parts and answering
questions as they came up - which suggested that they were ready to
hear the answers. Things got dicey, though, when my daughter
Holly concluded that since she came out of my tummy she must be
related to Mommy and not to Daddy.
Yeah, that went over like a fart in church. It was time
for another chat.
I'll never forget the time a couple of years ago when my son,
Noah, spotted me thumbing through my favorite go-to books for
children about sex, the warm and witty "It's So Amazing" and "It's
Perfectly Normal," by Robie Harris and Michael Emberly. He
grimaced and announced, "That's gross. I'm outta here."
Since then, I've noticed that if I leave my books lying
around, they'll often vanish and resurface a few days later.
I'm not sure who's reading them but I'm pretty sure it's not the
The way I see it, there are very few things over which our
children have control. In my opinion their bodies should be
one of them, so I'm one of those parents who believe that
'information is power.' I know my kids will hear details
about puberty and sex from friends, television and school programs,
but I want them to hear my voice, too.
So we talk.
Occasionally I'll launch into a discussion about some puberty or
sex-related topic and Noah will say he's already heard about
"Really?" I say, wincing with irritation that he didn't hear it
from me, first.
"Uh, yeah, Mom," he says, rolling his eyes.
"Huh. Where'd you hear that?" I ask indignantly, wondering
if so-and-so gave him the right information.
"From you, Mom," he wryly smiles.
It's gotta be tough watching your parents age.
Susan Arch, Guidance Counselor at Rotolo, suggested that
sometimes asking a less direct question like "How are your friends
feeling about sex these days?" can get the ball rolling and kids
Clever approach. That's one I'll be asking when it's time
to talk about the wonders of love, babies and the art of
Sometimes my children are quite eloquent about their readiness
for certain details. Noah makes the time-out sign and says
dryly "TMI, Mom, TMI (too much information)," and Holly will stick
her thumbs in her ears and sing "La, La, La, La, La!" so she can't
Nice. But I'm glad they're able to recognize when they're
at their limit.
I pray they'll never forget how.
"I got to watch the video you'll be seeing in Health class," I
said to Noah, when I returned from the parent meeting at Rotolo and
went upstairs to say goodnight.
"Don't bother telling me. I'm not taking health until
second trimester," he said with a yawn before rolling back over to
continue reading his book.
A temporary reprieve. I'll take it.
Sure, I'm a big talker, but am I weak- in-the-knees about the
'birds and the bees' and this 'can't turn back now' milestone in my
kids' lives? You betcha.
Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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