How do we get The Talk right?
I was having coffee with a mom friend of mine and the subject of sex and chastity came up. Her son is 12 and Gabe is 10 and Kate is 8 and while she’s early for all this, some of her girlfriends are wearing bras.
So far, we’ve covered just the facts, ma’am, with both of our older kids. I wish I had a camera when I told Kate the proper names for her parts. Her face. I pulled over, I was laughing so hard, but I have to agree with her here. We could have found more user-friendly names.
Or maybe that was the point.
Anyway, I was saying that the facts were enough for now. And maybe moving to side hugs for a few years, since the boys are face-to-boob-level now. My friend told me that in 6th grade, our Catholic school runs a sex education program with an emphasis on chastity. It has led to some awesome conversations with her son. As of this moment, she reports that he is holding out for marriage with one eye on maybe becoming a priest. Solid.
“But, Jen” she said. “When I was his age I thought the same thing! I’m still worried about when the hormones kick in. What do we say then?”
I think we all know what we don’t say. We don’t say “Because I said so” or “Because God said so”. Teenagers are naturally programmed for rebellion. Ultimatums are a bad idea.
We don’t threaten hell or excommunication from the family or church. How many times has fear of family reaction driven pregnant 16 year olds to abortion clinics? The life of my grandchild and the mental health of my child are worth far more than my need to be obeyed.
And we don’t tell them “Don’t do it. But if you’re going to do it, be safe.” Or we do, and accept that we’ve given permission to carry on.
My friend told me that another friend tells her kids what the church believes about chastity, love, marriage and children. (I did some research and found a wonderful resource here at National Catholic Register, written by Simcha Fisher)
Then she cut me side eye. “Although,” she said, “that may or may not have worked for me.”
It may or may not have worked for me either.
I had to think about why that was.
My young perception was that God lived at church, up on that cross. I heard all the reasoning about why chastity was important and I believed that God loved me. But when I started making dodgy decisions, I just stopped hanging out with him. Then I didn’t have to feel guilty. And if I wasn’t honoring Him, he surely wasn’t going to come looking for me.
Which is all wrong.
Would my behavior have been different if I knew that he was there with me? If I had a more rich prayer life where I listened as much as I talked? Where I trusted He had a plan for me that was greater than any plan I had for myself?
It’s hard to know for sure, but I will say this—for a long time in my young adult life, it was my MO to do things the hard way. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
So this is my new goal, as my babies turn into tweens.
TO LOCK THEM IN THE BASEMENT.
TO GET A MONTHLY DELIVERY OF KETTEL ONE FROM AMAZON PRIME.
To teach them what a give and take, talk and listen, love and be loved relationship with God looks like. To pray out loud, to model patience and to talk about how my prayers are answered. To make sure they know that God is on that cross but He will get down and come after us if we walk away. He will get down and walk next to us in the darkness when we need him, before we know we need him.
In the darkness. Like of a dorm room or the backseat of a car.