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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sex Education, My Kid, and Me

This coming week marks the three-week long course on sex ed in my fourteen-year-old's middle school. Parents had to sign off on this at the beginning of the school year and, of course, I did. Kids at school have been anxiously anticipating all of this and the closer its gotten to actually sitting in on this, the more chatter.

What I don't really understand--not talking about anything to do with sex here now, lol,--is why the teaching of this course falls under the purview of the gym teacher. I guess it's because it's always "health and P.E.", sex falling under the purview of bodily functions, and therefore health. But still, is a gym teacher really qualified to teach our children sex ed? Sex isn't just about the body, is it?

I don't personally know my kid's gym teachers, but I have known several gym teachers in the past fairly well and quite frankly, I would not have chosen any of them to teach my kid about sex. I'm told that the course will involve not only the actual mechanics of the act, pregnancy prevention--mostly just say NO--but also touch on some of the reality of teenagers dealing with the issues revolving around sex.

And it's that touch-on-the-reality-of-teenagers-dealing-with-the-issues-revolving-around-sex part of it all that scares me. What exactly does that mean? Sounds kind of vague to me, but at the same time sort of like they will answer questions that teenagers might have that aren't related to the mechanics of it all or the prevention. And it seems the answers the teacher could give the students to whatever questions they ask could be rather subjective.

I raised my concern with the principal a couple of weeks ago--know him well, he's a nice guy--and his reply was that questions which run a bit too deep will be answered with a firm "ask your Mama". lol Yeah, he's a nice guy, funny too. But that just put a knot in my stomach. Really did. I'm not sure I want that gym teacher determining just what is too deep for him to discuss.

I'm blessed with having a kid who will, upon hearing "ask your Mama", most certainly ask---AND--by the time he gets to me, will have formed all kinds of answers and opinions himself and a huge discussion will ensue until I finally get him all straightened out on the subject. Except, of course, when he talks about planetary alignments or life in the ocean or some asteroid about to collide with earth. I draw the line at those type of discussions and honestly, he just talks to me about stuff like that because he loves seeing the blank, helpless look in my eyes. But when it comes to issues with sex, he KNOWS I won't be blank. AND I won't blink.

His favorite come back to me these days when we argue is: "Ohhhh...go write one of your sexy books and give me a break." Yeah, he says that.

Now my kid already knows about sex. We've talked at length about it over the past few years. So he isn't going into this sex ed class without knowledge. I think it's important for him to learn about the female body and how it works--I mean reproductive wise--I don't think they are going to give him lessons on how a female's body works sex wise. lol Oh God, I hope not. Not my baby! He's too young. LOL Just joking. But a good film on ovaries and fallopian tubes and such will probably scare him away from sex for a couple of more years I think. LOL

My concern is not so much for my own kid as it is for others whose parents might not be so forthcoming--so vigilante. There are plenty of kids in that school whose parents don't even show up for parent-teacher conferences. No, it's not my job to worry over someone else's kids, but I do. My kid will be the one in the class who'll ask the teacher all of those questions he'll have to respond to with "Ask your Mama". And he'll already know the answers because we've most likely already discussed it or he just knows cause he's a smart kid. But he enjoys discussion and getting the teacher's goat, so to speak.

But when he asks those questions or one of his friends do and they don't get an answer--who will that kid whose parent doesn't talk to him/her about all this go to and ask? That's my worry. I know the school can only go so far. And I know there is nothing I can do about it. But it seems there could possibly be a separate class for the purpose of counseling students about sex. Then, of course, those parents who don't talk to their kids about sex would be all up in the air about it, wouldn't they?

In the meantime, lack of understanding is increasing the rate of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy. It's not just enough for a parent to say don't do it, is it? You have to get inside your kid's head and help them figure it out. If you don't have an open dialogue, allow the child to talk to you about all the hard subjects---not just sex but drugs too--then in my opinion it's a big parent failure. And sometimes it doesn't make a bit of difference what you do either. Been there, done that. So I'm not trying to be judgmental. Lots of parents do try their very best and still something goes wrong. But I'm talking specifically about parents who simply sit back and do nothing in so far as helping guide their kids onto the right path.

So is a separate class to counsel students on sex and possibly even drugs a viable solution? One which, say a school counselor could teach--someone trained to deal with the hard questions. Talk about the things she/he sees on a daily basis. Sure, those same students could make an appointment to see the counselor anytime they wanted, but would they? Wouldn't it be easier on them to be there with others just like them who might have the same questions?

So what's the answer? Just do the best we can with our own kids or push for a deeper look into the sex ed classes our schools are teaching and hope for a better solution.


C. Zampa said...

What is the answer? I sure don't know.

I don't know how I got through my daughter's sex education, but we just did. Because they never approach it in the manner you expect them to, or when you expect them to. You just have to be prepared.

All I knew to do was just be open and available for questions...and honest.

I was fortunate that my daughter didn't feel inhibited in regards to discussing sex with me. But it was, I remember, a fine line between trying to be the parent and trying to be TOO 'cool' about it. Does that make sense?

Good thoughts, Tess. And...hey...good question about why it's always the Phys Ed teachers. Never stopped to think about that.

Natalie Dae said...

It's a shame your boy's school doesn't do what my boys' school does. There's a bus, literally a bus, parked on the grounds and the kids can go there for a chat about drugs or sex, get condoms--better to prevent than not, I think--discuss any help they need with telling their parents they're pregnant, or might have got someone pregnant. Basically, it's a drop-in bus that deals with it all, in confidence, and the kids know whatever they say there stays there. I love that idea and I'm so glad it's there.


Tess MacKall said...

You're right, Carol, there is a fine line between being TOO COOL and being the parent. I think I handle it well, but at the same time, you just never know what they are hearing, do you?

And yep, that whole gym teacher thing just bugs the hell out of me. lol

Tess MacKall said...

Europe has long been more progressive with things like that than the States. That's a fact. We are very slow to catch on here. Doesn't mean the majority of us don't want to, but we've got this strict Bible Belt in areas of the country that are very very loud. sighhhh And sex education isn't about religion, it's about getting your life RIGHT.

Scarlett Knight said...

I think it's the same with drinking--those kids who are told never to touch alcohol are more likely to go overboard at parties than the ones whose parents let them have a sip every now and then and just tell them to be careful. The whole "don't do it" obviously doesn't work with teenagers who have raging hormones. I'm all for having condom machines accessible to teens--and this is coming from someone who has taught high school in Texas, the heart of the Bible Belt! ;)

Tess MacKall said...

Oh Scarlet. How did I miss this comment? So sorry. You know, I've said the same thing before--condom vending machines. It's a heck of a lot better than teen pregnancy and STDs for sure. Or even death.

I know what you mean about drugs and drinking too. Kids are only going to listen so much. And not always to their parents. Does no good to be too cool with them as CZ mentioned in the first comment. But you CAN be open and honest.

I've done the sip or two with my girls. Had my little boy ask if he could try a sip of beer the other night. I said no. He's fourteen and I think that's just too young. But, a couple of years down the road when he's leaning toward all the teen rites of passage and all those parties---probably. Just like I did with my girls.

Thanks for posting, Scarlet.

Scarlett Knight said...

You're welcome! I'm glad I found your blog! :)