Have you had “the talk” with your children? The one about the birds and the bees. SEX. That talk. I haven’t, though there have been indications in my home that say the time is near, if not already at hand. Just this year, there have been so many murmurings and whisperings about it in school, even at the level of the first graders (first grade? already??). It really broke my heart but also strengthened my resolve to deal with it as objectively as I can.
For the teachers, especially for the younger kids, the job is merely to redirect or take the children out of the situation, but this is easier said than done. If the teachers are new or green, then perhaps more guidance about how to redirect may be needed, so that we don’t fall into the trap of reacting in a way that puts even more energy into the topic. If we show shock, indignation or prudishness, we’re just making things worse. If we question the child along the lines of “where did you hear/learn that?”, “who taught you that”, or even say things like “we don’t talk about that”, then we are already making a statement about sex that is full of our own personal biases. If a child comes with a specific question and we come rushing through with unsolicited information plus moral statements, then we are possibly muddying a yet unclear picture. For this often nerve-wracking topic, I believe simplicity is key.
This doesn’t mean we say that sex is a purely physical act with nothing at all to it, because it isn’t. We don’t water it down and try to say it’s not a big deal because that’s not true. It’s not a big deal in that there’s no secret club around it, but it is a BIG DEAL in that it is a gift –a privilege– we come to, hopefully at the right age when we are ready, that we would do well to respect and care for throughout our lives. I don’t know how to make that come across except to live it, I suppose, and then hope that what the children experience of the relationships around them exude this possibility.
But first we have to relax about it when it comes up. Good luck to all of us on that one. I admit I myself have frozen so quickly and thoroughly, to the point of feeling I would start tumbling onto the floor in little ice cubes, irreparably traumatized. But that was too easy. I had to find myself again, right then, and deal with the situation the best way I knew how.
One evening not too long ago, when my 8-year-old and I were saying our goodnights and indulging in the usual night-time cuddling, he asked me what a French Kiss was. (Again that frozen moment, but with a much quicker recovery since the query didn’t involve other body parts) I told him it’s how people who really like each other kiss. “Oh, the married people?”, he said. “Yes, them too”, I replied, despite the minor hammering in my heart. His concentration was beautiful; I braced myself for another surprise. “Is it from France?”, he asked. “Because French is from France, right? Oh! Are fries from France?” And that was that. We had moved from sex to unhealthy carbohydrates.
If I had panicked or given him a convoluted explanation involving tongues, can you imagine how I could have–all by my lonesome–ruined the conversation? We really just have to learn to breathe through these questions because they don’t have to be as difficult to answer if we just stick to what is being asked, instead of jumping miles ahead to what we think they MIGHT really be asking. Stick to what’s in front of you and keep it simple.
So, are fries from France?