1/26/08

The Abstinence Teacher

Two words: BOR-RING! I mentioned in one of my previous blogs that this book was slow to start. Well, slow to start and even slower to end! I was left with a million unanswered questions and no real tie to any of the characters.

The title would lead you to believe that the story was about the teacher - wrong. While the teacher has a part in the story it more or less follows Tim, the born again Christian who coaches the teacher's daughter in soccer and "forces" her to pray. Ugh!

Ah well, nothing lost is nothing gained, right? Moving on to The Wedding as recommended by Nicki. I have always loved Nicholas Sparks' books so I am looking forward to this one. If you haven't read The Notebook it is too good to pass us. And if you have seen the movie, that doesn't count.

Back to the Abstinence Teacher though. As the title suggests, part of the story deals with a teacher teaching abstinence. It leads me into wondering what I do and do not want my children learning in school.

Of course, my little ones are still very young, abstinence isn't something I have to worry about quite yet. Although, kids are growing up quicker and quicker now. I know that it will be something I have to deal with soon enough.

We had a typical Health class in school. We were taught most everything. It was there that I saw my first condom and learned how to put it on a broomstick. I watched a movie that showed conception - from beginning to end. We learned about STDs and how to recognize and prevent them. And we learned abstinence and celibacy. I don't know that anything I learned in that class (full of people I didn't really associate with and pretty embarrassing the whole time) encouraged or discouraged me in one way or the other. I think this is what I want my kids to learn. Extremes are never a good thing. You can't teach all sex and you can't teach all abstinence - you need to meet in the middle.

My parents tell me that they had the "birds and the bees" talk with me and I have no reason to disbelieve them except that I have absolutely no knowledge of it whatsoever. I guess it was that mortifying. I must have blocked out every second of it (not the only kid who did, my younger brother Alex has no recollection either).

My mother, at least, was very open about sexuality. Well, open enough. We knew were never taught that sex was bad or dirty. However, abstinence was never taught either. Not that it would have changed this much had it been (or at least I don't believe it would have). And I'm not sure the word masturbation was ever discussed in my household. And I know that there was more than once I had to go to an older friend to find out what certain words meant (condom, virgin, etc).

During my first "serious" relationship my parents were going through their divorce. I found a legal pad on my father's desk on day with a list of things that he needed to talk to my mother about. One of those things was "talk to Erica about birth control". Little did they know that I didn't need to be talked to about it, I had already taken care of it on my own - not that it mattered much, that boy ended up being gay and, although he didn't reveal that until we were grown up, everything leading up to his coming out should have been a clue.

Nonetheless, my mother had that talk with me too. This one, much to my dismay, I remember. I remember feeling embarrassed and lying, through my teeth, telling her it wasn't necessary. I didn't have the heart to tell her I had a friend drive me to the local clinic over a month earlier to get the prescription. She had that same talk with me a little later in my life, when I was pregnant with Zachary...too late...not that she knew that either.

Once upon a time, Zachary asked me where babies came from. He was much younger, 4 or 5 and I didn't feel the need to get into all the nitty gritty. So, I told him that when a Mommy and Daddy loved each other very much their love created a baby. That satisfied him for the moment...I am bracing myself for the next time it comes up.

Recently Zachary giggled at the word sex. I don't know where he heard it (television I'm sure). I asked him what was so funny. I got the typical 7 year old boy answer: shoulder shrug, and a red faced "I don't know". So I asked him what he thought sex was and after a lot of prying I got "kissing and stuff". Good enough, I thought, but I wondered where he would get that. Television, I'm sure, again.

When Allyson was about 14 we talked about sex. Again at 15 and 16 and 17. It was always a little embarrassing for both of us, but it was important, so I kept doing it. I'm not sure how much of a difference it made since at 18 she is now a Mommy herself...

Abstinence is a funny thing. While I think that most parents want their children to be abstinent for their teenager years, how many of us believe it to be true? How many of us were abstinent through our teenage years?

