A few years ago, while all of our children were still pretty small, my wife and I made the decision to try to be as open as possible with our kids about the topic of sex whenever they were old enough to talk about it.
When my oldest finally reached the age to ask about where babies come from, he and I sat down and had an honest conversation about it. It would not be until my son reached junior high that I realized just how comfortable we’d made him feel about talking to us about anything.
We discovered this while driving to baseball practice, when my son, who was in 6th grade at the time, piped up from the back seat.
“Dad, why do they make flavored condoms? ”
Upon this question, my wife covered her mouth to stifle a laugh and shot me a look that said, You’re on your own for this one, buddy.
“Dad? Dad? Are you okay?“
“Yeah, I hear you son.”
Around this time, my son had recently completed a sex-ed class at school; the administration had helpfully provided the parents with the entire curriculum ahead of time, and though my wife and I had looked it over completely, I don’t recall seeing anything in there about flavored condoms. Where was this coming from?
After deciding against faking a seizure and crashing the vehicle, I decided to take a couple deep breaths and accept the challenge.
“Ahem, well, son, uh, in your class at school, I didn’t think they talked to you about oral sex?“
“They didn’t,” he said. “What’s oral sex?“
You’ve got to be kidding me! I thought. What I said was, “Where did you hear about flavored condoms?“
”A girl at my school said she saw them once at a store.”
“I see. Well, son, you know how sex is for when you get married right?“
“Well, sometimes when people have sex… uh… sometimes they like to kiss each other… down… there.“
“Really?! That’s disgusting!“
“Well, actually…” I started to say before my wife punched me in the arm. “I mean, YEAH. Yeah. Weird, huh?“
“Yeah, who would ever like that?“
“HEY! Look at that, we’re here! Have a good practice!“
As my son started toward the field, he looked back at us with a grin on his face and yelled, ”Thanks for the pep talk!” leaving my wife and I sitting mortified in the parking lot.
After this awkward ordeal, we realized the only ones who felt uncomfortable during this conversation were my wife and me. I couldn’t tell if I felt discouraged that I had to have this conversation with a 12-year-old, or encouraged that he would be so willing to talk to us about these things.
I decided to choose the latter and in the end learned a great lesson: if we treat our kids with respect, openly and honestly, and provide a forum for them to be heard, they will talk to you. And hopefully keep talking.