Talk The Talk

14 Feb

When I signed on to be a parent, I knew that sooner or later I would need to have “the talk” with my child. I figured it would be later—much later—say, in high school or college, maybe even grad school. Yeah, grad school would be good. No such luck.

I had the first “talk” with my son in pre-school. He was a cute little guy and was being pursued by little girls on the playground. Little boys are physical. They push, they shove, they wrestle. Little girls don’t, but they aren’t any less physical. Little girls love to steal kisses. The problem for my son was that he was being told to keep his hands to himself but no one was telling the girls to keep their lips to themselves. So we had a talk about touch, as in, “No one should touch you if you don’t want to be touched,” followed by, “No, you may not hit the girls if they try to kiss you.” I concluded with “Yes, I will tell the teacher it isn’t fair for the girls to kiss you if you can’t push them.”

Several years later, my son went with his class to a place where they would learn about “health.” I was glad. I figured it got me off the talk hook for at least another year or two. The day he went, I had some anxiety. When I was his age, we had a similar special class. They called it “sex education” then. I don’t recall a word of it. At this point, it is important for you to know that I have two siblings. My mother told me I came home from school that day and said, “Mommy! Dad had three erections!” She also told me she said, “He had more than that!” My son came home without a single comment. I sighed with relief. My son knew what he needed to know about sex—sorry—health.

Perhaps three years later, I discovered he did not know what he needed to know about sex, I mean, health. My son knew about erections and eggs and sperm and embryos and fetuses and how to make them. He knew that sex felt good and that sex was something two people who loved each other would want to do. In short, he had all the information necessary to make a baby and no information on how to not make a baby. This, to me, was a problem.

“So,” I said, “they told you how to have sex.”
“Yeah,” he said.
“Did they tell you about birth control?”
“Yeah. They said it doesn’t work.”
“Really? They said it doesn’t work at all?”
“Yeah. Basically.”
“Son,” I said. “How many children do dad and I have?”
“Two,” he said.
“And how many times do you think dad and I have had sex?”
He said nothing. We were in the car so he could stare straight ahead while his mother embarrassed the crap out of him.
“All of our friends have only the exact number of children that they wanted to have. Use your brain. Do you still think birth control doesn’t work?”
“MOM!” he said.

Eager to fill the holes in his health education, I bought a package of condoms. I didn’t feel this was premature. He had a girlfriend, for crying out loud. I asked his father to show him the condoms. He declined. I asked his father if he wanted to talk to his son about condoms. He said, “No.” I asked his father if he ever wanted to talk to his son about anything related to sex. He said, “No.”

So, there I was with a package of condoms and a son with a girlfriend. I told my son that I had a package of condoms. He looked at me with horror in his eyes. I told him I would leave them in his room and he could check them out when he was comfortable. I left his room, patting myself on the back for being a great, open-minded mom. When I went to my own room later that night, the package of condoms was on my bed, unopened. The next day, I placed the package of condoms on my son’s desk chair before he came home from school. That night, the unopened package was on my bed. I took it to my son and placed it on his desk. He threw it at me. I threw it back at him. For about a week, we lobbed the package of condoms back and forth. The condoms are stashed away for now, but the next time he has a girlfriend, I’m tossing them his way.

I have realized that sex isn’t the only thing that warrants a talk. Drugs get a talk, too. I like the method reported by one of my son’s friends. This girl, we’ll call her “Anna,” was sitting in her room, reading magazines, and listening to music. Her mother came in the room, picked up a magazine and started flipping through the pages. Anna thought her mother’s behavior a little odd, but welcomed it. They exchanged a little small talk, but mostly just flipped through magazines together. Finally, Anna’s mother closed the magazine, tossed it on Anna’s bed and said, “You never do drugs!” then left the room.

Most talks are uncomfortable for my son and me, but we usually get through them. I have developed a set of rules. Keep it as impersonal as possible. Keep an open mind. Remember that “Hmph” is a legitimate teenage response.
I had a talk with my son recently that had me blowing all of my rules. I discovered clean, folded laundry in my son’s dirty laundry hamper. When I tell other mothers that I discovered clean, folded laundry, they invariably have the same response. Their eyes narrow, their lips harden, their brows furrow. “Clean and folded?” they growl.

I asked my son, “Do you know what I found in your hamper?” He said, “Hmph.” I said, “Clean . . .folded . . .laundry.” He said, “Hmph.” “You’ll be doing your own laundry after today.” He said, “Hmph.” I said, “Do you understand?!” “I get it!” he shouted back and stomped up to his room.

He’ll cool off. I’ll cool off. Eventually, we’ll be able to be in the same room together and then we’ll have another talk. It’s the one where I say, “I love you and I’m sorry I lost my cool.” And he’ll say, “Hmph.”

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One Response to “Talk The Talk”

  1. bobbi February 15, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    Hmph!

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