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 Santa Clause?
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 particular detail.
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 dog.
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 it.
"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 talking.
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 abstinence.
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 hear me.
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.