Sext this to your kids
Me (driving): “Penis! Vagina! Intercourse!”
Mr. Five: “Daa-aaad!”
These were the vocabulary drill words with which our young Mr. Five, buckled tightly in his booster seat in the middle position of the backseat (it’s safest there!), began his degree in sex education. I believe if we began to teach reproductive technology and terminology from the earliest age, we’d never need to have “The Talk” — which, as you might remember, is usually scheduled a little too late in the lives of most children.
As kids, we had already assumed ourselves expert in carnal knowledge by the time many parents chose to have that emotional chat. After all, our friends at school knew everything and our parents nothing. What we didn’t learn from schoolmates, we gleaned from the lyrics of popular music.
When (or if) parents did finally sit down to have that serious discussion regarding bees and birds — or gingerly handed over the “special book” — it was too late for many kids. Many girls were already shocked by menstruation or pregnancy, boys by nocturnal emissions and many parents by unexpected grandparenthood and, by extension, Parenthood: The Sequel. Postponing a child’s sexual and moral education until they are teens demonstrates foolish and risky parenting.
There’s ever-increasing pressure on kids to have sex early and more often. Modern media portrays sex for teens as far too positive an experience in such small-screen masterpieces as MTV’s Teen Mom, which chronicles 16-year-old pregnancy and motherhood. New technology, social media and the now-famous “sexting” (sending sexually explicit messages or photos, primarily between wireless phones) are all the rage as early as sixth grade. I decided we’d teach all the words and details of sex in our family well before it’s necessary.
But I’m also grateful that sex education and HIV prevention is alive and well in the San Diego Unified School District. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention funds HIV- and STD-prevention education for the district in five-year blocks, isolating the funding from the massive budget cuts at the state level. The district strengthens the cooperative agreement to provide, via specially trained biology and science teachers, the sex education curriculum based on the California State Education Code standard.
And it appears to be working. According to the district’s 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Study (available at sandi.net), San Diego’s numbers not only show results indicating safer practices for students overall but consistently better figures compared to national results. Fewer students are having sex before age 13, those numbers show, and more sexually active students are using condoms. San Diego consistently shows more favorable results in sexual behavior that prevents HIV, STDs and unintended pregnancy. Condom use has a greater prominence in teen vernacular than ever.
But we still need to pay attention as parents. A recent uptick (and subsequent return to lower levels) in nationwide teen pregnancy in 2006 reminds us to be consistently and seriously involved in delivering sexual education and risk-behavior facts to our students.
Mr. Five is now Mr. Ten and is fluent in sexual lingo. That might at least help him interpret pop music. While our approach is not for everybody, we’re hoping it will help keep us at least one step ahead of him and his hormones.
Now if he could just learn long division.
Paul M. Bowers is a full-time husband and parent who has been blogging about his family’s experiences in public school at sandiegounifiedparent.com since 2008.