Friday, September 23, 2011

Put aside the books while teaching the facts of life

From today's Briefing:

When you’re in the throes of a stage with your child, it’s sometimes difficult to maintain perspective.
Like the week we potty trained Cooper. All activities were structured around getting that almost-3-year-old boy out of diapers. We spent 72 hours straight at home, reasoning and coercing, charting and rewarding, pleading and crying.
More than once I imagined a life trapped at home, convinced that this child would never listen to his body. We would be banned from preschools all over North Texas. We’d be pariahs on the playground and at birthday parties.
Then it clicked. And the longest week of our lives was history.
Some stages last longer than others.
Like the two years that Cooper would throw the world’s most intense tantrums. We eventually learned how to contain him at home, but we always struggled with how to address massive meltdowns in grocery stores, at the mall, in church.
I would worry that our outings would forever be cut short by emotional explosions. We would be kicked out of schools all over North Texas, shunned from shopping centers and museums and playing fields.
Then he eventually stopped (with less fanfare than the potty-training days). The longest two years of our lives were history.
Some stages have no obvious expiration date. Like when your child learns about serious, adult matters.
Last weekend, Cooper participated in a nine-hour workshop, Created by God, designed to explain human sexuality to fifth- and sixth-graders.
When I was in fifth grade, a classmate described how babies were made in the crudest fashion imaginable. I didn’t know enough of the process to know how to research it on my own, so I eventually mustered the courage to ask at home.
Mom handed me the classic Where Did I Come From? and told me to ask more questions if I had them.
Well, I had questions but I sure didn’t want to speak them aloud. And that right there concluded my parent-led study of the birds and the bees.
It’s not the same model I want for my children, and yet I felt woefully inadequate to improve upon the “Here’s a book about reproduction, get back to me if you’d like” system.
So, I was thrilled to outsource the job, even while I mourned my son’s fleeting naïveté.
Cooper spent the weekend learning precise medical terminology and explanations for just about everything that happens to girls and boys during puberty and beyond.
He now knows how babies are created. (“It’s weirder than I thought.”)
He now knows about sexually transmitted diseases. (“I wasn’t aware of that before. You have to be careful.”)
Most importantly, he knows that he can ask me questions about all of it. And believe me, he’s asked plenty. I have never been so thankful for a visual separation between the back seat and the driver’s seat.
Unlike previous stages, we’re in this one for the long haul. I’m praying for many years of questions and discussions — and a comfort level that matches my son’s.
I’m hoping that even when he chooses to talk to friends about such mature matters — because I know I won’t be the “expert” forever — he’ll still give me the chance to add my two cents.
And I’m thankful that even though we’ve started this stage, Cooper hasn’t graduated from all the others. His head may now be full of mature content, but he’s still a 10-year-old boy.
After nine hours of human biology and faith-based values and a string of questions, Cooper made a beeline for our playroom and a whole mess of Legos.
He built and played in there all afternoon — the best antidote for this momma who sometimes needs a healthy dose of perspective.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

1 comment:

Cyndi said...

Oh, Tyra. I so laughed at some of this. I was so thankful for the separation of the driver seat and the back seat many times during that stage, too. And I can just hear Cooper saying those things.

The book I was handed was, "How to Tell Your Nine Year Old About Sex". Sure, I'll ask more questions. Right.