I guess I would much rather that my children know the truth of the matter. Sex happens. Sex should be reserved for two people who love each other and when that happens it is a beautiful thing. Sex can lead to many things both scary and wonderful. Of course, STDs and pregnancy are always issues - not to mention the emotional havoc it can create with both parties.

I want my kids to wait. I want them to wait until they are old enough to accept the responsibilities that sex creates and to wait until they are in love. This is what my parents asked of me. Then I think: how does a child know these things? How does anyone know these things?

I remember talking to my guidance counselor about sex, saying I was thinking about it. He told me I shouldn't have sex until I could accept all the responsibilities. I told him that I could, except I wasn't ready to be a parent. He told me then I wasn't really ready. He was right.

So what's a parent to do? I can't lock them up until they are 30...or can I? I can't follow them on every date they have until they are married...although I believe that does happen in some cultures. I can't decide when they will get married (and to whom) and not allow any "courting" until then (although it seems to work well for some Muslims). I guess I just teach them what I believe, keep it honest and encourage them to "save themselves" for the right person.

Again with the handbook...where is mine? I think they forgot it when I took them from the hospital.

I guess it comes down to faith, and not the religious kind of faith. Faith that my children are going to make the right decisions. Faith that I have done a good job in raising them. Faith that they have a conscience and that they will follow it into most situations. Faith that they have a God of their own and that their God will watch over them.

No matter what "mistakes" I have made in my lifetime (sexual or otherwise) they have made me who I am today. My children will make mistakes and I will continue to make mistakes in raising them. All I can do is my best and pray for the rest to iron itself out.

Oy, it gets scarier everyday!

52 comments:

Nicki said...

I want him to know that there are choices he can make that will keep him safe, and choices that can put him at risk- for parenthood, for disease, for death. And that the only choice is the safe choice. There are many ways to be safe, and I will be happy with whichever one he chooses so long as he is happy and SAFE. Abstinence or safe sex, in the end it's his choice.

Cray and Bickford Family said...

You are absolutely right! My problem is doing everything within my power to make sure he makes the right choice...and in the end, that means I have very little power what so ever!

Jessi said...

I also think there is a fine line between prevention/education. I think the information needs to be completely age appropriate. For instance, when I evaluate my teens to determine if they are canidates for my substance groups, I need to look at who their peers are going to be in group. Am I going to put a 15-year-old, naive, marijuana smoker in with a 17-year-old, saavy, manipulating, cocaine user/dealer? No! That's a potential " negative/learning/mentoring/customer" relationship that could possibly form, and that can be so dangerous.

I think the same is true with teaching about "sexual health." I teach a weeklong course on this, and I call it sexual health, because I don't want to call it safe sex or absinence teaching... each have connotations.


In the end, how I usually sum it up (after I show a plethora of disgusting slides fully illustrating Sexually Transmitted Infections, make them use words like paraneium, scrotum and ejaculation, and I also have a supply of dental dams, female/male condoms that I pass around and make the kids handle.)I usually say if they are not mature enough to use those words then they should think twice about having sex... then I usually end with one last slide showing genital warts and ask if
"being too polite and shy to use protection is worth this."

What I suggest anyone do with their child, and keep in mind I am a therapist NOT A PARENT, but I find to be helpful to ask your child what they know instead of educating them... that way you can find out exactly where they are developmentally instead of laying it ALL out, and this also gives you the opportunity to see if they have any false information (like my kids still thought doubling up with condoms was safe, and that if you rinsed one out you could reuse it!!!! Oh the horror) That is something I would have never found out, or thought to bring up if I hadn't asked "Okay, so what do we know about using condoms?"

Just my two cents

Cray and Bickford Family said...

And your two cents is worth a lot here, Jessi! Perfect!

At 7, there isn't a whole lot I need to be discussing with him...but I am already terrified of the years to come!

