June 09, 2005

Uneasy Topics

The other day Key over at Key Issues discussed taking her nine-year old to see the new Star Wars film that is rated PG-13. In her own words:

This is my public service announcement to anyone else who wonders about the rating...

No worries, tis fine. There is a birth scene, but no copulating. Lots of people die, but no blood and guts (although Vader did get really yucked up, as expected).

I'm giving the okay for kiddies eight and up. (Of course, if you have a five year old boy who likes to set frogs on fire, I'm betting he can get through it without any major nightmares.)

In the comments, Jack of Random Fate said:

I think it depends on the criteria. Why is sex so bad for a child to see but seeing a man lose three limbs and then catch on fire OK?

Personally, I'd rather have any children of mine see two people being affectionate, loving, and yes, having sex than people hurting, maiming, and killing each other.

What lessons do you think seeing each situation teaches?

But that's me....

Jack said what I have long felt about a very sensitive issue.

At the risk of applying labels, I am typically very conservative on most issues; however, I also consider myself a practical human being.

When Sweet One was seven, almost eight, I was pregnant with Wee One and had to address her questions regarding: “Where do babies come from?”

To be perfectly honest, I had literally no clue how to address those questions because I was unsure how much information I should reveal.

The very anal book-loving girl I am, I headed straight to a book store and found age appropriate material for her. There was one book in particular that gave a cursory overview of the differences in anatomy between men and women and discussed how a connection was required for the male sperm to become ONE with the female egg.

I bought that book and the next time Sweet One brought up THE question, I snagged it and showed it to her. I then gave her an opportunity to read it on her own and we eventually sat down and went through it together. She was completely without embarrassment or self-consciousness while I was a bundle of nerves. After all, I was thirty-three at the time and MY mother had never discussed any of that with me.

She seemed to understand the differences between men and women and bought into the sperm-egg deal, she only had one question: Just how did the sperm get to the egg?

Scrambling for an appropriate answer, I asked her: “Well, what did the book say?”

Sweet One flipped to the appropriate page and showed me the sentence which explained when men and women got close the sperm passed from the male to the female.

Taking the coward’s way out, I pointed to the book and told her: “Well, there you have it. It’s when mommies and daddies get CLOSE.”

I just could not bring myself to divulge additional details for fear she would go to school and “educate” her classmates which, in turn, might bring Child Protective Services to my door.

Four years have passed since then and as Sweet One has grown and matured, I have become more relaxed about the subject.

I believe my children need me to be their mother, not their best friend. As a result, I want them to be comfortable, know, and believe they can ask me anything and I will give them the information they require to make the best decisions for them. If I do not well know a topic, I will help them research it.

The last two months of this past school year Sweet One was required to take a class on sex education. Further, I was required to actively participate in her homework with her and discuss each and every thing covered in the class. While I have become more comfortable with the topic, she is much less at ease at twelve, than she was at eight. This is understandable.

When I say we have covered everything regarding this topic, I mean to say, we have covered everything. Rather than take to my soap box and preach of hellfire and brimstone should she engage in pre-marital sex, I laid things out as practically as I could. I tried to explain what role hormones play in how young women typically associate the warm fuzzies of “love” with sexual intercourse while for young men it is usually “just physical.”

We talked of pregnancy and I gave her my thoughts on abortion. I told her when she was older and at eighteen or nineteen decided she wanted to have sex, while I may not approve or be very happy about it, I would ensure she had what she needed to protect herself from possible pregnancy, as well as the host of STDs out there.

These are NOT conversations I thought I would ever have with a twelve year old, particularly MY twelve year old daughter. However, for her sake, I thought it was necessary.

Sex is natural and we are all sexual creatures.

One of the biggest things I can do for her is to give her the information she needs so in the years to come she can make the best decisions for herself. I also want her to feel good about herself and (in the FUTURE) her sexuality.

Should her father see this, he is soooo going to kill me.

