Two months ago I gave a Young and Restless friend a box of condoms. With instructions and much encouragement to use them. Now the YRF is pregnant. And underage, unemployed, unqualified, unattached...completely unprepared for what lies ahead. HELLO… WHAT HAPPENED! I don’t know who I sympathize with more. The young mother and the challenging road she has chosen, her unborn baby getting a rather shaky start to life, or the soon-to-be grandparents who will surely be carrying much of the responsibility. I don’t know if I should congratulate her or whack her over the head with this unopened box. So what have I learned from this? What will I do when my fantastic five are Young and Restless? Lets consider a few options…which would you recommend?
A. Forget the contraception. Do it the old fashioned way. Beat them with a stick. Cut off all their hair and lock them up for the rest of their lives.
B. Drag the YR to church kicking and screaming. Tell her repeatedly that boys are Satanic creatures sent to drag us down into the pits of hell. And ones body is a terrible time bomb waiting to erupt at the slightest hint of male attention - and if you so much as look twice at a boy then you’re a slut and may as well get on the one way bus to Perdition.
C. Stick your head in the sand and be completely unaware that your offspring is even vaguely Young and Restless. Look befuddled and bewildered when she gets pregnant and/or contracts a STD. “But…but she doesn’t have a boyfriend!” Or when an irate parent tells you your &%#@* son has ‘led their daughter astray’. “But he’s a good boy!”
D. None of the above. Its culturally insensitive for us to even be having this discussion. I shall lodge incensed complaints with the Chief Censor and the Moral/Religious Police and they shall shut down this blog quicker than you can say “Da Vinci Code.”
Aaaah…so many choices…which one did YOUR parents raise you on I wonder? As I ponder upon this useless box of lubricated-ribbed-flavoured-laser tested-modern technological marvels… one thing is clear. It’s not enough to just give people contraception and information on all the possible pitfalls associated with unprotected sex. There’s a whole lot more in the wilderness of sexual and reproductive health…For me, nothing puts my “Mother of the New Millenium” title more to the test then when faced with the issue of health and sex education for my children.
I set out years ago to be that enlightened mum...the one you read about in fairytales. I resolved I would always ‘talk openly, with honesty and directness, using all the appropriate terminology’. (you’ve read those textbooks too, right?) I would communicate to them their bodies were a sacred gift and belonged to them, capable of great feelings which were there to be controlled and then enjoyed at the right time with the right person. ( In other words when you’re at least 25 and hopefully married with two degrees, a job, several thousand in the bank and own your own home.) I delighted in visualizing what it would be like to be such a mother. We would celebrate the onset of menstruation as something amazing ( not horrendous). We would have lovely little talks where my children would confide in me every emotion, every crush and teenage angst. They would be strong against coercion/threats/promises from weirdoes, sickos and wackos. In other words we would be like the Cosbys, Gilmore Girls, Brady Bunch and the Osmonds all rolled into one. With a cinnamon roll Martha Stewart stamp of approval on top.
Well, better said (in a textbook) than done. I discovered its just a little bit tricky to "talk openly without shame" about certain things to your little uns when you’re inwardly cringing. And before you can say all the ‘right terms’ – you kind of need to learn them first. So you can answer your two year old in a nonchalant fashion when he asks you… “Mum what is this thing and why do I have it for?” Or how about when he excitedly tells you one day in the car…”Look mum, its sticking up!”
But with each child and each passing year I get a little better at this. I’m happy to say my kids can converse like a biology textbook. They have a spiritual appreciation for their bodies. They tell me my body is a temple and I should stop abusing it with buckets of Diet Coke. And I pat myself on the back when a 5 yr old can yell emphatically – “No I don’t want to let you have a turn on the swing because this is MY body and Im the boss of it and NOBODY can make me do things with it I don’t want to!”
Yes, Im feeling pretty good about myself and my health education skills when my 4 yr old bursts my bubble. Her dad is leaving for work and she tells him - "Now dad, remember that your vagina belongs to you and don’t let anyone else touch it okay!" (Dad hightails it out of the house quicksmart with a 'wife, what are you doing to our kids' look on his face) And there’s perhaps a little too much pride and love for ones body when your 3 yr old bursts out of the shower and flashes open his towel for his aunties - "Look at my SUPER-PENIS!" Ooops.
Last week an almost teenager asked “why do girls keep hitting me at school? They keep bugging me. And why do girls giggle so much together and look at you?” Aaah my son..these are age old questions...timeless as the rising and setting sun...as certain as the changing of the seasons...blah blah...while I’m dithering about, the father says - Oh what rubbish. Son, girls do that because they like you and they dont know what to do about it and youre so handsome they want to touch you...kinda like back in the dayz when I was in school....blah blah...HA!
His questions got me thinking though - maybe just as important as the birds and the bees is making sure my kids understand all the social ins and outs that go along with growing up. Like, why girls get weird on you in Year 6...or why boys pick on you and tease you...and what to do about it...or how about dealing with catty girls and school gossip? Or what to do when a guy you really like tries to get you to do something you know you shouldn’t and don’t want to? Have you checked out an Intermediate school lately? It’s a jungle out there!
Now I certainly didn’t get any decent sex information from my much-educated parents when I was growing up. They didn’t give me condoms, put me on the pill, or show me graphic images of STDs. They said “Just DON”T do it.” ( sorry Nike) They were terrible sex educators. They did give me other things though. They told me to get a good education so I would never have to be stuck with a man who was mean to me. Aim high and work like heck to get there. They convinced me I didn’t need to run wild with the rest of the Young and Restless Pack - just so I could make friends/be popular/get the most hits on my Bebo page (I’ve got 10,345 but who’s counting?!) And they made sure I could speak up for what I wanted – and didn’t want. (Now of course my dad wont stop complaining about my lack of humility and servility as befits the daughter of one such as he.)
I want all that for my fantastic five. Combined with their heightened biological awareness and spiritual foundation, I say to the Young and Restless Years ahead…Bring it On!
And hey – if all else fails, I can always use this box to whack them upside the head.