I've discovered exactly what I need: MIND CONTROL! I'm just hoping it is invented by the time my little ones are teenagers :)

trashalou said...

Jessi? May I come move in with you???? Loving that thought about turning it around to find out what the child knows - d'oh! Makes obvious sense but how many of us do that?

I want to my children to learn more than the mechanical aspects of sex. If you do decide to 'do it' then it should be pleasurable. If you are mature enough to consider sexual activity then you should take the responsibilities as well as enjoyment. But mostly I guess I want them to be safe and healthy.

One big question for me is 'Where?' Do I let my children have their boy/girlfriends stay over? Would I rather they were safe upstairs than out in a field/park/back seat of a car?

Is it too late to ask for my children to have the 'growing up' gene switched waaaaay down low?

Heather said...

We have an extra "wrinkle" in the whole sex talk thing. While our kiddo is only five, being adopted means that the topic of conception and birth has an added layer to it. At this point, things are still very general and vague, but being adopted myself, I recall figuring out earlier than I think my parents would otherwise have liked their daughters to figure out that people Do Things at a Young Age and Unmarried. At least I have my own experience to guide me in talking to my own daughter...

Oh, the minefield that is parenting!

CanCan said...

Whew. It is really hard to think about my youngsters growing up. They are 4 and 1 right now.

I don't remember ever "not" knowing about sex ed type stuff. I don't know where I learned. Not from my parents.
We did have a health class kind of what you described, and I had to watch that awful video The Miracle of Life (ewww!..I'm still traumatized).

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

Yes, it does!

dddiva said...

What a healthy attitude- one I used with my kids.
Luckily, I think I did a fine job with them, mistakes and all.
My mom I also think did well telling me sex is better when you love each other- as a child born in the 60's I listened to and *got* this much more than I would have the whole you have to be married and blah blah blah speil.

What A Card said...

Oh boy, I haven't really thought about this much in terms of my 3 year old twins. Now I'm a bit scared :)

I love a reader...I'm looking at your "books to read" list and we have a lot of overlap, and have read some of the same books this year (The Glass Castle, Running with Scissors, Thinking in Pictures, The Time Traveler's Wife).

Shanda said...

Thanks for the reminder to keep the conversation going!

Mandy said...

I dread the day I have to face this with my boys. Dread it, I tell you.

Vicki said...

Today my post is questioning whether virginity is passe. How apropos!

I am an abstinance until marriage proponent. Doesn't mean I acted that way before I was married, but now that I have a stronger relationship with God I believe it's what He wants of us.

We have two daughters 6 and 1, and we continue to try to be open about everything with them. Sex hasn't come up yet, but marriage and kissing has. Our goal is to present sex through the eyes of God (which still is very wonderful and sexy) and pray that they, with the responsibility we're slowly teaching them (and letting them experience, and reap the consequences of the lack thereof), will make the right decisions.

That being said, there's no way we can control their actions when they're not around us.

Creative Junkie said...

Ugh. I've had the talk with my eldest daughter several times now, so much so that she has that deer in the headlights stare when I tell her I need to talk to her about something.

I haven't had the talk with my youngest yet and since she's only eight, I hope I've got a little bit more time before I need to inform her of the ways of the world.

Mekhismom said...

This is a great post. I will assume you are a bit younger than me because a condom in a broomstick in the classroom? Unheard of when I was growing up but it is good news to me to hear that this is going on.

Brenda Jean said...

GREAT post! My boys are 14 and 15-- we've talked about it for awhile now. I graduated in 1978 and we had "health" class but basically no information like they have today. Last year my son had real sex ed and they played an STD game that seemed to really help explain how it all works and why it's a risk--

It's scary and I worry, but like you, I can only hope we've taught them well:)

Melodie said...

