Sunday, January 30, 2011

They're growing up.

(warning: sex and drugs as a child mentioned.)

All children grow up. All people grow. It's just harder when it's your children and you weren't the best behaved teen on the block.And neither was your spouse.

So many people think of 11, 12, 13, 14 year olds as very young. Hell, even I think it's young. But is it really so young that it's shocking that kids at these ages think about sex? That kids these ages, think about drinking and getting high? That kids these ages, are actually doing things that would give their parents heart attacks?

I look at my children, especially my daughter and recount my pre-teen and early teen years. I think about how I will kill them or lock them away somewhere far away from the outside world if they even mentioned thinking about the things their father and I were doing at those ages.. But, is that the smart way to think about it? And if talking to my children is the right way to go about this, when is the right time to start? When they are too young to even understand? Or when the thought are already in their heads, and they're already acting on them?

Between 12-14 years old, I had started by giving head to high school boys, running away from home to be with high school boys and 18-25 year old men, shoplifting, drinking, smoking pot, popping pills, having sex, getting pregnant, being locked up in juvenile detention, skipping class, skipping school, getting kicked out of my parents house, and dating a man 7.5 years older than me. The hubs, was still drinking, smoking pot, and went on to snort coke, smoke crack, shooting up heroin, selling firearms to big shit drug dealers, moving from institution to institution.

How do I prevent my children from doing the shit I did? While, yes, my parents are what exposed me to drugs and alcohol, but they didn't introduce me to sex. In fact, when I did ask my mother at 6 years old, "how does a mommy get a baby in her belly?" I was told to go to my room. When I did ask my mother what sex was, I was grounded for a week. Maybe that's what did it to me? Maybe their fear of teaching me about sex, and honoring my body, and acting like it was a sin, was why I became so interested? Maybe, my parents addiction is why I started drinking and smoking weed so young? But how does that explain the hubs? His parents never did any drugs, yet he ended up strung out on dope by 14? How does that happen?

How do I get right and wrong through these kids' heads? How do I make it clear to them, that they can talk to me about anything? How do I get it through to them, that I will not judge or belittle them? That I won't make them feel stupid, or disgusting for asking? And then, how do I teach them to make the right decisions? Especially when both the hubs and I have made such awful ones?

Everyone always has the same answer, just keep talking to them. But how young is too young? When do I start? When I was Thomas' age I was hanging out with boys kissing behind houses. How do I talk to him, when he is still so little?

About a month ago, Thomas came into my room in the middle of the night wanting a drink or something. As like most nights, I was curled up with the hubs, with my head on his chest and my body wrapped around him. When my 5 year old came in, he asked if we were "doing sex". So is now the right time to talk to him about this? The parent in me says it's way too young to even think about starting to talk about these things. Then the still a child part of me, tells me to start talking, while I have my chance.
Back when I was pregnant with Bailey and Thomas asked how she got in my tummy, I explained to him that a man plants a seed inside a women. And that seed grows into a baby. Not a lie, exactly, but still not disturbing details. It was a good enough answer for him. But now the sex thing? When he asked, it was around 2 in the morning. I brought him into the living room, and asked him if he remembered how a baby got into a mommy's belly, which he did. So, I told him that sex was the way a man got the seed into the women, and that married couples have sex for two reasons, to make a baby and to share their love with each other. I don't know if it was the right answer. I don't know if it was too "mature" for him, or too "childish" for him. He seemed pleased with the answer, grabbed some water and went back to bed.

Now, I realize that his asking was just the tip of the iceberg. I have three children who are going to grow. And it is my responsibility to make sure they grow into good, honest, smart, self-confident people. It is my responsibility to teach them right from wrong. It is my responsibility to be the one to answer the embarrassing questions, not to shove them away to learn on their own.

But how, and when do I do this?

1 comment:

  1. I think your answer to Thomas was exactly the right way to go. Everyone I've ever read have said that you should never, ever NOT answer a question about sex, drugs, alcohol, and so forth; instead, you should always answer it truthfully -- even if you don't reveal all the intimate details -- and include your moral perspective on it (generally) so that they not only learn about it, but learn the attitude towards it.

    For instance, if you're having a glass of wine and the kid asks about it, instead of saying, "Don't worry about it" or "quit asking questions", the way you're supposed to answer is something like, "This is wine. It's a drink that only grown-ups drink sometimes. It's not for kids because it can hurt you if you have too much. Someday when you're older, you can have some, ok?"

    This is almost exactly the speech I gave my 3-year-old when he asked, and he was satisfied and happy with that. Same goes for the responses to sex, and I think you did it exactly right. They DO say not to think that 5 is too young to start talking about the basics, especially if they are curious, because you want to plant the right seeds in their heads from an early age as their brain forms, that way it's not a shock to their system.

    We plan on being very frank but age-appropriate to our kids. We'll talk to them about alcohol as if it's normal but has restrictions, sex as if it's normal but again, has restrictions, and drugs as if they're used by some but are not normal and are very bad for you. But we won't shy away from them, because then it only ignites the curiosity.

    If your kids know they can always come to you with a question and get an honest, accurate answer, they won't feel the need to go around you to get the information and not only will they learn it through you, you'll get the questions when they start thinking about experimentation or so forth as well because they know you're not going to shy away from it or be angry.



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