Posted by Christina at June 9, 2005 11:12 AM


At least you said "18 or 19" to her! In all seriousness, my parents were always very open about those things with us girls. Both my parents. As an adult, I can still talk to my folks about just about anything. Being open about sex, drugs, alcohol, etc . . . while still being strict (sometimes too strict) kept me informed while still setting boundaries. And look at me know, I'm ok, oh sure, the occassional nervous tick arises and I have a tendancy toward violence but . . . ;)

Posted by: Oddybobo at June 9, 2005 11:10 AM

Oh how very much I understand you! My very darling baby cousin will be 10 on Saturday.To say she is old beyond her years is an understatement. At 10 I still thought boys were cool and were only used to brag about tree climbing escapades. She thinks boys are sexy!

A few months back she decided that now was the time to know what a penis was all about and so asked her mum, her dad and to everyones mortification, my nan. They all fumbled for answers and ended up humiliating themselves and having her think that they thought she was too stupid to understand.

Eventually she came to me, cool cousin that i am. I thought long and hard about the answer I wanted to give her before divulging as little facts as I could in a tactful manner. Her reply...ewwwww!

Posted by: silk at June 9, 2005 11:14 AM

You did the right thing. Most parents can't bring themselves to do it. And now that she has all of the right information, she can make good choices and she knows you'll be there for her if she needs you.

And you know what? If her father has 2 brain cells in his head, he'll agree with you and be happy that HE didn't have to explain it to her :)

Posted by: caltechgirl at June 9, 2005 01:32 PM

I'm very open when my boys ask questions. They need to understand. Next year they have a big sex ed taught at their school for my eldest's age. They will send the info to me in advance, in an unmarked manilla envelope, for me to review so I at least have the opportunity to cover anything that I might not have. I'm hoping I've covered it all.

That said, I am not letting my 8 year old or 6 year old see Star Wars. It is one thing for them to see it on TV in my home, where they can walk away and it is not so 'big', but it is another with an immense screen and surround sound. It is more than the graphics... it is the sound of it all that can be overwhelming.

My husband is taking my 10 year old, I am taking the other two to something else. We discussed my 6 year old, who really wants to see it, and finally my husband said, "Wait. Who are the parents here?" My youngest will have to wait.

Posted by: Boudicca at June 9, 2005 01:43 PM

I wrote a post on the birds and bees. My heart fills with dread when I consider the topic.

I've avoided and dodged and answered minimally while she was too young to know all. And NOW that she's old enough, I can't get her interested!

I guess she's uncomfortable, because every time the topic comes up, she changes it. Or WALKS out of the room while I'm mid-sentence!

I know I have to get the information into her head, but I want her to be open to it, so we are baby stepping it.

This week's topic: "Mommy, what did Michael Jackson do wrong?"

That was pleasant.

Posted by: Key at June 9, 2005 02:06 PM

I still think it's better for children of *any* age to see two adults embrace, caress, and make love with each other than to watch one man slice limbs off of another before he leaves the maimed man to catch fire.

I guess I'm too "liberal"...

Posted by: Jack at June 9, 2005 02:23 PM

Oy. I think this "conversation" is much harder on adults than it is on kids. And they are bewildered by our squirminess.

I have had a VERY lenient attitude towards my boys watching certain things on television and movies. Why? Because I would rather watch it with them and give them back-up than to have them sneak over to a friend's house to watch it without me.

From the time they could ask questions, I would answer their questions -- and only the questions posed at that time -- as openly and honestly as I could.

My eldest and I would have long talks in the car, while driving on long trips. It seemed that the Car Confessional was the best time to talk about such Serious Subjects as sex, love, marriage and the like. And, for the record, I told my boys exactly what I would have told them had they been girls. :)

When it came to the pR0n video I found in my VCR, we had to have a chat.

It's a source of hilarity between us now -- this pR0n incident -- and I think they're as well-balanced as they can be. Considering they 14 and 17 and the Raging Hormones have begun.


Posted by: Margi at June 9, 2005 03:42 PM

I think you can avoid all this if you chain them to their beds until they're at least about 30.

No, all parents can do is teach their kids to be responsible and hope they make the right decision when the time comes. I just hope that time is later, rather than sooner.

Posted by: Dash at June 9, 2005 03:53 PM

I so totally agree with Jack. I'd much prefer my child see a loving scene between two consenting adults than one of blood, guts and assorted and sundry gore.

