I'm going to start by saying that this is not a meme. Its nothing I was tagged for. Its just something that's been on my mind a lot lately. I'm also really interested in hearing what everyone else out there thinks about this subject. How you handle it with your kids. How it was handled with you. So, please.... leave me a comment. Or even feel free to post about it on your own. Just let me know your thoughts.
Those of you out there with younger kids probably won't be able to relate to this particular post. That's ok. You'll be where I'm at soon enough. There are a couple of you out there who have kids at or around the same age as mine (Sue, Hallie, Flea and Karen come to mind), so you will be able to understand a bit more about where I'm coming from here.
Coach and I have never been the type of parents that shelter our children from everything. We allow rated R movies (as long as we know going in that it isn't beyond obscenely lewd, chock-full of nakedness, or more gore than story), rap music (even though I absolutely question WHY on this one), and XBox or Playstation games that are rated M (provided any violence is not simply gratuitous--HATE the Grand Theft Auto series, but the soldier or law officer games don't bother me as much--and we do stipulate that Bug can't play them yet).
Yes, we do have some limits. But my point is we don't hide them away from real life. We've tried to teach them to be comfortable within themselves, and to never be ashamed of their bodies or their image. We've tried to teach them the difference between appropriate touching and inappropriate touching, no matter who is doing the touching. We've tried to teach them that they can talk to us about anything, without fear of reprisal, reprimand or ridicule. We've tried to help them to understand that it is just as ok to be sad, scared or worried as it is to be happy and confident.
This has not been easy.
When it was time to really start talking to Jock about the birds and the bees, and all the twisted and poisoned pollen out there, I went to the Planned Parenthood website. I bought a ton of pamphlets, and sat down and read them all. Then I started leaving them around the house and in his room for him to read. I also showed him their teen website. Trust me when I tell you that I did more research on how to talk to my son about this subject than I ever did for myself when I was learning this subject! I wanted him to realize that pregnancy is the least of the things he should be worried about. We've constantly stressed the importance of condoms. EVERY TIME. Another site I like that I've recently found is notMYkid.org. It talks about all sorts of subjects that parents tend to hide their heads in the sand about.
We've always stressed to both boys, although maybe more to Jock since he's older, that if they come to us with a situation HONESTLY, then there will be no reprimands or punishments handed out. No matter what. Coach and I both remember exactly how we were at their ages. We both remember doing things we shouldn't have, getting into somewhat messy situations where parental assistance might have been a really good thing, but not going to our parents.
Our methods of talking to our kids are not conventional. We have never simply sat them down and talked to them. For us, for our kids, that approach doesn't work. For us, the best approach seems to be when we take them by surprise. Can you imagine ever forgetting the conversation about condom use if your mom springs it on you in the grocery store? And forget worrying about being too embarrassed to buy them for yourself..... dad told you that he'll always make sure and keep some under his bathroom sink for you. (Yes, mom knows about this, and apparently is ok with it since it means you'll be SAFE.)
We have always encouraged our boys to be independent thinkers, and not to get sucked into the notion that you or your friends have to be stuck in a particular mold. You do not have to look a certain way, or do a certain thing, for someone to be your friend. We've tried very hard to instill in them the belief that if someone truly is their friend, they will like them for the wonderful person that each boy really is. We teach them that if they believe in themselves, they won't need to do anything to prove something to someone who probably just doesn't believe in themselves enough.
As a result, our boys are always the first to reach out to the new kids at schools. They have never had problems with self image. Bug especially has no hesitation in asking questions. About everything. Seriously--EVERYTHING. Both of them are, for the most part, incredibly self-assured and confident people. They also are leaders among their peers. They have a very defined idea of what's right and what's wrong, and don't seem to hesitate to stand up for themselves.
I am so proud of them.
Its not over, though. We still have quite a few more years of talking until we feel we're blue in the face. We will still go through times where we feel like they aren't listening to us at all. But I'll keep talking. I refuse to be one of those parents who goes through life thinking "Not MY kid." Because I know that no matter how much I believe them when they tell me they AREN'T, there is always the chance that they ARE. So I want them to be prepared, and equipped with all the knowledge their brains can handle. About sex. About drugs. About alcohol. About depression. About peer pressure. About stress.
About REAL LIFE.