Very shortly after recording Episode Seven, "Let's Talk About Sex"...it happened. My partner and I were forced to have The Talk. And I was so glad I'd done some thinking on the topic before being caught completely off guard! My son was only 9 years old. In the podcast I mention that my kids, while they believe themselves to be BIG, are little! I thought I had years before I'd really have to broach this! In the podcast, I talk to the incredible Emily Edgell, LCSW. She caveats this with a lot of the things that "it depends on", but she offers 12 as the age that if- you-haven't-yet-you-absolutely-must talk to your kids about sex. I've gotten feedback from other parents, some of whom feel the sooner the better. When this incident arose in our family, of course I went straight to the expert to check in. Maintaining her extremely level-headed manner, Ms. Edgell said if they ask about it, that is exactly the right time to start talking. It's a good thing, she told me, it means my child is curious.
That he is. If we didn't already know this, it was confirmed one day when we opened the family iPad and got an eye-full! I was like, "Who's been looking at--OH!" My darling son had googled "boobes". Obviously this word hadn't been on any of his spelling lists, but I guess google got the point. Earlier that day he'd been looking up mongooses. And I think something clicked in his miniature brain--he suddenly realized he could literally look up any conceivable thing on this device and see thousands of images with a single click. So naturally, dizzy with power, that is what he did. Fortunately we had some content restrictions on the iPad, but still I think he found that he'd opened Pandora's Box.
We tried to remain calm. (Were we calm?) We tried not to punish or shame him. We let him stay up late, after his sister was asleep, and we spoke as mature individuals about human things and biology. It was awkward. And it may have all gone in one ear and out the other. In fact, our son seemed to be trying to politely un-hear everything that we were saying. But imperfect as we all were about it, The Talk was had. The seed was planted. We believed, in the end, it was a parenting win. (Was that a win?) I mean? Realistically it was a tiny victory in the great battlefield of life! The truth is our work has only just begun. If there's one take-away from Episode Seven, it is that this is a conversation that is ongoing. For us, that was only the first of many hard talks to come. The essential thing is that Talking About Sex must remain open. It is vital between people who love.
Since the initial phase of our family's conversation happened--and an entire year of school on an iPad!--our curious child has learned to delete his browsing history. (He has cookies on his device that we can check..!) But whether or not he's learned anything useful from us about the birds and bees thus far, that is still in question. What he has definitely learned is not to leave that content up on the family iPad! And as he grows, he will only get more savvy at hiding what he doesn't want us to see. Our hope is that we will be able to trust him enough to respect his privacy, and he will trust us enough to share private things. And THAT is the balancing act at the heart of my meditation practice. Consistently watering seeds of trust and truth. I know some aspect of that is getting through to him. He was writing a paper recently, and there was a line in it that caught the teacher's attention, it hadn't escaped mine either, he wrote:
We are a Yoga family. So we feel truth is important.
Indeed it is.