Do You Answer Your Tween's Sex Questions?

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I was at a neighborhood cookout over the weekend, and ended up in the kitchen with a bunch of moms. We all had kids in the pre-teen and under range, and as moms are wont to do, we were swapping stories and laughing at our kids and ourselves.

Sooner or later, the talk turned to how quickly they all grow up. One of the mothers, whom I know to be fairly liberal and open-minded, told us how shocked she was when her 12-year-old daughter asked her about a certain sex act. "Oh my God!" One of the other mothers said, "What did you tell her?" My friend, the open-minded mom, replied, "I told her she shouldn't be asking about that stuff."

That led to another mother regaling us with the tale of her 12-year-old son, who used the facilities at a service station and told her afterward that there were condoms in the bathroom.

"I didn't know if he was just reading the word," she said, breathlessly, "or if he really knew what they were. So I told him I didn't know what they were and asked him what he thought they might be for."

"And what did he say?" The other mothers were hanging on her words, waiting.

"He knew exactly what they were for! His friend had told him in fourth grade! Can you believe it?"

Which way to go...

Yes, I can believe it.

What I find hard to believe is that there are mothers who (a) get freaked out when their pre-teen kids come to them with questions of a sexual nature, and (b) dismiss them or lie to them instead of answering their questions.

Maybe there's something wrong with me. If my Anna (who is 11) came to me with a question of that sort (and she has already, believe me), I would tell her the truth. I wouldn't go into great, vivid detail, mind you. She asked me once about a certain sexual act and my answer was quite clinical: just a this-goes-here-and-that-goes-there and "some people like to do that with each other in bed" kind of explanation. She didn't need any more than that, judging by her facial expression.

It wouldn't occur to me to lie to her, or tell her she shouldn't be asking. Not telling her the truth only sets me up as being woefully naive in her eyes, or deliberately lying to her, neither of which is going to make her want to ask me about anything else of this nature in the future. Dismissing her will do the same. And if she can't or won't trust me for the information, where is she going to go?

And I assure you, she will go. She will find the answer, because she wants the answer, and the answer is out there. Unfortunately, so is a lot of misinformation. Would I rather her get those answers from me? Or via a dozen websites from God-knows-where and a dozen badly informed friends who heard it from a friend of a friend who has an older brother who knows what's what?

I want my daughter to feel like she can drop absolutely any subject in my lap, and I'll respond with truth. There's a caveat to that, though. I will respond with my truth, and I think that's where the parenting part of this equation comes in.

I have a vivid memory of coming home from school in the seventh grade with my paperwork for junior high health class. We would be talking about sex, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in a very clinical setting, and having peer discussions about it all during class.

My Mother was aghast. As a staunch Southern Baptist, she firmly believed that the only person who should be talking to her daughter about sex in any form would be her, or her daughter's future husband. After the wedding, of course. So she called the school and told them I would not be participating.

Before you think this is a rant about ultra-conservative moms, I assure you it's not. My Mom had a perfect right to enforce the courage of her convictions. That's what mothers do, and ought to do, to a degree.

She said not one word to me about the subject of sex until I was sixteen. She made me watch an ABC after school special entitled, My Mom's Having A Baby which actually told kids where babies come from. When it was over, she asked if I had any questions. I said no and got out of the room as fast as I could. I never told her that I'd known where babies came from since the second grade. I didn't tell her that my friend gave me her book from health class in seventh grade so I could read it anyway. I never told her that sometimes when I had a sex question, I went to the library in town and looked up the answer in an encyclopedia. It would have only made her mad and besides, she obviously didn't know anything about sex anyway, despite having three kids of her own.


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