I generally have the same attitude with my girls. They know that I want them to remain abstinent for as long as possible. But they also know that they can talk to me about anything and I will be honest with them. I do not want my daughter to come home pregnant because she was afraid to tell me that she wanted to have sex and didn't protect herself.

thotlady said...

I think parents have to teach their children the morals and values they want them to have and then to model those values.

In other words...practice what we preach.

verygoodyear said...

Just a digression into US politics for a moment and remember that this election is HUGE in terms of sex education for your children -- so get out there and vote on Nov 4th!

Tracy P. said...

Wow, great discussion here. My 9 year old asked me how he and his sister got dad's genes this summer. Great question! I told him I needed to think about how to answer that one. He later concluded himself that it was through kissing. Gotta figure out where to go with that! And sooner than later.

My faith also leads me to the belief that abstinence until marriage is God's way. I lived it (married at 35), and would contend that rather than it being what God asks of us, it's the beautiful gift he OFFERS us.

Melissa Lester said...

I agree with Tracy P.'s comment before mine. I believe in abstinence before marriage as part of God's plan for us and hope I can teach my children that sex is a beautiful gift to save for your spouse. And that they are valuable and worth the wait.

I heard some startling statistics about kids having sex, worrisome because they revealed that kids who have sex these days have lots of it and many partners. The author said this is a shift from our generation where a girlfriend and boyfriend might "make a mistake in the back seat of a car."

I think it's easier to keep abstinent teens abstinent than to reign in teens with a lot of sexual experience. But those kids need to know that they are valuable also and worth waiting for, even if they have made some choices they aren't proud of.

My oldest child is 9 and hasn't asked yet about sex, but I have really had to practice to get comfortable talking about it. My pediatrician chided me when my oldest was 2 that my embarrassment over giving names to bodily functions was really hindering potty training. So I have really had to work at being open about sex. I got some practice when asked to address a group of several hundred high school girls, and I felt pretty comfortable talking about it by time of the event. Then my in-laws showed up to listen. So now that I have talked about sex in front of my MIL and FIL, I think I'll do just fine talking about it with my children!

Ronnica said...

I will be teaching my children (when I have them) abstinance until marriage, but will also make them aware about contraception as they are older (so that if a friend asks/says something, they know what they are talking about). It's what I'm living out now, as I'm unmarried.

I have had an opportunity to talk about teenage pregnancy with some preteen girls at church (they brought it up, not me). It took everything I had within me not to squash the conversation, but I think it is an important topic to talk about at church, otherwise we're sending signals that God has nothing to do with sex or that sex in all contexts is dirty/sinful. I just made sure that they didn't go anywhere that wasn't age appropriate.

Cheasty said...

yeah, you can't lock them up. just arm them with information and support!

Jenni said...

I agree with waiting for marriage. But in the mean time I think it is a delicate subject that needs discussion. And at no time should sex be called wrong and dirty. It is something that is worth waiting for--that is better when waited for. I have to say, when it's driven into you mind that it is wrong, that is hard to get over.

tanyaross said...

my post yesterday on my own blog was re: chastity; how timely! my kids are still very young (eldest is not quite 8), but I'm already thinking about HOW to teach them what we want them to learn (the *value* of abstinence, not just the mechanics) w/o scaring them, making light of a serious subject, etc. great post, thx for sharing! :) ~~T

Rhea said...

I've had a talk with my 11 year old who just started middle school about puberty and such, and he gets so embarrassed. But, I still talk because I know it's important he hears it all.

I also bought some books on puberty and sexuality for him to read in the bathroom.

Knowledge is important, no matter what you believe or want for your kids. The more they know, the better, about STDs, birth control and such.

Mama Dawg said...

I hear ya on this. I didn't get a say in the matter when it came to losing my virginity (date rape) so I can't speak from experience when it comes to the best time to do it for the first time.

I wish I would have had the option, but I didn't.

