One final note on early developmental discussions of sex. Start small. The first time your child asks, "where do babies come from?" you might just try saying, "they grow inside the mommy." That may be all they want. If you pour out your full length lecture too soon it may fall on deaf ears, or lead to utter bewilderment - let their questions guide your answers. They want to know, but they may not want to know TOO much.
Along these lines - I was out for a bike ride with my eldest daughter one day when she was about 8. Our household gave full recognition to all celebrations of magical fantasy - Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy. I could tell by her few, exploratory questions that A was starting to wonder about this stuff. On our bike ride she suddenly pulled to a stop, turned to face me, and said: "Mommy. I just want to know, just tell me the truth, okay. ARE YOU AND DAD THE TOOTH FAIRY?" After a pause I gave a straight answer, "Yes." "Okay." Back on the bicycle, off we went. And that was it - no more "is it real" questions, for a couple of years!. So she wanted to hang on to Santa Claus for a while longer, and we let her do it.
Back to sex. I was thinking yesterday about the first time my first baby started eating solid food. There was a fleeting passage of grief as she left early infancy behind - that intense, pristine purity of the breast-fed baby. Now I'd see that tiny mouth covered with mush, which got in her hands and in her hair. Something of that virginal newborn perfection seemed lost.
But of course - she was still my precious baby, inevitably growing and changing and shedding former iterations of her self to become something even greater. She was carrying on with her growing baby life, not fitting in to my own static picture of what she was to me.
I hope I have done it before, but I'm going to apologize again to one of my children - the first one to put me through that more traditional loss of virginity. In the end, it is really not unlike that first time my perfect baby's face was covered in pureed carrots. My vision of a static child in a particular stage of life was bound to be altered, one way or another. I did not want to see the change, and I had no control over this one, and I grieved over the loss of something - some image of a particular version of my child, in my own mind, that I imagined I could hold on to longer.
So I apologize for my expression of grief, which only created grief in my child. And even when I tried to accept it by saying something like, "I just have to accept that you're not that child any more. You're growing up;" it was still not the right thing. "But I am still your child," came the response, "I don't want you to think that!"
Yes - that transition was a rocky one for mom as well as offspring, and led to some years of a more guarded communication between us - at least when it came to relationships. But I learned from it, and hope that I gained some perspective on my narrow views of sex and sexuality. My way is not the only good way - here is what is important:
First: Don’t wait to talk about it – they’re hearing about it, reading about it, seeing pictures of it elsewhere, so be a part of the conversation.
Second – unless you’re willing to lock them up like Rapunzel in the tower, you can’t control their lives. It is their decision. All you can do is arm them with the best perspectives that you have.
"Don’t get hurt."
"Don’t treat yourself badly. Don’t treat anyone else badly."
"People are ALL people with emotional complexities; sex only adds to the complications."
"Never use sex, or allow it to be used with you, as an emotional tool, of hanging on, of coercion, of possession."
Sex is only good if:
1. There is no power differential between partners
2. There is deep love and respect
3. There is care and conscious decision making about health, procreation, and safety
4. It is 100% mutual.
There is surely more to say. But that's enough for now.