Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sex and Kids

Sex and kids. Damn, that's a hard topic for me.

Not the teaching about sex. Heck, with resources like It's Perfectly Normal and It's So Amazing, that's a walk in the park. But I'm not easily embarrassed. Even when my son said he wanted us to have twins and I explained you can't just "get" twins. And he said, "Well, can't you just do that sex thing twice?" (Age 5)

Or when we mentioned that his father was getting a vasectomy and he furrowed up his brow and said, "Well, if you don't want more babies, why don't you just not have sex?" (Age 9)

Or when he asked, "What does 'humping' mean? And 'boning'?" (last week, age 10)

I want the kids to come to us with all their questions, so I give complete answers, no blushing.

Where I get a little lost is in the values part of the equation.

See, when I hear about abstinence-only education, I scoff. I must admit that when I hear about kids joining True Love Waits, I roll my eyes. "How cute" -- I just want to pat their little heads. Hey, I was a Resident Assistant on the "Women's Privacy" floor -- also known as the "Virgin Vault." If there were any virgins at the start of the year, I doubt there were any at the end. And we've all heard the stats -- those who take vows of abstinence break them. And often wind up with STDs.

But hearing about how casually people take hooking up, ye gods, please not my kids!

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle. I don't want to be a hypocrite. But I want my kids to see sex as something ... dare I say it? ... holy. Sacred. Done with someone you love.

When my son was born a decade ago, we were the only ones of our siblings who were married. Some of our siblings don't share our belief in the sacredness of sex. We decided to make it simple. Unless you're married, you can't share a bed with your "friend" at our house. Ye gods! What throwbacks! Anachronisms!

But here's the deal ... if we hadn't done that, they would have already seen one aunt with several "friends" over the years. Of course, they have seen the aunt with the friends, they just haven't seen the friends spend the night at our house.

But it gets murkier. Grandma has a boyfriend. They are in a committed relationship, but they are never going to get married. It would be fine with us for them to be here -- but, ye gods, then we have to deal with the aunts/uncles crying foul. Thankfully, it's not an issue. He is an older gentleman and would never agree to stay in our house. He is from a generation where such things simply are not done.

How to parse, how to deal. One sibling is in a monogamous long-term relationship. But do we want to handle each situation on a case-by-case basis, becoming the "judge" for each relationship?

Do we want to let the adults be adults and bring whomever they are currently with into our house, and just allow 4 children, ages 2-11, to assume that it's all normal? That if you have a boyfriend, you're having sex? Some argue that you simply explain that what's right for an adult, isn't for a young person. Yes. I can explain that to my 7 year old. (rolls eyes.)

I don't know. I feel like a hypocrite. But I don't think the other way is right, either.


uuMomma said...

Hmmm. This is a hard one to deal with. On my side of the family, I am the only one still married. One sibling has been married and divorced twice, engaged two more times and now lives with a guy she says she'll never marry. We have visited her; she does not visit us. So, we have stayed in her house and I have given tacit approval to their status...but not very happy about it. Still, they are in a committed relationship (or so they say).

It has been touchy for me, as well. But now we watch television shows, me and my 11 and 13 year old girls, where people jump into and out of bed and/or relationships with each other, so it opens us up to lots of discussion.

Here's what I tell them without being overly finger-pointy about it: As the youngest child, I watched my siblings make a series of choices when they were young that really impacted the choices that I then ended up making. I also tell them that choosing to have sex is similar in many ways to all the other "adult" choices they will be presented with. And I tell them that my experience is that kids who try smoking, drinking, and sex before they are of a certain age tend to get stuck there forever. (Again, trying not to be too finger-pointy, like 'look at aunt so and so--is THAT what you want,' and yet, doing just that.)

All that said, you are the parents and, in this instance, you are the DECIDER! Break rules, or bend them. Tell aunty, "when you and John Doe have been living together for five years, then he can sleep over, til then, here's the number to Motel 6." They don't always like it. One sister is still not responding to me because I asked her not to send email's to my girls regarding our father's cancer and imagining it as cotten candy. But I'm the mama bear, the one around them all the time, the one who gets to say "No. That's not appropriate for my children."

Make it up as you go along. You know what you do and don't want your kids to see/hear/be exposed to. You're doing fine. In this instance, yes, there is a right and a wrong. And you get to decide. Go, you!

Lisa said...

We too have struggled with that dilema over the years and even after rising 3 kids, I'm not sure what the "right" answer is. What I do know is the "wrong" answer would have been to give in to things that we felt our children weren't emotionally and mentally ready to understand and deal with. Hence, no one stayed at our house unmarried. Yeah, we made a few people not happy with us, on the other hand, my kids didn't have sex until they were grown. Not married, but grown. Not my perfect scenario, but I can live with it.

I say stick to your guns. Your kids are going to know that people have sex without the benefit of marriage and someday they will make thier own choices. But in the meantime, you will be teaching them that despite what the rest of the world is doing, it's ok to set limits and do what you think is right.