I dropped the ball.
Back when my older two sons arrived home with their permission forms for the fifth-grade school-sponsored “talk” on sex education, I prepped them. There was conversation. I bought a book. My husband was involved. I even marked the day on the calendar so I could handle any follow-up concerns or questions.
But the youngest? I may not have actually read that form. Joey typically hands me school documents, offers up a pen and demands me to “sign here.”
It was only when I collected him from school that day that I realized my blunder.
“MOM…the whole class couldn’t stop laughing! The teacher kept saying PENIS and VAGINA. And SPERM. There was a LOT OF SPERM. AND EGGS!”
Sh*t. When Joey is introduced or reminded of certain terminology, he commences to use such language all the time. In the age of #METOO, I am well aware that the very word “penis” (if at all misused by say, an excitable fifth-grader thrilled to share his knowledge of medical terminology) might be interpreted as sexually aggressive, inappropriate and possibly suspension-inducing.
I panicked. “DO NOT USE ANY OF THOSE WORDS EVER EVER EVER. STICK WITH ‘PRIVATES.’ ONLY USE THE WORD ‘PRIVATES.’ NOBODY EVER GETS IN TROUBLE FOR USING THE WORD ‘PRIVATES.'” PRIVATES.PRIVATES.PRIVATES
While I definitely welcome professionals helping to educate my children on an extremely delicate topic, I wish there was a grace period.
For weeks following this lesson, kids are going to be figuring out social rules in terms of reproduction discussion. Chances are, they are going to mess up.
They are going to say “penis” to make their friends laugh. They are going to say “penis” in mixed company. They are going to say “penis” at their cousin’s christening.
I now hold my breath while my child navigates through this landmine-infested period of uncertainty where one word could get him labeled, punished or cast out. For so many years, we encourage our kids to talk, to share their knowledge, and to use their vocabularies. I am starting to believe that may have been a colossal mistake.
This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.