I always wanted an open relationship with my children so that when they got to be teens they could come to me about anything. ANYTHING! And so far….. they have. Do they talk to me about drugs? yes! Do they talk to me about sex? Absolutely!! masturbation? Yep, that too. There really isn’t a topic that is “off-limits”, and I don’t think that there should be. I may not always answer a question if it is too personal, but they are always free to ask. I answer them honestly and matter of factly. Is this how parenting should be? By being open about these issues, does it diminish my authority as a parent? I don’t think so……My daughter often tells me that I am her Best Friend because she can tell me anything. Can we be our children’s “friends’ and still be “the parent”? Or am I setting myself up for difficult times ahead?
The road to open communication wasn’t an easy one at first. In fact, it was downright embarrassing at times. It seems my oldest two never failed to find the most inappropriate times to ask me questions about sex or repeat things they had heard…. Like when my oldest son was in the grocery store. I had given him some lunch meat to put in the basket. He then started dancing and hitting the lunch meat, saying “Mom……. Look at me! I’m Spanking the Meat!!” I think my husband and I turned 10 different shades of red then purple, as all those around us either stared horrified or giggled behind their hands.
I had always told myself that when the time came I would just answer the questions truthfully, and age appropriate. I wouldn’t use “safe words” for their body parts, like “nether region” or “private parts” but call them by their name….. Vagina and Penis. But when the dreaded questions came, it wasn’t quite so easy to do. I found myself getting embarrassed, flustered, and hesitating before saying anything. I knew that me being uncomfortable would make them think they were doing something wrong, and that is NOT what I wanted….So I managed to suck it up, and learned to answer them directly.
My oldest was the one to “break us in” and start the preparations for us to have “the talk”. One evening after his bath he wanted to know what those “marbles” were for….this was phase one of the preparation. At this time I was a single mom, and for the first time I really wished that I had someone to refer to. Like a deer caught in a headlight, I froze, rapidly trying to think of an age appropriate answer. I failed. He was still fairly young, so a simple “that’s the way God made you” worked, but I knew that I had gotten off easy, and it would not be long when answers like that wouldn’t work anymore… A year or two later the day came for “The Talk”. Afterwards I felt that I had run a marathon, I had been so tense during the discussion. It was a very short conversation, and we didn’t go into great detail. At the end he was like …..”ok…..” then ran off to go play. I on the other hand felt like I needed a hug.
Over time the conversations have gotten easier. Thats not saying that things don’t still get a little uncomfortable, but I don’t embarrass easy anymore. Most of the questions come from movies they have seen, or phrases they have heard others say. Discussing sex is easier when they are older…..it is still difficult with the younger two. Having gone through it with my older two, you would think that I would be a pro with my younger ones. The previous experience has definitely helped. But…..the first time always gets me. When my youngest son asked me “Why he had “marshmallows” down there” ….. I passed him off to my husband and let him have that first discussion…
Recently, during a long drive my teenage son was on the phone with a friend…. I don’t recall exactly what was said, but I heard my son say “no….. it’s alright, my mom is cool.” I have heard other friends make comments about how “cool” I am, and that they would never be able to talk about things like that with their parents. Now don’t get me wrong….. I never discuss topics in front of their friends that are not PG. The topics they say they would never be able to talk to their parents about are little things happening everyday at school with teachers, friends, or girlfriend/boyfriend troubles. And by girlfriend/boyfriend troubles, I am not referring to sex. I mean issues like …..who likes who, who is mad at who, or who said what… Just things that they are dealing with at school. If they ever start a topic in front of their friends that isn’t PG, I tell them we will discuss it later. Sometimes the things we discuss are more serious.
My daughter came to me about a friend that had said she was being abused. We talked about it a long time, then made a call to the police. My son told me about a girl he used to date that took a bunch of pills and had to go to the hospital. I know about my sons first kiss, his thoughts on sex right now (abstinence ), and his fear of STD’s and Pregnancy. I know who my daughter had crushes on, who likes her, who in her grade thought they were pregnant, and she tells me about her new boyfriend. I think because they can discuss the “hard” topics with me, they are more open to share the smaller issues with me.
I am not naive enough to think they will always tell me everything….but I know ….that they know ….they can.
My teens are not at the age where they “go out” every weekend. Neither are old enough to drive, but my 15 year old son is getting VERY close, and that scares me to death. I have told them both if they ever go out and either they or their friends have been drinking, or they find themselves in a position they don’t want to be in, CALL, regardless of the time or where they are. Although I am open for discussion on everything, I still encourage abstinance, I still stress the dangers of sex, drugs, and alcohol, and I will NEVER condone drugs or alcohol. But they will never be in trouble for calling me for help if they need me.
I can only hope that the lessons we have taught them will keep them from getting into anything dangerous, and if they do run into problems, whether it is their problems… or their friends…they will still come to me. My younger two will be reaching this age before long. I hope they too will be open with me as I will be with them.