In my family I would call myself the truthsayer. I don’t hold back, and more than often I tell my kids the truth when it comes to life. If they try to run off in a parking lot, I will quickly tell them that getting hit by a car means they die. If they die, their sibling gets all their stuff. There’s no reason for me to hold back. Actions have consequences. I’ve been told more than once that I speak to my kids like they are little adults. I’m proud of that. What am I doing if I’m not trying to raise productive members of society, not to mention functioning adults who can handle conflict and strife? I can’t do that if I don’t have frank discussions with them about everything.
For example, if my kids ask, “Mommy is this shot going to hurt?” I’ll reply, “Yep, but you’ll survive.” I actually caught my husband in a lie the other day when he was trying to alleviate my daughter’s fear of tornadoes. He said not to worry; we didn’t have tornadoes in Florida. I quickly jumped in to tell her of course we do. And if a tornado rips down our street, we’ll handle it as a family. I don’t want her to worry herself into oblivion, but I don’t want her to think life is a plastic bubble where she can’t be harmed.
Of course, this doesn’t include my somewhat hypocritical lies about Santa, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc. But even if my kids doubt those things, I plainly tell them if they want to receive they must believe. Above all, I’m controlling the narrative for now. As a parent, it’s my right to decide when my kids are ready to hear my truths, and only I know my kids well enough to make that determination. But most times this literally means beating society (media) to the punch. It’s the over-protection of their childhood which forces my hand on some decisions and also forces me to shy away from the adult topics that don’t concern them yet.
Let a couple start getting into it on television, and I’m doing old lady gymnastics to get to the remote. I would rather shove railroad spikes into my eyes than have a discussion with my children about sex. And I know it’s the wrong attitude. An attitude I hope will change by the time my oldest hits puberty in a few years because it is up to me to not only educate her but erase decades of stigma associated with how women should feel about sex and their bodies.
My mom always told me I could come to her about anything and she’d never be mad. Yeah, right. I don’t tell my kids that. I always reserve the right to be pissed off. Deep down so did my mom because she was pissed off when she found out I was having sex before I got married. Even though I was a consenting adult, the assumption was I should feel ashamed for having sex outside of marriage and for anyone to know this fact about me was a black mark forever held against me.
I wish she’d talked to me more about sex when I was a tween. Even if I wouldn’t have agreed with her outlook on sex and marriage. Sex isn’t one discussion. It isn’t one definition. It shouldn’t be.
I was lucky enough to be a naïve kid — made possible by the lack of internet. My early sex education came in the form of daytime soap operas. My community of Barbies sometimes acted out what I saw in those modest (compared to today’s standards) sex scenes. Man and woman lie in bed and roll back and forth. Good times for Ken and Barbie. I think my friends and I referred to it as “doing it,” although we generally had no idea what “it” entailed. I know for certain penetration was a foreign concept. Barbie and Ken weren’t anatomically correct, so why would we concern ourselves with what went where to actually complete the sexual act?
It wasn’t until about fifth grade that I had my first health class where we learned about human bodies and sex. As you can expect for that age, it was a giggle-fest, and I was still mostly clueless. Then I hit my early teens, and my mom allowed me to read my first historical romance novel. And my point of view on sex was set for the next several years. Sex meant a bodice ripping, breast-heaving good time — eventually. The heroine always tried to resist at first, felt slightly ashamed for enjoying it, and always, always married the man who took her virginity. It seemed simple enough. Pregnancies weren’t a concern. They were getting married anyway. Sexually transmitted diseases weren’t a concern, even though most often the hero had had several sexual partners before his virgin bride. Everyone was totally cool with this, and why not? The virgin bride was lucky to have attracted such a virile man.
This was a time for discussions.
Then reality hit in high school. It seemed everyone I knew was “doing it.” Slut-shaming was the norm. Pregnancies meant drop-outs. This did not fall in line with my historical romance novel fantasies, and all in all, sex scared me — I take that back — it terrified me. I didn’t want to be that girl, and it was only ever that girl. No one ever had a second thought about the guy’s part in the deal, but you did not want to be the girl who slept around or the girl who got pregnant.
This was also a good time for more discussions.
Due to this fear, my first sexual experience occurred when I was a legal adult and far out of high school. And I don’t regret it. I’m glad that I waited, and I’m glad if there had been any consequences I’d have been able to handle them without my parents getting a say. I wish I’d known more though. I wish I’d known more about sex, masturbation, celibacy.
And this brings me back around to discussing sex with my own kids. I’m not ready and neither are they. I need to be ready though, and when they are old enough I want to tell them sex can harm you, emotionally and physically, but also sex can be an enjoyable, liberating, special moment shared between two people who love each other. Or, just like each other. A lot. I don’t want my daughter to ever feel shame for having sexual desires. I don’t want my son to think his job is to hook up as much as humanly possible just because he’s a guy. I want them to know masturbation can get them through not having a partner. I want them to know they don’t have to be pressured into sex by anyone. I want them to know there are consequences, and then there are the most amazing things that can come from one act of sex – like the birth of the most perfect human beings who you never want to see hurt.
I’ll put all these wants into several awkward, imperfect conversations and hope for the best. And that’s the truth.