At a moment when he least expected it, his son asked him about sex. Instead of letting him learn from others, here’s what he did.
“Dad, the other day when you and mom were looking online to see if I could watch The Flash, I overheard you say ‘I think it’s ok, but pretty soon we probably need to have the talk with him’. What’s the ‘talk’?”
And so it began. We were casually shooting hoops one sunny afternoon when my ten-year-old son Cody sprung this on me. Despite being mildly amused at his motivation to learn about S-E-X (superhero shows), it was mitigated by an overwhelming feeling of awkwardness. So I quickly brushed him off casually shifting the conversation back to practicing his times tables.
But it didn’t end there. I changed the topic, but I knew the time had come. After all, these are digital days we live in. And we can’t keep them naïve forever. Sometimes I wonder if it wasn’t me with the blinders on instead of my son. Either way, at the very least I knew I needed to discuss it with my wife and soon.
That night after putting the kids down I brought up the subject to Shannon. Her initial reaction was to be expected. “He’s my little boy. I just don’t think he’s ready for that yet.”
But after further conversation, we realized it had to be done. As uncomfortable as we felt about the situation, in the end we needed to do what was best for our boy. And at his age the likelihood of him hearing about it from his friends soon was pretty high. That is if he hadn’t already.
As Shannon said, “We can’t protect him forever. Or keep him away from his friends. Or technology. Or his friends with technology.”
Boom. That was it. The decision was made. We were going to charge ahead and bravely discuss the process of baby making with our son. Both of us dug out our respective big kid underwear and prepared ourselves to tackle this challenge. Now if only we knew where to start.
Shannon’s parents didn’t offer much of an example. She didn’t recall a single conversation in her entire life with them about the subject. And my own were of very little help either. The only talk I ever experienced was my ex-marine Corps father saying, “Son you know where babies come from right?”
It’s important to realize that theirs was a different time. I know they did the best they could for us. But we wanted to try a different approach. The trouble was, we didn’t even know what that approach should be. So we did what everyone does in the digital age when they don’t know how to do something. We Googled it.
As you can probably imagine, there were more than a few search results when searching the topic. I will say if you do this yourself, make sure you are careful about the search terms and sequencing you use. My first attempt almost included the word “sex” and “boy” in the same phrase until I thought better of it. Can’t be too careful these days.
I recommend using your good judgment if you try this yourself. It is the wild west of the Internet after all, and everyone out there has an opinion about practically everything. After extensive searching, we discovered some useful information on a few quality websites. Now we just had to tell our son about sex. Yikes.
We decided to adopt the “band-aid ripping” approach for maximum efficiency. I don’t know if this was more for his benefit or ours but we figured getting it over fast was best. Since he was still anxious to watch another superhero show (Arrow this time) getting him on board was easy. Shannon was another story.
After a couple glasses of well-deserved wine, she was ready. Or at least as ready as she’d ever be. Like it or not our little boy wasn’t so little anymore. And there was just no way to keep him innocent in a world of fast-moving technology. So we jumped in with both feet.
The talk itself went smooth enough. Aside from Cody gagging a bit when we described the physical act of coitus it was a breeze. And through the conversation Shannon realized her apprehension was rooted more in feeling the loss of her son growing up than him learning about sex. Except for the inevitable follow-up questions about my sex life with his mother the experience was a great success.
What we’ve realized since is the advancement of technology has changed the world forever. We are digital immigrants having lived before the advances that our children take for granted. And that old world is gone forever. In its place is something new, something exciting, but also something scary.
Parents today are tasked with raising these digital natives to succeed in a world we never knew. There is no road map. Our kids are connected to others in ways we never experienced and often don’t even understand. Cyberbullying, online predators, pornography, and social peer pressure are just a few of the obstacles our children face.
But, the technology also connects us to greater knowledge, resources, and community as adults as well. Make no mistake, if we don’t teach our children, the world will do it for us. And we may not like how that turns out.
But if we take advantage of these resources, making an intentional effort to equip our children for a changing world we can succeed. We MUST succeed. There simply is no other option. The lives of our children hang in the balance. Are you ready?
Photo: Flickr/ Ted McGrath