My family didn’t talk to us about sex, and it quite literally broke us apart.
One of my family members was friends with the boy next door. Let’s call my family member “John” and the boy next door “Luke.” John and Luke spent lots of time together, even though Luke was 6 years older. Years later, John told me that Luke had been sexually abusing him.
These things tend to be cyclical, unfortunately. When John entered puberty, he became sexually curious, and he unwisely experimented with me and my best friend. My friend and I were 8; John was 13.
John swore us to secrecy. When he learned I wrote about it in my diary, he tore out the pages and burned them in the fireplace. I could tell he was scared.
I loved John, so I didn’t tell, but my best friend did.
I remember being taken to the police station and interviewed by a lieutenant.
I was examined by a nurse, but I couldn’t answer her questions. I didn’t know the words anus, erection, ejaculation, and so on.
This was a big deal for my parents. They disagreed about what should be done about John and about me. My dad was of the “boys will be boys” persuasion and wrote it off as normal childhood exploration. My mother was freaked out, didn’t want John anywhere near me, and demanded we both be sent to psychologists. Shortly after this thing came to light, after 19 years together, my parents divorced.
I took refuge at school. School was a stable environment, predictable and safe, and home never was. I liked school.
Maybe that explains why I became a teacher. Providing that safe space for my students felt like the most important work I could do. I taught biology and chemistry to high-school kids for 11 years. We played with chemicals and fire, microscopes and petri dishes. I designed labs with goldfish and rolly pollies. We studied bioethics and we genetically modified bacteria. We did a lot of really cool things in biology class, but what my students really got excited about was the unit on the human reproductive system.
The first couple times, I muddled through the content and the student questions, and then I got used to it. We talked about sex, the anatomy, the menstrual cycle, fetal development, contraception and sexually transmitted diseases.
In my time as a teacher, I worked at three schools, and the last one was a Catholic school. I know I blushed with embarrassment when the Sister who worked in the school’s office came into my class to deliver a note and up on the screen was projected a picture a condom on an erect penis. I know she saw, but she never said a word about it. A couple years later, a different Sister in charge of all the Catholic schools in our region came in with a film crew. I was answering a question about anal sex (they definitely didn’t use that footage). With all that practice, I became, shall we say, shameless.
Sex-ed is great, but my students didn’t have anyone to ask their questions once they left my class. Parents are a kid’s life-long ally and teachers just aren’t; kids move on to new grades and new schools. Parents are always there.
It drives me crazy that parents can’t talk to their kids about sex, because I know what can happen. I was that kid, and I’ll be damned before I’m that parent. I can do a better job with my children than my folks did with me and my siblings, but that doesn’t feel like enough – I want all the students I taught to be safe and supported too.
The thing I can’t take anymore is kids flying blind, turning to peers and porn to guide their sexual exploration.
Think about what you were feeling and doing when you were 13. Now look at your kids. Don’t you want your kid to go to you for guidance, not their friends or the internet? How long have you got to create the kind of relationship where your kid can ask you their questions about sex?
The earlier you normalize conversations about sex, the more likely they’ll be able to use your guidance. To get you firmly on this path, register for one of my upcoming webinars on what topics to address with your child and when.
- For parents of children 0-8 years old: The Birds & Bees and Beyond: 3 essential conversations to have with your young child about sex and relationships, April 27th at 9 am PST
- For parents of 9-12 year olds: Talking to Preteens about Sex & Relationships: preparing them for a safe and healthy adolescence, May 11th at 9 am PST
- For parents of teens: Talking with Teens about Sex: how to have deep and connected conversations, May 25th at 9 am PST
In support of you,
P.S. Need more than a webinar? If you know you’re ready to be having conversations about sex and relationships with your child, but something’s getting in the way, I’d love to help. Grab a spot on my calendar here. Sometimes just one call can move you off the side streets and onto the highway, and I’d love for you to experience the closeness that comes with having these conversations.