This Changes Everything

What knowledge do you want to impart to your child while you’re able?

Over the holidays, when I had some downtime, I streamed a lot of content. I just needed to veg. I came across the documentary film This Changes Everything — it looked interesting but I kept putting off watching it. The Netflix overview said the documentary takes a deep look at gender disparity in Hollywood through the eyes of well-known actresses and female filmmakers. I think I wasn’t in the mood to hear how women are ‘sold short,’ i already knew that, I just wanted to watch content that either made me laugh, or didn’t make me think.

Come the recent long weekend, I was trying to find something to watch once again. I was up for watching content that would make me think so I selected the movie. It was so eye-opening and explained a woman’s plight in what we have to overcome in a tangible way (how we’re perceived, why we’re perceived the way we are, and what to do about it). I left thinking as the only female in my household I needed to get my ‘boys’ to watch this. Because whether they knew it or not, the content they’ve taken in over the course of their lives has influenced their views of girls/females and beyond. I needed them to be aware, empathize, and hopefully be an advocate for equality.

I selected the movie when it was my turn to pick for our Saturday night gathering. We watched the movie. Afterwards we talked about what they learned, what surprised them, and how (of if) it changed their view of women. The boys thought they already knew women were underrepresented but we’re surprised by the numbers. They agreed women were shown more as objects in movie (particularly older ones), and even pointed to some parts in other movies where the female character was only shown for male viewers benefit (it literally made my youngest flinch when he recalled some of the scenes).

We pivoted to how these projections of what and how women behave and what they want from a partner can be confusing to both the man and the woman in relationships based on images we see everywhere (on screen, TV, internet, etc.), and how with my knowledge of the female’s mindset could help them be a good partner— be aware of where a women may come from regarding intimacy, what they might be comfortable/uncomfortable with, why that is, and more. Again, not the easiest conversation but at least both boys were willing to hear me out (getting the oldest to listen a WIN!).

I’m hopeful the information sank it, and my boys feel more informed. I’m optimistic they can avoid the pitfalls of making assumptions about what others expect of you (in relationships and intimacy) that their father and I experienced. Will this movie and discussion change everything for their experiences in this area? I don’t know, but ever bit of knowledge helps. Continuing these conversations will be essential.

What are key messages or values you are working to impart to your child or teen?

Let’s Talk About Sex

Ick. Gross. Pass.

That’s how I would have responded if my parents had wanted to talk to me about sex beyond “the talk” which was more focused on the mechanics. After that talk, which felt more like a trauma, I couldn’t look at either of my parents for weeks without getting grossed out.

My husband and I knew we’d have to better communicate with our kids about sex, intimacy, love, and all that goes with it. Knowledge is power, but it can feel oh so uncomfortable to try to talk about sex with your kids.

Thankfully there are lots of good books and classes for parents on this topic, and culturally it’s more accepted (and encouraged) to talk more openly about sex with our kids. My husband and I would have to work through whatever discomfort we have.

Our oldest continues not to want to talk to my husband and I about much of anything. We have to demand he sit with us at the dinner table and tell us at least one thing that happened that day. It’s pulling teeth. Our youngest is more talkative and willing to engage. What pleasantly surprised my husband and I was when our youngest shared that he was learning about sex in his health class. I wasn’t aware they taught sex in high school, but I’m grateful. The class goes beyond body parts and mechanics, but educates the students on STDs, prevention/protection, terms, consent, and more. As my son was learning, he had questions. He wanted to ask his questions in a safe place so he asked his father and I at home.

He was interested in what certain terms meant, our experience with sex (how hold were we (generally), were we scared, etc.), and more. There was a discomfort I felt at first talking to my son about some of his questions but quickly relaxed as I could see what I was sharing with him was helping him. We talked about why girls (or boys) have sex — they want to, they think they have to (it’s expected, or the other person won’t like them), they feel pressured (their peers are doing it and therefore they should to), or they are curious (what it feels like, etc.). We talked about terms. We talked about where he was with his own curiosity/interest. He made me feel better. I hopeful he’s more equipped to make informed decisions about his body and help any future partners feel good about their choice and experience with him. Now, we’re trying to figure out how to share the same information with our resistant older son. Pulling teeth, but we’ll do whatever it takes to have this (getting less uncomfortable) conversation.

What helps you when you have to have an uncomfortable talk with your child/teen?