My daughter and I had 'the talk' in the complete blackness of her room...her choice. She said she was 'too embarrassed to have the light on'. Hey, whatever made her more comfortable was fine with me. Besides that, she didn't get to see MY red face, either. hehe

Posted by: Pammy at June 9, 2005 04:00 PM

i recognize Dash's first statement; my dad has said something similar about his daughters in connection with dating. .. so far, no worries for him from either of his girls. heh heh

Posted by: amelie at June 9, 2005 06:18 PM

And Jack,
MY prob is that I don't have a husband who is as open-minded as you are, nowhere NEAR in fact!

So while I may be the one concerned about blood, particularly mutilation, which I personally have a problem with... my husband is a freak about skin and sex scenes. Deep seeded Bible belt, no affection in the house growing up issues, mayhap, but I get to play intermediary.

I am thankful though, that I am the one educating her about matters of the heart, and how these things evolve... ;)

Regarding your sensitive and well-thought views, you must, nay you OBVIOUSLY realize that you are the exception and not the rule...


Posted by: at June 9, 2005 09:51 PM

Oops, sorry! Though Jack knows tis me, didn't mean to go anon there... Forgot Munuviana eats our cookies!

(Strangest thing, only does that at home, holds them at the office.)

Posted by: Key at June 9, 2005 10:39 PM

Hmmm - at one time possibly as a teen (I had my kids pretty young) I would have thought as Jack did. Until my son was about 5 years old. We lived in a pretty marginal neighborhood (this was pre-VCR and even cable was just an up and coming thing).

I didn't take the kids to too many movies, but their friends all had cable. And while you see boys out pretending to have guns and swords like they see on tv and in movies - fighting with each other... this seems to be rather normal for boys. Nothing in the world is more disconcerting than seeing a 5 year old neighbor boy who has come over to play, giving his impression of sex on the living room floor.

Yeah, his parents were watching movies with sex in them (I asked him specifically where he saw that... not angrily, just like an off the cuff question so I could see what he would say) - not a problem for parents - they can watch anything from G to XXX movies for all I care... but obviously there was not a limit on kid viewing either. Yes, you could certainly tell what the parents were watching by what the kids were doing. I politely asked him to stop. But it was one of the single most ummm... (upsetting is too strong a word shocking may be better) shocking things I've ever seen. It does take quite a lot to shock me.

So, I have to disagree with Jack in that I think both sex and violence in movies or shows should be limited until kids are older and can better handle what they are seeing.

Posted by: Teresa at June 9, 2005 11:30 PM

My 4 year old daughter asked me how I "put her in Mamma's tummy". Reaching back on 3000 years of Jewish teaching on this subject, I told her to go ask her mother. Her mother, being Norwegian and openminded, may have explained the whole thing to her. Beats me. I just know I don't want to know.

I applaud your approach. But 4 is too young for me to explain it to her. By the way, she believes that before she was in Mamma's tummy, she was in heaven waiting to be born. I have no idea where she got that from. Kids today.

Posted by: RP at June 10, 2005 01:31 PM

Violence in a movies storyline [note that means violence that moves the story, and is key to plot elements - not gratuitous in the way that Tarantino's movies are] is picked up by the audience, young or old, as cause and effect, a device for illustrating the effects of right and wrong.

No one walks away from a decent movie that contains contextual violence, confused about what it means. Good guys win, Bad guys lose.

Sex, on the other hand, and here I don't mean a discussion with a parent (which we also did with ours when they asked), but shown in graphic detail on the screen, is not something that most kids walk away from with the feeling that they saw "two people being affectionate, loving", they walk away from it with imagery they might not have seen before, that produces mysterious affects in their bodies, and makes them feel different about acquaintences of the opposite sex, in ways they don't quite get.

Having no mental context for understanding it, they feel uncomfortable, confused, even in an unidentifiable way, scared.

With luck, especially with boys, they will deal with this by swatting it down with appropirately immature responses like "YUCH!!!", or a spate of crude jokes, that have the effect of distancing them from it.

If you're not lucky, the image and their reaction to it, might lodge in the back of their heads, where they will occasionally obsess on it from time to time. Again as undeveloped children, with no proper context, this is much more likely to bend their thoughts in unfortunate ways, than would seeing the BAD GUY get his comeuppance from the GOOD GUY.

Posted by: Van at June 10, 2005 04:57 PM

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