I've already had the sex talk with my daughter (she was 6 when she asked about it). I told her the mechanics and then told her that I recommend she not start until she's ready to accept full responsibility for her actions. I couldn't in all honesty tell her to wait til she was married. Even w/out my unfortunate circumstances, I don't think I would have waited that long.

I guess GOOD communication is the key.

Keep it up.

Felicia Eis said...

I agree with waiting until marriage because that is what I did. That is what i will be teaching my daughter.

Karen said...

Kids will do what they want, but what we as parents teach is very powerful. I listened to my parents. I didn't have sex until my husband. I am also very glad and relieved that I don't have to "worry" about the what if's.
There are schools out there that teach gay couples are OK so what is wrong with teaching abstinence. It is ultimately a more physically and emotionally safer route for everyone.

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

Happy SITS day!

The way I am going to do the talk, when the time comes, is to direct it in the way I WISH my mom would have done it with me. She did pretty much zilch. But I think just an open line of communication is important, and making sure they know that you aren't going to judge them. And, making sure that they know if they talk honestly to you, you won't punish them no matter what. I think all kids fear punishment most.

Peggy said...

I told my teenagers that sex is a wedding present from God and is to be "opened" on the wedding night. We need to instruct and pray that they listen.

When one of my daughters was 4 she asked me about sex, and asked if it was true that you have to have sex to have a baby. I said yes. She said, "you've had sex 3 times!" I said, "at least".

The real kicker was when my son asked about sex. I told him God gave it to husbands and wives for enjoyment. He asked "You mean you LIKE to do it???" He was shocked and grossed out. He got over it.

Swirl Girl said...

I vote for locking them up!

Becky :) said...

As you said in your post, I don't clearly remember either one of my parents ever having the sex talk with me or even explaining what my body would be going through when puberty hit me. I remember learning stuff in elementary school but then it was all laughs. I didn't get sex ed again until health class my sophmore year of high school. Unfortunately at that point it was to late, I was already pregnant. I became a Mom at 16. I started having the puberty and sex talk with my daughter at age 9 because she was already going through puberty. I am very open with her and I believe that is one of the reasons that she at 17 is not a mom and thankfully I am not a grandma. Cuz I'm to young for that. She can't tell her father anything and I think that is very sad. But she tells me everything and thats what counts. My fiance has had the birds and the bees talk with my son who is 10 just recently because he had his first health class last year. We wanted to make sure that he knew he could always come to us. I think it worked because he still asks me detailed questions that I'm still learning to answer. Boys are so different than girls.
Side note, I am a HUGE Nicholas Sparks fan and have read all of his books. He sorta grew up here in my hometown and his brother still lives here. Can't wait for his new movie to come out this month plus a new book.

EmBee said...

Making sure your kids develop a strong sense of self-respect seems to be a key factor in helping kids think more carefully before they give up their virginity or sleep around.

Also helping the individual understand that just because something feels good at the moment doesn't mean they'll feel good about it later.

Hairline Fracture said...

Great post. I do worry sometimes about the choices my kids face because I WAS the good girl who chose abstinence until I met my husband--and I am glad I waited until I was really ready for the responsibilities (heck, I wasn't ready to have kids until I was 28!) However, I know I can't expect my kids to do the same thing automatically--it will be their choice and I have to educate them on both sides of the issue while still conveying my values to them in a positive way. Thanks for the food for thought!

wendy said...

Wow. What a GREAT post. The Boy is 10 and The Girl is 9...both having birthdays soon. I know it is time to talk to The Girl about periods and such but I look at her and think "She's still so young!" She is...I was a lot older when I started my period and I keep hoping she'll be almost as old as I was (even though it freaked me out to be such a late bloomer).

I gained a lot from this post. We have always tried to be open with our kids and I hope they will always come to us with ALL their questions...sex included.

Happy SITS day!

Party of 5 said...

A very imporortant topic. I know we have to finally get to it. Kids now a days start younger and younger. *sigh* good thing my oldest is a boy and for now he still thinks girl's are gross or only good enough to be friends with.

