That’s got you reading, hasn’t it and before you spend time awaiting titillation it’s not an R or 18 rated post.
Kristen Ploetz blogs at Little Lodestar and recently discussed her latest parenting dilemma. How much and when do you explain stuff to an enquiring young mind? You want to protect them and preserve their innocence while preparing them for the great out there. Her specific dilemma was around 9/11 and her post is a beautifully described summation of the worries all parents have.
For me it brought back many memories but, as I told Kristen, the one that leapt out was about sex. Stop sniggering at the back…
Back in the 60s and 70s when I was at an age to have sex explained it wasn’t. Nothing. Not a bird or a bee. School was meant to deal with the mechanics at least but the school I attended at 11 had sex education programmed for 12 and the school I joined at 12 had ticked that box at 11.
It meant that my information was sourced solely from scout camp and guess work and one afternoon at a friend’s house when we found a copy of his parent’s Karma Sutra. In the twenty minutes we had before we were caught, I didn’t learn much and what I did confused me mightily.
At 14, I was treated to an extraordinary morning at school; my class was made to watch a cartoon film about venereal disease. Odd, when you think about it. I had the vaguest ideas about sex yet here I was having explained, in detail, some of the associated dangers.
I suppose I hoped a by-product might be some of the sex education I had missed, a sanitised Joy of Sex, but nothing of the sort. The Ministry of Health had commissioned a moron to make the film. With a voice over from an out of work radio announcer who droned on and on, we watched ghostly and full dressed figures pass each other in the street. The carrier had green cross-hatching across his or her (I can’t say I remember the gender) groin. Once the carrier passed another person, maybe a jolly plumber or lady in a housecoat, the green cross-hatching transferred to them. It was utterly absorbing. I have no idea whether the commentator was explaining you actually needed some sort of contact for the disease to spread; so far as we were concerned VD was so powerful as to penetrate clothing, the only good news being you could avoid it by making sure you didn’t pass anyone with green cross hatching on their privates. So we school kids in rural South Hampshire in the early 1970s added groin-level cross hatching to black cats and propped ladders as things whose paths you didn’t cross.
Happily we never saw anyone so afflicted though for a period around 1971 the staff at school wondered at a spate of green hatching appearing on posters and in school books. I vaguely remember Henry VIII being a favourite victim.
This lack of coherence to my sex education meant that making sure my children were properly educated featured high on the list of mistakes not to be repeated.
We, the Textiliste and I agreed that, when we felt the time was right, we would make sure we provided an explanation that was both comprehensible and comprehensive (bearing in mind the age of the listener) and that it covered both mechanics and emotion.
The unanswered six million zloty question was, of course, when would that moment occur.
Imagine the scene: the Textiliste is driving the Lawyer, aged about 8 or 9, and his best friend to some event. The boys are in high spirits and barely remember mother is driving. The giggling in the back draws the Textiliste’s attention. The boys are talking about something sex related; the Lawyer’s best friend has older siblings, a sure recipe for misinformation. Remembering our conversation, and believing what she’s heard is liable to cause later confusion if not corrected, she finds an appropriate moment a little later to probe the Lawyer on his understanding. Gently and subtly she teases out an explanation of which she is justly quite proud. The Lawyer, not one for lengthy contemplation of serious topics, remains spellbound.
‘So does that make sense?’
A question mark hangs over the Lawyer’s head. He takes his time to frame his questions. He has two.
Does it go on very long?
Does it tickle?
Clearly education beats ignorance hands down.
How did you address this notoriously difficult topic? Or your parents? Or were there others that caused you more problems?