“One day, I decided to have THE sex talk with my teenage son. I got him alone and said, “I’d like us to talk about sex.” He looked at me straight in the eye and asked, “What do you want to know about sex, dad?””
That’s a story a motivational speaker told us when we were in high school. His name was Prof. Kadoka. He told us that he was a neurosurgeon. He was the closest thing to Ben Carson that we encountered.
I later read that he was a phony but even if he was, I really wouldn’t care. His advice was good for my teenage mind. And boy, wasn’t he funny! He was funnier than a man with ants in his pants in public.
A couple of weeks ago, Miss Z asked me a very important question. The way she asked it slowly while touching the buttons on my top, her eyes big with wonder, I knew this question had really bothered her. She likes to corner me when it’s just us then she asks these questions quietly in my ear.
When I was pregnant with her sister, I made sure to involve her in the journey. I told her there was a baby in my tummy and God had used daddy to put her there. And that I’d go to the hospital and God will use the doctor to remove her from there.
She was barely two-and-a-half, my explanation was sufficient. When I came from the hospital, I showed her the CS scar and told her the doctor cut there to remove the baby. All the mysteries were solved and we lived happily ever after.
Until a couple of weeks ago.
Miss Zasked, “So, mom, how did daddy help put the baby in our tummy?”
She’s 5. How do you start telling a 5-year old of blood vessels and soft-turned-hard appendages and exchange of bodily fluids?
I listened very keenly, I maintained eye-contact to not look like I was trying to get out of this imaginary booby trap. I was like a duck — calm on the outside while kicking up a hurricane under the surface. I then told her I will tell her a little later, I needed to make dinner first.
We haven’t had dinner yet since the week before the last. It’s still cooking. I’m basically boiling stones to avoid this conversation.
I know for many, like me, this talk never happened. Stories of teenagers getting pregnant and dropping out of school instilled enough fear in me. I would have recurrent dreams that I was pregnant and I couldn’t remember who had gotten me pregnant. I haven’t had a worse nightmare in my life.
So, I kept off boys. Even the one that I really liked, I would always imagine a very tight hug and I’d be pregnant. He was tall, with the cutest smile — and catholic. I mention catholic because my mom wasn’t a big fan. It felt nice to be disobedient.
There was something so raw and intense about my teenage emotions and ‘love’ for this boy. It felt like I was high on strong wine, my belly was on a fire that was steady but not consuming.
Every time I saw him, it was like a fountain of chocolates melting into my mouth. And then I’d remember my dream and the dramatic music would die down like a movie scene when a character’s bubble is burst.
He also didn’t say a word about it, my demeanor may have sole me out. So we remained ‘good friends’. Such an annoying phrase.
The sex question has been flying around especially during this lockdown. I floated this question to a group of friends; I‘ll call them April, May, June, July. Those months don’t mean anything in this conversation. And you can’t call someone September, now, can you?
After our Whatsapp conversation, it hit me that our parents all attended the same army boot camp. And like the good soldiers they were, they graduated with a Ph.D. in Threats and Intimidation.
For May, her mom only warned her against getting pregnant while in school. That worked well enough to prevent her from becoming a teenage mom. It also dissuaded her from early-teenage sex.
She had her first sexual experience after form four. She passed her exams really well and is a budding entrepreneur.
June’s mom was more ‘practical’. She bought them magazines that had stories of girls who got pregnant and were kicked out of their homes. A very passive-aggressive way of letting them know their fate if they chose to ‘play with boys’.
Her mom raised 5 girls, none of them got pregnant in teenage.
April’s mom was more liberal — she had a boyfriend who could even be invited to their home. Her mom would welcome him and serve him food and tea for his ravenous teenage belly.
I can only imagine what my mother would say. In her books, that’s a scandal worse than hitting a cow in India. A parent welcoming their teenager’s boyfriend! The horror!
But she turned out alright. She went to study and became a scientist.
July’s parents were the star students in this boot camp. You left the house after stating your full itinerary and ETA back home. They were both teachers so I can imagine they were not afraid of not sparing the rod.
All the ladies had their fair share of sneaking around and smooches in the dark corners. They turned out fine by any standard, but I’d thin we got lucky.
We all admitted there was a lot of fear and mystery surrounding sex. We all admitted that we really didn’t know much about it to make any informed decisions.
While the ‘talks’ kept people from early pregnancy, there was really no advice on healthy relationships with the opposite sex. There was no advice on consent and what violation really is. A good speech on the responsibilities that come with sex was never given.
Sex talk should have involved the changes in our bodies. Most of us stumbled on bits and pieces of information as we did life. Most of this information was false and not helpful.
Teenagers and sex is a slimy subject. Parents don’t want to talk about it, teenagers think they know everything there is to know about it.
If the recent statistics are anything to go by — exaggerated and subjective as they may have been — this is a conversation we can’t leave to memes and influencers.
It needs to be had. If you need to take a shot of your poison to do it, by all means, do it. Here are a few pointers to tackle this bull.
Do it, or someone (something) else will
You cannot abstain from educating your children about sex. They will learn about sex from some quarters, please be the one to tell them.
Don’t exaggerate or undermine anything, be real
Call things as they are. Answer their questions even if it’s uncomfortable for you. Dismantle rumors and myths and don’t imagine they are dumb and clueless.
Do not discredit love. Explain what it is and what it’s not. And make them differentiate love and hormones.
If you have never had a remotely sexual conversation with your teenager, you will find it impossible to start when they are thirteen. If your kids are still young, you can start now. Discuss general things around sex — even where babies come from from the time they are 2 years old.
Talk about their anatomy as they grow older and let them know where they should never let anyone touch. As they grow older, between 7 and 9, talk about their feelings, masturbation, and wet dreams. These are pretty scary things for a pre-teen.
If you told your kids that babies are picked from the river in a basket just like Moses, repent and set the record straight.
Not all donts
Give them some Dos. Sex talk feels like lots of don’t, it shouldn’t be. Let them know why they need to wait, teenage is a journey, not a destination. In this part of their journey, sex is a hurdle they need to jump, not pitch a tent.
Use the media to your advantage
Parents imagine that media is the root of all evil, but today’s kids were born right in it. It’s their reality. Use it to your advantage. Show the proper sites for beneficial things and make yourself a little tech-savvy.
When a topic shows in the media about sex, use it to get their thoughts and to guide them in the correct way.
Don’t make yourself an angel
We know you, retired Casanova, don’t pretend to have been a saint in your heydays. Share some of your experiences wisely, how they affected you, and what they taught you.
Young people will relate more when you don’t seem so perfect. Their choices may seem silly to you, but it’s their world. try to relate and be human. Don’t be those parents who were ‘always top of their class’ but we all know you still can’t spell ‘accommodation’ without auto-correct.
When it comes to your children, don’t try to be realistic. Be outrageously generous with your compliments, the world is cruel enough. The streets try to tell them every day how they should match up and how much ground they still have to cover.
Tell them how they are the most beautiful people on the planet. Look at their kinky hairs and acne-ridden faces and tell them they look like a billion dollars — and then some more.
Tell them they are brilliant, that it’s ok to fail their exams and to work harder next time, that your love is not pegged on what they do or become — you just love them. Fullstop.
Affirm them until their esteem is poking the stars.
How did the sex talk with your parents go?