Happy SITS day.

mrsmouthy said...

A broomstick? Now that's just not fair to all those junior high boys with their junior high-sized manhood...

Kaza said...

This post is making me glad my kiddo is only 3!

Angie's Spot said...

Communication is vital and information is power. Great post! And congrats on your SITS day!

Michelle said...

See, this is why I want a pause button for my wee ones. They can only get to a certain age (and they're nearly there) and then no more. I SOOOOOO don't look forward to this stage.

mrsbear said...

I agree with you. Kids need to be informed. Ultimately they'll make their own decisions regarding sexuality, hopefully all the talking we do can help guide them in making responsible choices.

Jenni @ nest to keep said...

I believe in abstinence until marriage. It was the hardest thing my husband and I ever had to do~ or rather, NOT do~ but I am so glad now that we both waited for each other. I believe that God gives us a way we can go that will keep us safe, but free will to decide what we will do with that.

I guess I see it differently~ instead of seeing it like a bunch of rules meant to get in my way of doing what I want, I believe that as the One Who made me, He knows how things work best, what will hurt me, what will keep me safe and healthy.

We are going to teach our children that sex is such a precious gift, that you wait to give it to the one you love so much, you commit to spending the rest of your life with.

Melanie said...

We have to inform them, teach them what we believe and also teach them how to be safe. Then just hope that they can make the right decision from what you have given them. Great post!!

Karen said...

Great post !!!

My philosophy is ... prepare them, teach them to be safe, let them know that the ideal thing would be to wait and if they don't and the earth falls, then be there for them, unconditionally...

Rela Pantaleon-Manigsaca said...

When I have children, I would like to teach them to save themselves for marriage in order to honor God with their bodies. I have no idea how to do it yet but I'm sure I will find out when I need it.

Meanwhile, watching the Notebook movie does not count? I love the way the story is told and the ending when you realize that they ended up together!

Sunshine said...

My girlies are 7 and 5, so though I know (hope, pray, cross my fingers and toes) that we have a smidge of time to figure out what we're gonna say...I hope we'll be honest. That's worked so far. We had the big discussion of death come up early on and we were honest and our faith played a huge part in it. I know our faith will play a huge part in the sex discussion too.

BUT, we'll be truthful, and educate them on both sides of the coins, cuz THIS IS REAL LIFE. I'm not that old, that I don't remember my own teen years.

We'll bring in the faith part, Google, refer back to this blog post, and make a stop to the library and bring back LOTS of books. With pictures. Mostly I hope not to scare the crap out of them, but also...to scare the crap out of them.

Laurel said...

Thoughtful. Oh towing that line between teaching them what I believe is in their best interests but making them know that they are loved and secure even if they make poor choices.

I always got the "talks" in the car when I was captive. Hated that.

Maternal Mirth said...

Great post ... being raised by a sex ed teacher, I had an EXCELLENT go-to person:

http://maternalmirth.blogspot.com/2007/07/irreverent-giggles-and-misinformation.html

Traci said...

Okay, condoms on a brookstick...that is a new one!!! My son is almost 14 and I hate to even think about having "the talk" with him..uggghhhh.

Elizabeth said...

You're right, kids need to be taught that extremes in any area are foolish. I am a middle school teacher and our curriculum completely did away w/ any sex ed until they get to 9th grade, and then it will only be abstinence. No STDs, etc.
The more you talk about it, the more it will take root, the same with the drug talk.

Elizabeth said...

I totally agree with embee's comment that a lot of the decision making comes down to self-respect and self-worth. The kids I know that are having sex at 14, etc. are girls w/ low self-esteem and boys looking to prove their manliness.
The stories of these sex parties are true, also. When kids hit middle school, many moms return to the work force and an empty house is a great temptation. Be sure your kids are in after school activities, or if you are an at home parent, make your house the hang out!