One of the more terrifying aspects of parenthood appears to be giving your child The Talk. Parents have been both avoiding The Talk and giving it awkwardly for generations. It’s a tradition as American as apple pie, but leaves everyone involved feeling embarrassed, and looking for reasons to avoid each other afterwards, just like sex.
Every generation promises themselves that they will do better than their parents did. They will be different. They will be cool. Of course, when the moment of truth arrives, they will fail.
I watched my friend Mary go down in flames this week.
My friend Rachael and I were chatting over lunch, when Mary came in with a sincere look of panic of her face.
“I’m a horrible mother.”
She threw her purse in one chair, and herself in another.
“Tyler got a zit.”
Seeing our confusion as to how her 10 year-old son’s complexion was correlated with her parenting skills, she heaved a sigh, and continued.
“He started asking questions about why he was getting zits, so I had to explain that his body was changing…I haven’t given him the sex talk yet. I mean, he’s ten! He’s a baby! Right? Or should I have done it already? Am I way behind? When did you get The Talk?”
I told her, in all honesty, my parents still haven’t given me The Talk. I’m pretty sure they were counting on my school to tell me about the birds and the bees. The catch is, I went to a Catholic school, where the birds and bees are promptly neutered upon arrival. So, when the boys and girls were divided up and sent to separate classrooms, we were not told anything about sex. The girls were simply informed that very soon, our bodies would be undergoing a Miraculous Change, and not to worry, we were not hemorrhaging. Then, we completed a fun word search, where we looked for words like “ovum” and “fallopian tubes.” Sex education completed!
Rachael’s parents hadn’t done much better. After Rachael’s Miraculous Change took place, her mom started randomly waking her up at 4:30 a.m., and sharing tidbits of sexual wisdom with her, in hopes that she would be too groggy to question what she was told.
“I specifically remember her waking me up, and telling me, ‘Rachael? Sex is something very special, but it’s better if you wait,’ and then tiptoeing out of my bedroom.”
Mary looked at us. “Jesus,” she said, “at least I can do better than that.”
The next day, I asked her how The Talk went. She looked a little sheepish as she told me what happened.
Tyler was playing a video game in the living room, so Mary had decided to illustrate how cool she was by picking up a controller and playing, as well. So far, so good. Operation Cool Like That was a-go. Acting as nonchalant as a mom playing the Wii possibly can, she tossed out the comment, “So, what do you know about sex?” He looked up, alarmed.
“Nothing! Why? What have you heard?”
“So what did you do?” I asked her.
“I just walked out of the room. His dad can deal with it.”
And just like that, Operation Cool Like That was aborted. Another generation of parenting excellence in action.
After a conversation with friends, I’ve come to the conclusion that parents can be both extremely creative and awkward when it comes to giving and avoiding The Sex Talk to their kids.
I want to experience your stories! (Read: I want to share your pain, or on the off-chance you had cool parents, I want to sit and stew in my own envy for a little while.)
Recreate how your parents approached this conversation. Did they use hand puppets? Did they wake you up at crazy hours to explain matters, in hopes that you would be too dazed to ask any questions? (Both are true stories, sadly.)
Capture this magical moment, in a way that only you can. And that will traumatize you the least.
We’ve been through enough, for God’s sake.