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Who Wants Their Kid in Sex Ed?
I was speaking on the weekend at a women's retreat, and at lunchtime one day a bunch of women with kids all the same age started talking about how you introduce the subject of sex to your children. When do you tell them? What do you tell them? And who has horror stories to share?

I wrote my own stories in a column a few years ago, which I'll just print here:

Some of these conversations, however, are not always eagerly anticipated. My nine-year-old chose these holidays to start pestering me about the exact method by which babies enter a mother’s tummy. She had already figured out the exiting part, but she had a sneaking suspicion that the story behind the entering was more interesting, and she was determined to hear it.

I always made it a policy that I would tell my kids whatever they wanted to know as soon as they asked me. I wanted them to hear it from me, and I wanted to keep the lines of communication open. By the time my oldest daughter reached ten, though, she had never asked me anything, and I was starting to worry that her body would catch up with her. So I announced we were going on a special “girls’ weekend”, just the two of us, when we would have fun together and I would tell her all about being a woman.

We went forth, and I spilled everything. She handled it well, asked loads of questions, and then had fun exploring craft shops. She now knows she can now ask me anything she wants and I’ll tell her, so frequently as I’m tucking her into bed questions do indeed arise.

She had never been a particularly curious kid about these sorts of things prior to our excursion, though, except for one incident I recall when she was playing with her four-year-old cousin. After checking on the munchkins, my sister-in-law emerged from the basement stifling laughter. Apparently Rebecca had gotten a hold of her
new plastic doctor’s kit and had decided to examine Matthew. She had affixed the clamp to a particular piece of his anatomy, which had promptly grown rather red.

When Tina saw this, she asked that stupid question that inevitably pops out of every parent’s mouth when confronted with something horrible: “what are you doing?”, as if it were not immediately obvious. Rebecca looked up with innocent indignation and replied, “we are playing doctor.” Tina told her that was fine, but from now on they should do it with clothes on. They complied. And as far as I know, that was the only real curiosity Rebecca demonstrated.

Katie, on the other hand, has always been more sensitive to these things. When she was three, we were camping with a family who had two boys, one of whom had an “outie” belly button. Katie decided that the thing that differentiates boys and girls must be the belly button, so this must be an incredibly private part of the body. She proceeded to pull down her two-piece bathing suit (which had quite modest tank top and tank bottoms) so that the offending piece of anatomy was covered, leaving the pieces of anatomy that were supposed to be covered by tank tops visible for everyone to see.

So this Christmas when she started asking questions, I was not surprised, and I tried my best to answer. I told her the whole “entrance” part of the equation, and for once the child actually stopped talking. She pursed her lips and replied, “I see.” Then she thought for a moment and said, “but Mommy, if you’ve had three babies, did you have to do it each time?”. I nodded. She looked horrified.

The next day she sidled up to me in the kitchen, gave me a big hug, and said, “Oh, Mommy, thank you for going through that with Daddy. But don’t feel too badly. At least you’ve got me!”.

I tried to reinforce once more that people actually enjoy the exercise, but I truly don’t think she believed me. After drilling me more on what those things in the “Tampax” box were, she asked what I hope is her last question for a while.

“Mommy,” she said, “Why don’t men have to use so much toilet paper?”. I smiled, and replied, “go ask your dad.”

Here's what I left out of the column. As soon as I had told Katie the truth, she turned to me and said, "How long does he have to leave it in for?". And it only went downhill from there.

And when she found the Tampax, her younger cousin announced that she knew exactly what that was. It was a butt plug!

As much as we laugh over it, though, I am glad that I was the one to tell her. We did it in context, and even though she doesn't quite believe me, I think she gets the part that it's an enjoyable experience now, that should only be shared by married people. We could communicate that together.

The issues that the women were dealing with around my table, though, are navigating the school sex ed nightmare, because often schools tell kids things way younger than you would. And if you want to be the one to spill the beans (and I think kids should learn this stuff from parents, not teachers), you have to tell them even earlier.

