Let's (Not) Talk About Sex
My kid was 9 when he started worrying about sex
. And when I say worrying, I mean stressing
, crying, pacing, even puking over it.
At the time, he'd only had the barest of introductions to sex ed—mostly due to brief conversations we'd had with him in response to questions he'd pose while we watched TV. (Questions like, "What's a condom?") He'd reached an age where his curiosity was piqued, though he clearly didn't feel ready to bring the subject up to us. My husband and I would catch him listening at the door any time we were in the bedroom together—even when we were just talking. And TV shows in which characters shared a bed—no matter how chastely—made him visibly uncomfortable.
The problem was, any time we'd invite him to discuss his concerns and questions, he'd panic and dissolve into a sobbing mess.
As far as we knew, there hadn't been any incidents that might have caused his level of distress about sexuality
—and believe me, we asked. We toyed with the idea that it might be his intense sense of morality. (The same morality that has us convinced he'll grow up to be a priest ... even though we're not Catholic.) But as far as we could tell, he just seemed really embarrassed by the whole idea and maybe ashamed about his own curiosity. Still, his behavior was so over the top for a few weeks, my husband and I considered family therapy.
Then I realized, "Who am I kidding?" I'd no sooner talk to a therapist about this stuff than I would my father-in-law—and we know that ain't happenin'.
So we did what any self-respecting parents would do ... in 1954. We bought him a book about the birds and the bees, told him to read it and to come to us if he had any questions.
Since then, we've scarcely said four words on the topic. He's so much more relaxed in situations that used to make him panic. At one point, my younger son asked what a period was and while I stared at my husband, waiting for the punch line, my 9-year-old explained it in both medical and layman's terms. (I'm pretty sure he used the words "mommy" and "grouchy.") Otherwise, we haven't mentioned it, and for now, that's fine with me.
The experts may recommend open and ongoing discussions with our kids about sex, but for whatever reason, that's not working for us. I say, let them learn by the book.