(Written by Guest Blogger Mrs. Y)
Not so long ago – or so it seems to me – I was an adolescent and chock full of sexuality. Now I am a suburban mom with a full-time day job, and getting my middle-aged freak on seems a lot less important to me in the cosmic scheme of things than it did. Oh, and I found Jesus. So I’m probably not a natural fit to guest host Karen’s blog, except for one thing: my conservative parents did a good job of teaching me about the birds and the bees when I was a kid, so I see it as part of my spiritual calling to help other parents do the same for their kids. Y’all can duke it out with some other blogger about condoms or abstinence ed in schools – all I want personally is that the schools should accurately teach kids anatomy and reproduction facts about humans the way they do (or would if we were getting adequate time for life sciences in schools, but that’s another story) about frogs and guinea pigs. My point is that parents are just as responsible for their kids’ sex ed as they are for teaching them to brush their teeth and follow the Golden Rule. Since many parents don’t have a good model for doing that, my goal is to supply one. That’s my project over at Stork! Stork!, at least when I remember to update it.
My own offspring are very much still kids (ages 10, 8, and 5), but I remember how it felt to come of age. I don’t mean adolescence – after all, sexual feelings don’t abruptly kick in at puberty out of nowhere. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I personally don’t remember a time when sexuality wasn’t part of my frame of reference. I always knew it was out there, and I couldn’t wait to be old enough and try it, like the dregs of my mom’s coffee, or the magazines on my dad’s dresser, or their cigarettes and books. As soon as I hit escape velocity (physical maturity factored with loosening of parental restrictions on where I went and with whom, about 15) I was raring to go. But my parents still kept fairly tight tabs on my hours and deportment, and I had a demanding academic schedule. After a couple of long-term relationships with lots of “everything but,” I lost my virginity at almost seventeen with a guy my age who I met at a summer camp. We went steady for our whole senior year and agreed to split up when we went out separate ways to college. I went on to a career of serial monogamy (with sexual adventures on the side as a hobby) until my mid-twenties, when I had some life-changing experiences that dramatically changed my perspective on the place of my sexual self-expression in my overall life. But that’s another story …
(I told my mom I was having sex a couple of months into the relationship when I feared I might be pregnant. She was understanding. She took me to the doctor. She paid for my birth control pills. But the boy still wasn’t allowed into my room unchaperoned, my curfew didn’t change, and when I complained about our lack of privacy, she was like, “What, you want me to get you a hotel room? Tough! Adulthood has its privileges, honey. You will earn them with age.” Contrast this with my boyfriend’s parents, who never told him word one about sex except to ask him once if we were having sex and recommend that he use latex condoms instead of ones from sheepskin, or something – and that was it. I kind of wonder what he’s planning to tell his kids about sex.)
Adolescent sexuality is the forging ground for adult sexuality. In the mainstream, secular context most of us inhabit, this leads us to focus on issues like preventing STDs and unwanted pregnancies that can derail a teen’s future, or prevent the development of hang-ups that can keep adults from taking full pleasure in their sex lives. But helping teens take the final developmental steps into adulthood is more than a matter of teaching them good hygiene – it’s a matter of modeling the virtues that you want them to carry forward into their lives as adults. That means talking honestly at home about the impact of sexuality and sexual self-expression on others, even in terms of (gulp!) the parents’ own choices as teens and beyond.
Tomorrow: You Are So Totally Not Grown-Up Yet