Every week, usually on a Monday, a packet of papers comes home from my son’s school. Usually it consists of a lunch menu, various PTA correspondence, a fund raiser one-sheet, and if my wife and I have been doing our job, a letter from the principle or my son’s teacher talking about how awesome he is and how much they wish more of the kids were like him. (Okay, okay…maybe not the last one, but he did get tapped to be a Lunch Buster. Still need to read up on what that is.)

This week we received a sheet of paper from the district—a head’s up, if you will—about a few films that will be shown to the 5th and 6th grade classes between now and the end of the year.

Yep, those videos.

And it got me thinking. Did my parents ever have “the talk” with me? I mean a dedicated, sit-down conversation about birds, bees, penises, boobs, masturbation and blindness. I came to the conclusion that they didn’t. I guess everything I needed to know I learned from watching Quest For Fire, An Officer And A Gentleman, and Excalibur on HBO and Cinemax in the early ’80s. All the other blanks were filled in by Club MTV and whatever magazines my uncles had sitting in a pile in their guest bathroom. I do remember being sent home from school with a VHS tape with “The Miracle of Life” written on the side, which I never watched because there was a documentary about sharks at the beginning of the tape that I never managed to finish.

But that was then. These days it seems kids have a super-accelerated learning curve when it comes to sex. Not the direct act itself as much as outside stimulus that taps into youthful sexuality. Girls in grade school dress more provocatively, TV programming pulls no punches anymore, and don’t even get me started on YouTube.

I was cleaning my son’s room last year and came across a journal he had received as a present a few years back, probably when he was about 7 or 8. Only one page was filled out, the first one, with a single scribbled sentence that read: I like girls at school.

He broaches the subject with me from time to time, but only briefly, and never about specifics. Not because he’s necessarily hiding anything. Just that there isn’t much to tell. He’s already got kids in his 5th grade class that have “boyfriends” and “girlfriends,” and apparently one girl makes googley eyes at him during computer lab, which drives him absolutely nuts. (Hmmm…) But all in, his opinion is very matter-of-fact: You’re only 10, you can’t drive, and you can’t go on dates. End of story.

Except it isn’t.

Unless he’s absent from school on the day “The Miracle Of Life” makes its debut in his classroom—’cause you know it’s the same damn video—he’ll take part in the great giggle-fest rite of passage that is grade school sex ed. Which means we’ll probably have to have some semblance of “a talk” with him at home, just to give him a head’s up that the video is coming.

Like any press conference, there will be a question and answer period afterwards, during which time I’m sure he’ll ask pointed questions about penises and boobs that may or may not be specifically related to his parents. (Jesus, really?)

Then there’s the whole question about whether or not to invite his dad over for the conversation, even though the last thing I want to do is turn the whole thing into some kind of sex tribunal. Regardless, it is our duty to answer truthfully yet sparingly, and leave enough room for him to either figure things out on his own, or feel comfortable enough to ask us for guidance when the time comes. I learned from experience, even if, at that age, nothing was really experienced at all. It was sex education by osmosis, with my parents functioning as the inflatable bumpers in the bowling alley that was my brain.

Besides, my son’s got three parents to choose from. And if all else fails, there’s always Malcolm In The Middle and The Simpsons.

Comments on The Talk

  1. For any parents wanting an up-to-date book about sex for their kids, I can recommend the series by Robie Harris. We have “Let’s talk about where babies come from” (published as “It’s so amazing!” in the US) which covers just about everything in an age-appropriate way (it’s aimed at kids from around 7 & up; there are another two books, one aimed at younger kids and another aimed at kids & teens aged 10 & up). It even covers topics often avoided in other books, such as homosexuality, abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, adoption, abortion, masturbation etc. I’d imagine some parents might feel uncomfortable about the breadth of information covered, but it’s all handled in a sensitive way, and acknowledges the fact that different families will have different opinions about some of these issues.

    I had discussed the biology of reproduction with my kids but had managed to sidestep the issue of exactly how the sperm gets to the egg, and getting them a book seemed like a nice way to broach the subject properly. I had some issues as neither of my kids were planned pregnancies and I didn’t feel completely comfortable with the “when a man and a lady love each other very much and they want to make a baby…” approach as it wasn’t strictly true! But at the same time, I wanted them to grow up with a responsible attitude to sex (preferably a little more than me!!) and didn’t want to make out that everyone leaps straight into bed with anyone they are attracted to, but also didn’t want them to think there was anything “wrong” with sex. Getting that book has made it so much easier to have natural, relaxed conversations with them about sex.

  2. anything is better than how i found out about sex ugh. i was 6 and looking through the VHS tapes for my cinderella tape. a few were unmarked. thanks dad for storing ur porn right next to the little mermaid and beauty and the beast. my mother beat my dad senseless with that video tape. as i was an outgoing and inquisitive child, my mother knew better than to let the subject go unbroached. she was very graceful and honest and told me as much as i needed to know at the time. thanks mom for turning my horrid experience into a positive one. those images of 80’s porn are forever burned into my retinas though…

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