My experience as a parent of an adolescent is that the sexuality stuff was so scary to me that it was hard to even begin to talk with my girls about it. I think I had the ‘normal’ experience of a parent with two kids – one was easier and one was harder, but both were within reasonably easy bounds, i.e no drug use (that I know of), no promiscuity, a few incidents with alcohol, a few boyfriends I REALLY didn’t like.
We traveled one summer, by bus, for the experience of the travel and I was so scared in the bus stops – I had never known how scary bus stops are for teenage girls. My girls were 14 and 12 and beautiful. The attention directed at them in bus stops was so concentrated and predatory and sexual that I had trouble breathing sometimes with the need to get the girls out of there safely. I don’t remember ever talking to them about this experience, but it was repeated across the country at almost every big city bus stop we were in.
A few years later, I was still not talking much on this subject with the girls, but I finally managed to get a conversation going with them in which I was able to ask what they thought my expectations were for them sexually. They were also uncomfortable with the conversation, but finally were able to summarize what they thought I wanted for them and their sexual lives. To wait until some poorly defined ‘later’ to engage in intercourse, probably (they theorized) I wanted them to wait at least until they graduated high school. To probably have more than one sexual partner, as they did not believe I had strong value in them waiting for marriage to engage in intercourse. To care about their partner – not ‘just to do it to get it over with’. And then they said (or one said first and the other agreed as the conversation was working) “And ALWAYS to use a condom!”
I was amazingly relieved. They had somehow absorbed what I wanted for them sexually. And, in that conversation I was also able to ask them to tell me after making the decision to have intercourse, before they “did it” (if it happened before they got out of high school). They both agreed to that. One of them followed through and we got her on the pill and she stated she understood that she still needed to use a condom. The other one didn’t follow through. (Or perhaps she didn’t have sex before getting out of high school. I doubt that, but I will not ask. She is an adult today and it is none of my business).
They are both competent adults today, with healthy, loving partners. I am grateful and I hope I contributed somehow, but I know I could have done better with this issue and I think that today I would do better.
I’d love to hear from other parents about their experiences, fears, and joys. I’d also love to hear from any teens (or young adults remembering their teen years) about their experiences, fears, and joys. If you prefer to share privately, feel free to email me off the page (kathymhorton@gmail.com) and I will share what you say, but not who says it. If you are comfortable with posting a comment, that’s the easiest.