Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Do as I say, Not as I Do

As I was coming home from Wal-Mart on Saturday night at 11pm - WOOT Let's just call it a Girl's Night Out, mmkay? - a Journey song came on the radio and I was immediately taken back to the night I kissed my childhood innocence goodbye.

The room was hot and dark. Journey's Greatest Hits was playing on a continuous loop on the tape deck. I didn't know what I was doing but I knew I wanted to do it and get it over with. Then I wouldn't be the only one of my friends who wasn't "in the know". I would be accepted at thre lunch table. I could laugh at all the right parts of the conversation. I would feel smarter. I would be more mature.

I do remember, the next day, crying and squeezing my teddy bear. I was 17 but I could picture in my mind a bridge, and me walking over it, and never being able to cross back ever again. I felt like I'd so carelessly thrown something away that I had no idea how valuable, how precious, how irreplacable it was.

Last week my friend Jen over at Momma Made it Look Easy wrote a wonderful post about talking to her daughter about sex, and what it means both as a physical commitment as well as an emotional commitment. Jen was blessed to have a Momma who gave her the whole truth and nuthin but the truth. My mom, on the other hand, was from the camp of, "If you have a question, ask me and I'll tell you. But if you don't ask, I won't tell." AKA DON'T ASK DON'T TELL. I remember sitting on my brother's bed, surrounded by ugly brown and beige painted walls, while he filled me in on the birds & the bees. I never did ask my mom anything.

Now that I have a daughter, one who's getting older and whose body is changing, she needs to know about the birds & the bees. Texan Papa and I have always told all the Peanuts the scary truth about where babies come from (out of a mommy's privates!) and we've explained ... basically... how the baby grows in the mommy's belly. We use gardening lingo, which makes a lot of sense to them because about the time we started talking about this with them, 3 years ago, we were tending a huge garden at the time. We told them, "A mommy has a garden. A daddy has a seed. The daddy gives a seed to the mommy and it grows in her tummy. It takes a long time to grow until it's ready to be done growing. Just like a garden can't grow something by itself, and a seed can't grow unless it gets planted, that's the same for a baby. A baby comes from a mommy and a daddy, both giving a part to make the baby grow." So, our kids get the gist of it but not much more. They know that the "thing" to make babies is called sex. But, we haven't discussed anything about body parts or what goes where. I've asked my daughter - repeatedly - do you hear your friends talk about it? Do you want me to tell you about it now? DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS???

Ugh. Does that sound familiar to you?

I know I need to get on this soon. I'm hoping that my daughter's school would at least notify us first if they are going to talk to the kids about sex. I know they probably will, but it would be nice to get a head's up. Not that I want the school to "educate" her on the finer points of reproduction, but I am scared to death about how to have this conversation with her. Plus, I'm anticipating the question that makes us all squirm in our chairs: "So, Mom, did YOU AND DAD wait until you were married to have sex?"

cough. squirm. rapid change of subject. "Look at that pretty bird outside!"

So, I have a few options: 1) look her straight in the face and tell her a bald-faced lie; 2) look her straight in the face and tell her the truth and lose credibility; 3) Tell her that this conversation is not about me, it's about her. (She's so mature in many ways and yet so trusting and naive, so if I go with #3, I seriously doubt she would make the jump to, well obviously I know what THAT means. Not like I would do if my mom told me that. Because, you know, I'm old and cynical and everything.)

She's my little girl. I want her to sleep in my bed and snuggle with me and sleep in and watch cartoons. I want us to paint our toenails together and learn how to knit (yes, she just did that 2 weeks ago, because SHE wanted to. She is too damn cute and innocent). I don't want to talk to her about periods and penises and prophylactics. I seriously hope that having this talk with her will help her to look at sex differently than I did. I only know my own experience and that my LACK of knowledge contributed greatly to an early sex life. I've rolled it around in my head hundreds of times, asking "How could I have done things differently? What could have happened earlier on that would have made a difference in how I view sex and relationships and acceptance?" Because whatever that is, I want to do that for Peppermint Patty. I want to give her information without freaking her out or making her want to vomit. I've been telling her that we'll be having this talk soon, and she keeps asking me, "Uh-oh. Is it gross Mom?"

Okay, I have to quit typing now. I'm about to hyperventilate.

Texan Mama


misssrobin said...

You can do it. Staying calm will help her feel comfortable really talking to you about her questions. If you are uncomfortable, she will be, too.

Look at this as a gift you are giving her. A gift you didn't get. A sacrifice that's difficult for you but worth it.

As for the question, which may not even come up, you can be honest without telling her anything. Just tell her that you don't think it's appropriate to discuss your sex life with her. Tell her one day she'll thank you for that.

I'm not a fan of lying to my kids. But I also think I have a right to keep some things to myself. If they ask something in this range, I honestly tell them that I'm not comfortable discussing that with them or I don't think it's appropriate at this time.

Gigi said...