What is in sex ed classes? Some of them aren't bad. But some of them are. I see two main problems: one is that sex is presented with no moral context, as a health issue. So sexually transmitted diseases are often the focus, as opposed to keeping sex within marriage. The second is that they tend to do a lot of the teaching with both sexes in the room to try to break down the kids' natural modesty, so that kids will be more comfortable talking about it. But I think natural modesty is a good thing, and we shouldn't be subjecting kids to that!

This morning an article was sent to me about that bill that Obama voted for in Illinois. He claims that he voted for it because it would teach kindergarten kids about inappropriate touching, and that is indeed what he may have THOUGHT. But if you read the bill, it teaches them a whole lot more than that.

But here's the part of the article that bothered me the most:

The bill’s third purpose was to remove value-laden language in the old law. For example, the old law contained passages like this:

Course material and instruction shall teach honor and respect for monogamous heterosexual marriage.
Course material and instruction shall stress that pupils should abstain from sexual intercourse until they are ready for marriage…
[Classes] shall emphasize that abstinence is the expected norm in that abstinence from sexual intercourse is the only protection that is 100 percent effective against unwanted teenage pregnancy [and] sexually transmitted diseases…

The proposed bill eliminated all those passages and replaced them with wording like this:

Course material and instruction shall include a discussion of sexual abstinence as a method to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
Course material and instruction shall present the latest medically factual information regarding both the possible side effects and health benefits of all forms of contraception, including the success and failure rates for the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV…

We need to wake up and realize that the schools are going to be teaching about something extremely important in a moral vacuum. We homeschool, so we don't have this issue. But if my kids were in school, I would take them out of sex ed classes. I would find out when they were being taught, and that is when I would schedule all the dentist appointments, doctor's appointments, and anything else I could think of. It's part of being a good parent.

Don't leave it to the schools. Be proactive and protect your kids. It's our job, after all. It may be a little intimidating, but talking to them is not so bad once you get going!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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At 10:06 AM , Blogger Tracey said…

I teach sex ed every spring. We preach abstinance, go over the anatomy and basically "how it works," talk about sexually transmitted diseases and let mom and dad handle the rest. I always tell the children's parents a few months ahead so they will hopefully start discussing it before I do....SOME DO NOTHING...and I am the only one they get the information from! I wish more parents would discuss it.....Ugghh.


At 10:16 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

I think Tracey has a good point--when you have a Christian teacher, who does it appropriately, it's not really a problem. But when you don't have that teacher, it can be a problem.

Regardless, though, like Tracey said, you want to be the one to teach them. So you have to talk about it before the school system does, even if that's earlier than you would have liked!


At 10:16 AM , Blogger pedalpower said…

Well, I didn't take my kids out of it ..they went to public school. We were already talking and teaching the morals at home, so I knew they were getting that too. And we talk about all kind of issues in our home. They know what we believe and why.

In our school they separate the girls and the boys for sex ed. I'm sure it's a good idea.

I wrote a post about talking to the kids about sex...its here:


At 4:20 PM , Blogger Amanda said…

Your story reminds me of a woman I used to work with. Her daughter asked her about the birds and the bees, and she did her best to explain. And the end, her daughter (who had one brother) had a horrified look on her face and said, "And you and Dad had to do that TWICE?"


At 4:28 PM , Blogger Julie said…

I have three boys, so Dad has to / gets to be the point person here... though I do my share from the mom's perspective.

Had to laugh about the tampon conversation. When my boys discovered the box, they came to me wondering why I has so many Glow Sticks, and could they have some?!


At 5:34 PM , Blogger Valerie aka Mamalovelock said…

Totally agree and that is just one of the many reasons we homeschool and will continue to homeschool.


At 6:51 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

"We need to wake up and realize that the schools are going to be teaching about something extremely important in a moral vacuum. We homeschool, so we don't have this issue. But if my kids were in school, I would take them out of sex ed classes. I would find out when they were being taught, and that is when I would schedule all the dentist appointments, doctor's appointments, and anything else I could think of. It's part of being a good parent."

I LOVE THIS PARAGRAPH. It may seem like a nightmare - parenting at this stage of America's history - but the more you know and the more you are! thanks

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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