This is a re-posted blog I wrote, originally published on The Baby Spot (parenting site).
The Birds and the Bees
A couple of years ago my twin sons began bringing home the occasional sex related question, bad joke, or all around just off base comment. I was blown away at the stuff they were picking up at school and from their peers. Their mother (and her husband) and I began talking about when the “talk” was going to happen but, too be honest, it just didn’t feel right on the timing.
Even though our children are just hammered at an early age with sexuality, the question becomes, is the maturity there to handle a successful “talk” on sexuality and everything that surrounds that subject. Sex is everywhere these days. It hangs on billboards, it’s in innuendos in cartoons and child programs, it’s in TV, movies, video games, cereal boxes…shoot it is even in emoji’s now!
The ball game has greatly changed since I grew up. I grew up in a very conservative household. Sex was hardly spoke about, movies or shows with anything more than second base were quickly turned off. I didn’t get a ton of knowledge from my peers either.
While I had a very poor excuse for a father until I was 12, he did make a feeble attempt at the ole birds and bees talk. His attempt included reading a book word for word, with little illustrations. I would liken it to reading an owner’s manual on how to wire an electrical unit. Sure, technically, it covered 2 +2 but it didn’t cover at all what makes us unique as humans versus our other mammal counterparts.
So, the question remained, “When was the right time”. Over a long period of prayer, research, weighing all the pros and cons I felt like the time would just COME to me for when they were ready. You see, with a couple of years to think about it, my point in the birds and bee’s conversation changed drastically. Just like many areas in life we are having to realize our children are growing up drastically different than us.
Through the past couple years, I have put a ton of thought into this conversation. I’ve looked at it from the angle of ignorance (can we be so blessed as parents?), the angle of knowing their knowledge level currently, current sexual levels in society, and of course their ability to intake and digest a real conversation on the subject.
I will be honest, I tested the waters a few times with them. It usually began by correcting a word that was used or scolding for an unknowing dirty joke. Every time I seemed to test the waters with the subject I never got a very easy feeling. A very good sign of their ability to have a serious conversation usually is easily defined by the giggles that are returned to your attempt!
This summer, I was on a road trip with my older sons, to Glacier National Park. My sons had turned twelve and, to be honest, I was struck by the maturity that was brewing in them. As the week went on my prayers grew that an open opportunity would come to broach the subject naturally and peacefully.
I disagree, whole heartedly, with many parents who do not tackle this subject and simply shrug while stating, “They know everything already from the school and their friends”. I challenge you this, take a minute to find out what they really know. I can guarantee you that they know how to stick two pieces of Lego’s together but that does not mean they are ready to build a house. Sure, if they are asked if they know “where babies come from” or “how are babies made” they will give you a pretty decent answer but what are you leaving untouched in the subject.
You see, sexuality is so much more than sticking this in that and mix and bake for 9 months. If you leave that, as the knowledge passed down, I truly believe we are leaving our children at a disadvantage. I know, I know…you say well that is all I knew and I turned out fine. Listen here, once again we are in much different times. We weren’t pounded by sexuality in every little thing we do. Our children need to be more armed to handle their worlds. Hence, this is why I came to my conclusion on what I wanted to talk to them about.
I’m not here to preach at you. I hope I don’t come across as over bearing. Everyone has their own situation and parenting paradigm to deal with and be accountable too. For me, I looked at myself, the struggles that I incurred sexually, mentally, and physically. I looked at stories my friends had told me about. I also took a very hard-nosed angle at making this conversation from a man’s point of view to boys who are becoming men.
This is what I mean, women are great about talking amongst themselves about their issues, their great about talking and seeing their doctors about issues, and they also have a plethora of other women who have written, taught, YouTube, videos, magazines etc. etc. to look for information. An easy look at that is the vast difference on how female hormone-replacement has been going on forever but men’s endocrine is decades behind (You can mostly blame our countries medical dictators because many countries are not behind in the male hormone replacement category).
Where am I going with this you ask? I want you to envision any two animals in the animal kingdom and for a brief second picture them mating. Now I want you to think about humans in the same interaction. What is the difference? The difference is animals mate not for pleasure but for procreation. Procreation is just part of what makes up the human sexual experience. We have so much more involved in our “act” of sex. So many different hormone releases, love, tenderness, affection, commitment, desire, lust…the list can go on and on.
My point being, that I wanted this conversation with my sons to have more life then just anatomy knowledge of how parts work and fit together. I wanted to discuss things and questions that I might not even know they have. The biggest point that I wanted my sons to step away from after the “talk” is that the door was always, always, always open to talk more. I think envisioning the talk as a singular event is a mistake. While okay to joke about amongst parents, I think the talk should be an open line of communication.
Since my discussion was with two boys, the focus from me was on the male side. That being said, I wanted to point out, while women definitely have a lot of body image issues with the sexuality that is put out there so do boys. “Locker Room” talk can devastate a young man, cripple confidence, and set back satisfying sexuality for years if not forever.
There we were, driving in Utah, on our way to Arizona, and that moment hit. The giggles were gone, their ears were turned up, and minds moving just enough to digest. The conversation began organically and it felt natural.
Initially a cursory conversation tended toward what they knew. When it remained mature and not silly the door opened very nicely. Taking the time to answer questions, even if interrupted, was very important for me to recognize. Their brains were trying to take in, categorize, and digest what I was saying so I had to stay at their level.
I’m not going to bore you with all the details. I know the vast majority can fill the blanks in from here. What I wanted my sons to understand was that they were normal, perfectly made beings in God’s eyes and mine. I wanted them to understand everything that dumb boys/men say about their prowess and how it relates to reality. I wanted them to understand their bodies not some fake image on the TV screen. Since most men eventually struggle with pornography at some points in their lives I wanted to explain even that. I explained what is normal, constant in our human lives, and how to combat the lies society will try to creep in their minds.
As we discussed things, it was amazing to use myself as example, good and bad. It was cool to see the conversation swing to areas I didn’t expect like love and how it relates to sex, angry situations at the end of relationships, and why the bond of sex is so cheapened in society yet the obvious hold on our minds is way stronger than most want to admit.
The very best part of the conversation was the open-door affect. It is important for men to speak to men. I didn’t have that, most men don’t have that, most men can’t even talk to a doctor about that. There is very little written for men and an even less resources. I do believe the category of male awareness is growing but it is far behind where women can be if they choose. I want my sons to know that there is no stupid question. There are many more things that are ahead of them that will bombard them sexually, as many of you all know.
I know from my own mother, that she struggled, not knowing what my father had told me. At the age of 12, she was the mom and dad for me. I know many single mothers do the very best they can for their sons but there is truly something to be said for a boy having a man he can speak to as he’s reaching that young adult phase. The fatherless epidemic in our society has so many far-reaching ramifications and sexuality a major piece of that. Unfortunately, other than being around for your son’s friends as a role model there isn’t a lot more we can do to solve societies massive issue with this. I hope and pray I can influence as many young men as possible so they can break the cycle and not further societal lies so they too may live happy and fulfilled lives.
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