Sam Harith has The Talk with his little girl and comes away with a revelation.
The other day I was talking to my four-year-old daughter. She asked me where babies come from. Here came the awkward moment when all fathers realise that they need to have The Talk with their children. Clearing my throat, I stated in no uncertain terms that, my dear, babies come from vaginas. The look of shock on her face I will never forget. Halfway through the discussion, as I was explaining how the vagina can squeeze a whole baby out, she was covering her ears. When I was done, she looked at me with those big brown eyes and said, “But I thought babies come from the butt, you poo-poo them out.” Eventually I corrected her, but I would hear from a relative later that she told an elder cousin that poo-poo comes from the vagina. Needless to say, I gave myself a double facepalm. My intent to educate my daughter on reproduction had failed. But I suppose not all is lost as I have made the difficult first step to attempt to educate her on the functions of her vagina. Certainly not an easy task for a single dad to do.
Which, of course, brings us to the topic of sex education. Yes, you can cover your ears, close your eyes, run away and hide under a huge coconut shell, but the time will come when your children will ask you that $ 1 million question: “Where do babies come from?”. And quite frankly, telling them that storks deliver them is so out of fashion. So what do we as parents do when that time arrives? Do we try to shift the onus of explanation to our partner (for those of us fortunate enough to still have partners), or do we try to deflect the question, hoping that our education system will teach them all they have to know?
(Good luck with that.)I was fortunate enough to have parents who educated me on reproduction when I was five years old. They bought a picture book for me, complete with accurate drawings of the human anatomy (the bits that matter anyway) and a cute little story about a family getting a new baby. I still remember reading the book with my parents and my mother using terms like ‘sperm’ and ‘ejaculate’ and how I should not latter the former when, in the future, I am having sex with a female (I wouldn’t be able to put that advice into practice for another 14 years).
Growing up, I remember being more sexually mature than other boys my age. When I was 12, I remember having a friend who insisted that babies were crapped out in public toilets, which of course is partially true given the number of babies found dead in public toilets, I suppose (an unfortunate tragedy which could be prevented with sexual education). Needless to say I corrected his assumptions, backed up with some scientific evidence. When I was in high school, I was disappointed by the lack of more detailed and graphic information about sexual relations in science class. I mean, sure, I know that when the sperm hits the egg, boom, a baby is born, but what about the other side effects of sex? The potential health hazards, the emotional/psychological impact, the social implications of sexual relations, etc.? None of these topics were covered anywhere.
So even though I had a good understanding of the physical act of sex and why two people are motivated to have sex, I had no idea as to the mental and social impact that having sex with another person could mean. Like many teenage boys, I turned to pornography as a source of education and inspiration for sexual relations.
Of course, looking back I can see very clearly that what is portrayed in pornography is not the least bit true. No, men are usually not that ripped and well-endowed. No, women are not usually that enthusiastic about having a sweaty body between their legs, and no, they don’t usually like getting it splattered all over their face. But to a teenager who has no better access to sexual education, this is what serves as our primary and only means of knowing what sexual relations is all about. Boys are led to believe that sex is the real measure of manliness and girls are led to believe that sex is a means of getting boys to like you.
When I finally did it for the first time, I knew what I was doing but I was not prepared for the emotional shift that would occur afterwards. Having sex changes you. All of a sudden, you are not a child anymore — you have committed a carnal act of pleasure with another human being. I clearly remember there being tears, and words of comfort had to be exchanged. Fortunately for my partner at that time, I was smart enough to know how to use condoms. Eventually I would do my own research on birth control pills and get her to take them. Not that it stopped us from getting pregnancy scares, but at least we never had to deal with any unwanted pregnancies, and thanks to the fact that we were both first-timers and monogamous after, STDs were never a concern, something which I also checked out. So while we were, as a couple, prepared for the physical implications of sex, both of us were still clueless as to the impact that sex had left upon our psyche.
It took me many years and a failed marriage to eventually realize that sex means different things to different people. Some see it as a purely physical act, some see it is a chore and some, like me, see it as a crucial element of any stable relationship. After many years with my partner, sex did not hold the same thrill as it did for her back then. I, being unaware of how my partner viewed sex, still thought that as long as we were in a relationship, sex was a given. This would lead to many conflicts and unresolved issues between us. It was only after the separation that I realized she had a different view of sex than I did. In fact, it was only after seven years of being sexually active that I realized that sex is more than just a physical urge to be intimate with someone — it is actually an act which involves your entire being, physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual (which explains why some religions like Islam and Hinduism pay so much attention to it).
Now, how does this impact our children? How can we use this knowledge to ensure that they don’t suffer the same pains we did in our journey of sexual self-discovery?
The answer is simple: Sexual education begins at home.
First of all, we need to separate sex from the crude, lewd image that we are used to seeing all around us. If we can accept the fact that sex is indeed a normal part of life and we can admit to ourselves that, yes, our children will be having sex one day, we will be able to negotiate our mental barriers and take that difficult first step in reaching out to our children and educating them about sex. Teach your children as much as you know about sex, its physical nature, the emotions associated with it and the mental maturity required to engage in it. Educate them so that they will know. Sex can be a treacherous path and only with good knowledge can our children avoid getting themselves hurt once they take this path. Of course, we as parents may not be well-educated on sex ourselves, so we need to do our own research, find a good book on sexual education, or google up some legitimate sexual education websites like mayoclinic.com or plannedparenthood.org.
When should you start educating your child about sex? Only you know best. Each one of us has had different sexual experiences and no two of us will have a similar set of experiences. It is good for us to come clean with our children on our personal experiences, in the hopes that they can learn from them and avoid the mistakes we had made in the past. If you truly feel any remorse or regret about your actions in the past, then the best way to make up for it is to make sure your children don’t make the same mistakes.
Remember that we can’t trust the education system to teach them, we can’t trust their friends to teach them and we certainly cannot trust them to teach themselves. The best person who can educate them is their parents, and it falls upon us to ensure that our children grow up into healthy, happy, sexually confident individuals.
Featured image sourced from eHow.com