When my sons were growing up they always came to me first about everything. I always had this picture in my head that my husband would be the one to have the “sex talk” with my kids. But that is not how it worked – and I wondered if we were so unusual.
It wasn’t because I had written a memoir around my own mid-life sexual awakening. That is a rather recent event, and my kids are way past the sex talk now – even though I think that the sex education dialog is something that will hopefully continue way past the early years. Perhaps it began with me, because I was the softer parent. Maybe mothers are the parent that it is easier to come to with private things. I really don’t know. But in my world, most of the kids come to mom first when it comes to sex.
For me, the best sex talks always happened when I was listening – not asking the questions or making the sex education talk happen. My kids always liked to tell me things about their sexuality while I was driving in the car. Maybe that’s because I was the most quiet then – and they could talk to me in a private place. And it was always through those openings that the best conversations happened.
I will always remember my oldest son in his late teens, telling me that he lost his virginity as I almost drove off the road! Forget the warnings about texting/cell phones and driving – sex talks and driving should be on the list too!
But it is often in those places, while we are doing other things, that kids feel the safest to really talk about what is on their mind.
In my house, it always felt like my kids were one step ahead of me. After I found out that my oldest was sexually active, I dutifully gave him the “sex talk.” And yes, this was way past the bird and the bees. My version of the sex talk consisted of making sure that my son took active control of birth control. I talked about condoms and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s). I wanted to make sure that my son was responsible not only to himself but to his girlfriend.
Since I am a fertility coach – who founded The American Fertility Association (as well as a sex educator), who not only coaches people on the ins and outs of trying to conceive but getting ready for conception – I explained to my son that STD’s could hurt both his chance and his girlfriend’s chances of pregnancy later in life.
“You can’t depend on her.” I drilled into his head. “You have to take responsibility for yourself, and the pill will not protect either one of you from HIV, HPV or STD’s.”
My son listened while trying not to roll his eyes back into head. Apparently I was the Queen of the Obvious.
After that, I dutifully checked his wallet and pockets for signs of condoms. I couldn’t find any. Ever. Anywhere! Finally I confronted my son. “I find EVERYTHING in your pockets – why don’t I ever find a condom?” I asked him.
My son, who is a good deal taller than me with whiskers on his teenage face, looked at me like I had gone mad. “Mother” he said with the look of an old professor trying to explain the obvious to some young upstart as he walked over to his bed, and lifted his mattress revealing a lifetime supply of condoms “I share this room with my little brother – where would you have me keep them?”
Talking about sex with our kids can seem really challenging. What I discovered is that, while we may feel like we have to have the sex talk to cover the bases, the old sit down with a book is actually a very limited medium of exchange. The best sex education conversations that I have had with my sons have been through organic opportunities like listening to Dan Savage’s podcasts together – or laughing or venting about the world of sexuality in real terms with them.
Recently, I was ranting about how the world “vagina” was often censored by the media. I told my sons about what was going on in my life when it came to being able to use the word “vagina” in lectures or media interviews.
My oldest son with a wry smile said to me, “Well of course, Mom. Vagina is an awful clinical word! Who would want to use it? ” To which my youngest piped up, “Yeah Mom, you should have used the word pussy!” And off to the races we began!