I'm racking my brain trying to remember what they taught the kids in 5th grade (and they sent home permission slips first - if that helps you any). If I recall correctly it was more of a "health" class and they taught the kids (separately) about their bodies. Not about how sex works necessarily.

You do need to talk to her - but just in general terms. About the changes her body is about to undergo and what that means. Just give her the bare bones on sex. If she has questions, answer them honestly (but your sex life is off limits - odds are she won't want to go there anyway). Leave the door open for more conversation when she has more questions - and she will come back to you.

As hard as it is/was to initiate this conversation with Man-Child it worked perfectly as we can now have an open conversation. Well, more that he can have that talk with his father - he can't bear the thought of talking to me about it.

Good luck!

mama hall said...

oh my goodness i can't imagine the day. the talk. i'm hyperventilating and my daughter is only 5.

i like your bridge analogy though...go with that. and 1 Thessalonians 4:3, the Message.

Bridgett said...

I'm dreading this talk from the squeamish point of view--but not the morality part. And it'll be a while before it's more than just talk about puberty; she's 9.

And I'm with Gigi. I never asked my mother that question, gah, I'd never want to know that. Bleah (and I'm 35 and past the point where I still believe in my own immaculate conception).

I plan to use others as examples, like my brother and Mike's sister and several other close relatives for "this is what can happen when you don't wait"--not all of them are stories of pregnancy, either. There are other dangers. And I'm going to assume she's not going to ask me questions about me. If she does, I'm certainly not going to give her details. My mother always seemed ready and willing to give me details and that was so not what I wanted to hear.

Jennifer said...

Never, ever lie. If she catches you it would be way worse than if you had told the truth. I doubt she will ask, but I would always go with the truth... or a "version" of it. I think it is fine to say that your sex life is private, but if you want her to be open with you then you just might have to be open with her. Something to think about.

And LOVE this. Great post!

Swizz said...

I'm actually laughing a little...I taught sex ed to 7th through 9th graders and BOY are they curious!

My biggest advice is to be open and honest. Tell her as she ages you'll share more about you, but right now these conversations are about her and about the subject.

I taught in a Christian school, so we did quite a bit of discussion that surrounded what the Bible says about sex. We also talked about respecting ourselves, the other person, as well as our future spouse.

Good luck! **Hugs!**

J said...

I have thought about this and I am going to do #2, but I really do not believe it will cause loss of credibility.

The way I see it, we actually have MORE to contribute because we can tell them the true mental and psychological impact of making the choice to do this before marriage. It's not just me saying "hey, be careful, who knows what could happen", because I don't really *know* (as in the case of my parents, and I did not find them credible, because they had no experience).

Instead, it's me saying, "Please think about this before you decided. This is how it impacted me. You have to choose."

Jennifer said...

Wow... great post! I understand what you mean... they need to know.. and they need to know it from YOU not someone else, but in the same sense, I hate the thought of placing this knowledge on my kids and shattering their innocence. Part of me wants to wait until they ask.. but the other part is afraid they will ask because they have heard ridiculous things from their friends.

Gigi said...

I had to jump back into this conversation because it just dawned on me that MC had a "sex" thing at school (last year?) that he said was really, really good. He said it talked about treating the person you are dating like you would want someone to treat your future wife. Very deep and made an impact on him. Granted this seminar was for older kids, but if I recall the speaker talks to various age groups and has a whole website dedicated to the subject. Of course, I can't remember his name! So when MC gets home, I'll see if he remembers the name and I'll email it to you. Maybe his site will have some tips.

Jamie said...

Just found your blog, and totally enjoyed the read. My baby girl is 9 and we are starting to get a few questions. I try to just answer what she asks and wait for the next batch of questions. I dont remember learning this until 6th grade. Maybe it was just a much more innocent time then. Thank you for a thought provoking blog.

Melissa (Confessions of a Dr. Mom) said...

I really like your gardening analogy...I'm going to tuck that away for future use. Good Luck with your baby girl, sounds like it will be tough but that she is lucky to have you to come to with these questions. I think you being open and honest will be such a relief and support for her.

Anna See said...

Eeek! This is a tough one. I think staying focused on HER at this age (the basics of the physical part), then using yourself as an example when she's say, in high school, would be good.

Ada said...

My girls are still very young, 4 and then 4 months old.
I picked up a book "Birds + Bees + Your Kids"
It's like an inventory to explore the values I received and the ones I'd like to teach especially around sex & intimacy.
Great post, and glad to find another Texan-blog!

Givinya De Elba said...

I know this post was written so long ago, but I'd like to say that if you went with Option #2, I don't think you'd lose credibility. There is something powerful and admirable about an honest: "You know, we actually didn't make the best choices, and I've always regretted that. I know you are smart and thoughtful, and I think you will probably make better choices. You won't regret it."

Thanks for your honesty with us, TM. My cherubs are 2, 4 and 6 and I am thinking about how to go about the talk. It's good to get other mothers' perspectives.