When I was 8, my mom handed me a book called Not About Birds. It was, as you can guess, about Birds and Bees, with capitals, and that was the last we talked about it for 20 years. My children, much to their embarrassment, have grown up in a different house. This causes immense joy for strangers, who have learned their own gender when my children point out, in childlike innocence, what gender-specific body parts said strangers have. This education usually occurs in the grocery store where we then get to pretend we don’t see each other while walking up and down the aisles. Here’s how many of those conversations looked:
3 year old (in a loud 3-year-old voice): Mom, that man has a penis.
3 year old (pointing at the grey-haired woman shooting daggers out of her eyes): And that woman has a ‘gina.
3 year old (selecting someone who is probably named Pat. Or Chris.): Is that a man or a woman over there?
Me: No clue. But let’s not ask. Some people get tetchy about these things.
I recently had an opportunity to talk about sex, this time with my newly-minted adult child. She’s 18 and thought she was immune, but she lives in our house, eats food that we buy, and leaves doors open to heat the outside world, so she has to endure moments like this. I’m a mom. It’s what I do.
Me: Newly-minted adult, we need to have the sex talk.
NMA: Um, mom, we had that talk when I was 3.
Me: Right, and I probably should have held off a bit because it really upset the neighbors, but we have other things to talk about now that you’re, like, 18 and stuff.
NMA (Deer in headlight look): Okay….
Me: We expect you to be celibate.
Me: And, even though you’re on birth control, it isn’t foolproof.
NMA (Looking for a way out of the room): Yup, got it.
Me: Also, our insurance doesn’t cover maternity for you.
NMA (A bit more interested but still edging away): It doesn’t?
Me: No. So, if you get pregnant, all of the very expensive medical bills will come out of your education fund.
Me: And, having a baby is life-altering. You would have to decide whether or not to keep the baby. And if you decide to keep the baby, you can’t count on our help. Because it would drastically interfere with our plans to move to Scotland.
NMA: Ok. Thank you for not having this conversation in front of my boyfriend.
Me: You’re welcome. (Calling after her as she runs down the hall) Can I Facebook about it?
She didn’t answer the last question, which I take as tacit agreement. After all, she drives our car with gas that we pay for.
Point is this: it’s a different world and I worry about different things than my mother did. Do I want my 18 year old to have sex? No. I think 18 year olds don’t have all the synapses popping in their brains and they aren’t ready to deal with the physical and emotional repercussions of intimacy. Not to mention the mess. Because, ew. Besides, sex with a teenage boy is not going to be the Hollywood dream Netflix wants them to think it is, and I try to shield my children from traumatic events like that.
Do I think my 18 year old will remain celibate until she’s married? Eh. Maybe. She’s pretty good at self-control. On the other hand, she’s human, so there’s that. I’ll let you in on a little secret (don’t tell my kids): I don’t think having sex before marriage will break her. However, it will alter her. Especially if she gets pregnant. Not because there’s the same horrific “lost woman” stigma that even my very-old generation experienced, but because kids are expensive. Whether she keeps the baby or not, it comes with a cost, and that cost has to be born by the ones who had the 30 seconds of fun getting pregnant (teenagers, remember). So, my husband and I thought it was only fair to let her know ahead of time what issues she would face. And, since I won the “rock paper scissors” game, I got to have the conversation.
Sometimes, being a mom is the greatest thing in the world.