Kids want to know. Want to have the conversation. Want to hear it from someone they trust. Kids want to talk about sex. They do. They know it’s out there. They know it’s happening. But they have no one to talk to. Because? Well, because it’s taboo for kids so young to have that conversation. I mean, really, how many adults believe that if you talk to kids about sex that kids will take that information and use it. Use it for real, and actually go out and have sex. Lots of adults believe it. Believe if you talk about it, that means you are giving them permission to act on it. Or, they believe the opposite. Don’t talk about it. Even if kids ask. About sex. About what it is. Or what this or that means. Because, well, it’s embarrassing for them, the adult, to talk about an adult thing with such a young kid. That the best way to handle such a conversation is to ignore it, and to change the subject as quickly as you can. But, I am telling you, kids want to know. They want to have the conversation. With someone who is informed, and will tell them the truth.
Long ago, when Elizabeth was, maybe, five years old, she asked me where babies come from. I answered her with a question of my own. Where do you think they come from? She thought for a moment, and in her small, young girl voice she questioned From here? pointing to her belly button. Not that I was shy about the conversation, in fact I embraced it, loved where it was going, but I also knew she was teeny tiny and could only handle so much. So I simply answered something like, Sounds good. And that was that. Over the years she’d asked simple questions that I knew were building up to more in-depth important sex questions, and every time, without hesitation, I’d answer her, based on her question. But, wait, she wondered one day, how does the baby get in there? She must have been about 8, 9, or 10 years old at the time, and I matter-of-factly told her. Yes I did! I knew she was ready for the info so I told her, using vocabulary she’d understand. Oh, is what she said, with interest, seemingly happy to know something maybe many of her friends knew nothing about. And so it went. We talked. About everything sex. Over the years. We talked openly, without embarrassment. And, along the way, her two younger brothers learned that they too could ask me questions and talk about things they wanted to know. Things about sex. Things they heard, or read about but didn’t understand what it meant. They’d ask as casually as if they were asking what was on TV. And, you know what, the best thing is – for Liz, my one and only daughter, a girl I wanted to grow up with a strong sense of self respect – did just that. When high school was all said and done for her, the main thing that prevented her from ever doing anything too emotional with a boy was due to our open conversations. About sex. And me explaining how the intense emotions involved should be saved for when she was ready to handle such relationships. I know this because she told me so.
I wish I could talk to my students the way I talk to my children because, they too, are curious and want to know the facts. They know things, and have heard things. I mean, how can they not with all the information so available to them. Information that makes them wonder, interests them. But really, all they want to know are the facts. And they just wish someone would talk to them. Have a conversation with them. To help them make wise choices. That’s all, really.