Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sex Ed

One day, when I was in 5th grade, my teacher tapped me on the shoulder and told me I could head down to the principal's office.  She was going to be beginning a segment on puberty and sex education.  As per school policy, a notice had been sent home alerting the parents, and each family was given the option of pulling their kid out if they desired.

My parents took the teacher up on this, and I, the lone student, wandered down to the principal's office, where I sat until the class was done learning about their bodies, their selves.

It wasn't that my parents didn't want me to know about sex, or the impending changes my body would soon undergo.  It was just, well, they thought they could do a better job explaining it to me.  They could answer my questions specifically, make the presentation fun and exciting, with a puppet show and some graphs and charts thrown in for good measure.  It would be the best sex education any 11 year had ever received.

And I bet it would have been, had they remembered to give it.

As it was, somewhere between pulling me out of that course and having lots of permission slips to sign and a brother who was always in the principal's office for other reasons, they forgot.  I got my sex ed on the back of the bus.  And if you have never been schooled there, I can tell you that it is terrifying.  

I sat near the older kids, and they explained all that they knew, none of which came from a proper sex ed course, or their parents.  It convinced me that sex should be illegal.  And then I started worrying about my parents.  Did they know?  I mean, maybe they didn't know.

So, one evening, as the plague of this miseducation floated in my brain, I got out of bed and walked into my parents room.  I stood beside their bed and asked them:
"Do you know where babies come from?"

I wasn't asking because I wanted to know.  I already knew, thank you Maly and TJ and Lucas. 
I wanted to know if they knew.
Because parents can seem so innocent, to an 11 year old.

My mom must have been proud, here was her kid, pulled out of sex ed, and now I was yearning for her to explain things to me!  I was coming to her.
She started to explain where babies come from.  She used terrifying words like penis and vagina and then I started to block out what was coming out of her mouth because although the terms she was using were not the ones TJ had taught me, and although the specifics were quite different, she knew.  I left my parents room, relieved that at least I didn't have to teach them anything.

And the next day, and all the days after that, I sat in the front of the bus. 

When I got to college, I became friends with a girl whose mother was the leading OB/GYN in Ohio.  And she found the differences between her sex education and mine hilarious.  Because by the age of 5, she knew all the female organs, where they were located, what their functions were, and whether they were derived from Greek or Latin.  She was not schooled on the back of the bus.

My oldest sister and I sometimes compare childhood memories only to find we were raised in entirely different families.  She recalls things from my early early days, and I recall things that she has chosen to forget.  And I remind her of these whenever possible.  We both have daughters, and we were reminiscing about old days, when she mentioned that I was the one who taught her what a vagina was.  The oldest three of us used to take our bath together, and although she can't remember exactly what age we were, she knows that I pointed out that she and I both had one, and my brother did not.

It should be no surprise then, that my daughter is moving from her stage of high interest in penises and vaginas, to one that mainly revolves around breasts.

The way this came about is not because I sat her down at the wise old age of 2 and began to teach her, but moreso...well, my youngest sister put it best:

"I know that whole 'Why?' and 'What?' stage happens for kids...but it seems like C has been in that stage for an unbearably long time."

It's been painful for all of us.

The stage of nonstop inquiry:  when she asked about What's that?  and What's that?  I told her.  And when she asked more, I would tell her a little more.  And then she found a book in my pile of therapy resources, and it's become almost as popular as Cinderella:
It is great for any age, and I have yet to find a Joanna Cole book that isn't superb.

We've been reading this on and off for over a year, and every now and then Miss C's thoughts and how she's processing this info will emerge in regular conversation.  An example, from last week:

C: "Dad, tell me a story about when you were 3."

D: "Well, one time when I was 3, I went hiking with my..."

C: "Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait.  Where was I?"

D: "Well, I was 3, so you weren't born yet.  But you were in my heart."

C: "You mean, I was in your sperm heart."

Dave looks at me over her head, I shrug.  Better than the back of the bus.

D: "Well..."

C: "Yes, I was in your sperm heart, and I was also in mama's egg heart.  Okay, so what happened when you were 3?"

This one we could chalk up as sort of funny, but whatever it was, it was in the privacy of our own home.  A little lower on the funny scale, a little higher on the Where is the wine? scale would have been several months ago, while at a family gathering, when she greeted each member who entered the home with,
"Hi Uncle Sean.  You are a man, so do you have a penis?  You don't have a vagina, you have a penis, right Uncle Sean?"
And badgering them until they would claim their junk.

When she gets on this quest for knowledge and the confirmation of it, I can identify.  Because don't we all have that same burning desire to know?  Mine is a little more quiet, and tends to be satisfied through reading.  Or google.  Because I will google pretty much any word, except that one, Anonymous Commenter # 12, that one I will leave to you and your expertise, and now you know why I like terms that are for 6 year olds: my sex education just barely passed that age.

I still have no idea how that kid got into my womb, much less this house.

Every now and then I'll turn a corner and shout out of sheer fright that there is third human living here, and then she calmly explains to me that her Dad has a sperm heart, and I have an egg heart, and then I block out everything that follows. 

1 comment:

  1. well, i guess that sperms and eggs are better to be obsessed about than death? at least she is questioning life now, not death anymore? or maybe it's a toss up.