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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Talking About the Facts of Life

When is the right time to have that talk with the kids? A question that parents are faced for generations. Some avoid it altogether, some do it right before the kid is getting married, some rely upon older siblings or friends to do it for them. Mad Momma discussed the pros and cons of doing it too early and it set me thinking. She has a set of questions, which I attempt to answer for myself.

Speaking for myself- we learnt it when we were in class 10- we had a seminar - sort of prayer meeting plus facts of life thing.. we were not clear beforehand on what it is supposed to be exactly though... I guess the principal should have given a brief outline on what to expect. In a very clinical way, the priest/father explained the whole thing and most of us were kind of shocked that all the respectable and even the meek looking elders do it this way!! I am talking of a time 16 years ago - in a christian school, small town and all- we were pretty victorian and goody goody. Later on sidney sheldons / jeffery archers drove the whole idea into the mind and the shock sort of wore off!!
But today's context is different, the kids know more and faster than any of us did in our time and may be the right time may chance upon us much before we actually expect. By this post, I would like to prepare myself for it so that the chance is not sprung upon me and I miss the bus due to lack of preparedness.

A lot of importance is given to physical closeness for atleast the 1st 2 years of a baby's life. It is said that physical bonding goes a long way in developing confidence among children and therefore the massages and even a bath along with the infant helps.
Slowly we begin to discourage them from walking into our rooms when we are changing explaining privacy and "shame shame- puppy shame". This becomes a buzz word- if in school your knickers are seen- it is "haww shame shame". If the teacher's strap or a classmate's undergarment ouline is visible through the dress, again it is a matter of interest and becomes the talk of the town. A lot of "shame" is attached to exposure and slowly it becomes a dirty word altogether. Once they grow up, we make them unlearn that there is no "Shame" it is all natural and what you have is nothing different from what the rest of the world has. Kind of confusing is it not?

When to start asking kids to move out when you are changing- I guess after 2 years, it would be a good idea to start changing out of their view and when they begin to understand, start explaining the idea of privacy. I would do it more for my comfort level- I wouldn't want them to remember me in my birthday suit. No right or wrong debate here- it is just what I feel is right.

Name it right- I would rather use the right word for the body part rather than any rude or euphemised nick name for it. I would want them to be comfortable with human body and not feel that any part is dirty or shameful. But I would like to let the idea sink in that it is not socially acceptable to bare it all. Just like it is socially acceptable to cough or sneeze in public but not to fart or burp impolitely.

When to Talk about It- I like the way MM puts it- not to get ideas into their head prematurely. I am hoping I will know when the kids are ready for the knowledge. A time will come when they will realize that this is a doubt that needs to be clarified. At that time I will find a way to do it.
If I had a daughter I would have explained the concept of periods and what is the logic of women having it and not men. And gradually I would have given her the talk, making it casual yet important enough to make it a mother to daughter thing.

As for the boys, they get introduced to porn pretty soon via their friends/ net etc. I will perhaps make my husband talk about it the moment we feel my kids are ready for it- probably class 8th or before - depends when the time comes we will know it- I am relying on my instincts. The tone of the talk should be the role that men play in baby making and how it is a responsibility and not a matter of superiority or a thing to take advantage of. If I could teach my boys to treat women with respect, I would feel like a succesful parent. In our family, boys are taught that the girl/ woman is Laxmi, to be treated with respect and to be cared for and protected. I am not trying to put it in chivalrous or chauvinistic light but such a sentiment goes a long way in fostering respect for women in the boys.

Should Schools Talk about It- Definitely- school is where we get our basic knowledge and why not this- may be the biology teacher or the principal or some teacher of stature should be doing it. I do not believe that girls should be given sex education separately from boys but may be they could hold a separate/ anonymous question- answer session for them - perhaps they may not be very comfortable asking questions in front of the opposite sex. I remember there used to be extreme discomfort and rude cracks from the boys when the reproductive system chapter used to be taught.

Siblings Sharing Room- I wouldn't say no to it. During my wedding, we slept on the floor- girls in separate room and boys in the hall along more due to lack of space than propreity. We cheeky lot allowed our cousin to come in and give his wife company, promising that we will keep our eyes shut! Among our cousins, our comfort level is very high so probably it worked for us and may not work for everyone. We will take it as it comes. But principally, I am not against it.

We come from a mentality where even going to the loo or girls saying that I am going to the loo is something to be ashamed of or laughed at. During my geology college trip, our professors locked the boys in the bus so that we could take advantage of the privacy to do the bushes. But none of us admitted what we were doing! Today I casually tell my colleagues that I need to go to the loo. One even coolly remarked, "ghar se kar ke nahin aati ho aur airport par mujhe wait karati ho."


Sukhaloka said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sukhaloka said...

I think that's quite a nice, balanced approach. and I love the "go with your instincts" bit. :)

I think you won't quite have the chance to plan it so beautifully. One day, the boys will hear the word "pregnant" and wonder what it means. Out goes the stork through the window! Unless you are really stupid and say pregnancy means they've placed the order for a baby.
Another day, they wonder why girls have breasts and they don't.
Another day(class 6-7 or earlier I would say) they hear the girls talking about periods or pads. In fact even earlier, they'll see the ads for sanitary products on TV.
You'll have to answer them, and truthfully.

Do I sound like the mom of an 18-year old? I sometimes think I'm channeling my mom, LOL!
Actually I'm just reliving my school life. Exposure to these ideas happens very early, and frankness can pull children closer while treating it as a taboo topic - or even being uncomfortable - will alienate them.

I recently had a really funny experience - giving a class 9er "The Talk". She had asked her mother about it, and Aunty had gone straight into the "sperm and ovum" talk, completely bypassing the penis and vagina! I'm not quite the little kid's counsellor, but I'll wager that her mom spectacularly failed one of her major tests in parenting.

To sum it up, the answer is to keep your eyes and ears open, and go with the flow. Strict plans never work out! ;)

Hip Grandma said...

Happy Diwali!

Lavs said...

Wish you and your family a very Happy and Prosperous Diwali.

Cee Kay said...

Nicely written!

It is good that you have a plan. the only thing is that the "when" part - deciding the exact age - might not turn out as you expect it to. The thing with kids is - you never know what they will throw at you and when!

Fuzzylogic said...

Happy Diwali ITW!As for the post I will be back to comment more:)

White Magpie said...

Hmm methinx parents only need to give the basics..No one ever taught me. I instinctively knew..and ye rightly said these days kids get information very fast..So being open and comfy with the body is very mucho essential

Rohini said...

Class 8 would be a stretch. I grew up in Delhi and I got to know from friends in Class 6 and that was a generation ago...

Nice post though. Especially like the bit about teaching boys to respect women. Too many people forget that when they say 'Boys are easier to bring up'

the mad momma said...

class 8 for you and me itchy - small town girls in convent schools. for the rest i think it comes earlier. sad but true.

Unknown said...

my parents especially mom will not even bring up a nearby topic. . .
(i'd be doomed if i listen to her scientific & medical analysis . . . they r some of d best jokes i've heard)

so it was d encyclopedias i read during d library hours in school which gave me all d enlightenment i needed. . .

trust me kids these days know a lot more, and earlier. . .

i feel if your kids & u guys (u n ur hubby) , feel safe to talk anything, have daily talks. . . thats d best thing

a conversation, is something non existent @ my house. . . .
. . . . . .

there is lots i have learnt watching people, question i have for myself is will i be able to implement most of the stuff i have just heard or seen from other people (for a family life)
. . . .
My parents do care for me, just that we are not open in our conversations. . .
i am working on changing it