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?

Pushing through Scary

What everyday situation(s) scare you?

Getting a spider out of the house would be high on my list. For my boys it’s different. For my oldest it’s girls. It makes him so uncomfortable he just avoids, avoids, avoids. Doesn’t want to talk about. Doesn’t want to deal with it. My youngest it’s making friends. Or the knowledge it’s harder for him, as being on the spectrum makes it more challenging for him to pick up on social cues. He has friends, but hasn’t made new ones at his new school yet.

My husband and I feel like our kids listen to us as if we are Charlie Brown’s teacher sometimes – wah wah wah. It takes hearing advice or insight (even if it’s exactly what my husband or I shared) from another adult for the words to land. For my youngest, this truth occurred when he was at the doctor’s office for an annual check-up. He was sharing his struggles (our doctor also tries to assess their patients mental health along with their physical), and the doctor, who had some knowledge of the high school he goes to, encouraged him to join an after school club, or start one if the club he’d be interested in didn’t exist. My son nodded his head, but I could tell he wasn’t truly buying in (after all his father and I had encouraged him to do the same thing. Our son had been willing to do theatre but not pursue his other interests where he’d hoped to connect with others that share his passion for geography and transit.). Regardless, the doctor opened my son’s mind to revisit this.

During dinner we discussed the doctor’s visit including revisiting school clubs. My son resisted (it doesn’t exist), didn’t want to start a new club (no one else will want to join). He was digging in his heels regardless of what might husband or I said. We finished the conversation telling him that often in life, you have to take the lead, regardless how scary, to make things happen. If you don’t take action you’re just living in someone else’s world. That seemed to stick.

He went to his room. My husband and I went about our normal after dinner activities. We weren’t sure, if anything, our son would do in regards to what we had talked about. Lo and behold, within an hour he came out of his bedroom smiling a pretty big smile. “Mom,” he said, “I want to show you something.” I followed him into his room. He’d clearly been searching his school club site and found one that was for world (geography) enthusiasts. We read the description together. “You definitely can contribute here,” I said. He nodded (this time a confident you’re-right-mom kind of nod), and shared he’d reach out to the teacher advisor to join. His mood was lifted. Mine was lifted. He was proud he’d taken an action and saw the positive result that can come.

It can be scary to try new things including (perhaps especially?) meeting new people. Taking action, even if it isn’t always successful, allows you to grow, lessens the fear with practice, and more often than not, leads to success. I’m going to keep pushing my boys to take chances, and have more ownership in their life experience. Now, how to get my oldest to consider opening himself up to love??? 🥰

What scares your child? How are you arming them to break thru the fear?

Fight On!

Does your child play a sport?

Our Friday evenings are filled with football games. Our oldest plays mostly center and on the offensive line for his team. Going to his games is a mix of nostalgia (my high school experience going to games), nerves (still getting to know parents of the other players), and stress (for my son and the other players safety, how the game will go, etc.).

When I was in high school, our team was good. It was fun to see them win, it stung when they lost, but socializing with friends was the best part. Fast forward to now, my son’s team did well enough to win their division last year (moving them up), and now getting pummeled every game this year — so painful. Yet, while defeat doesn’t feel good, and can shake your confidence, the kids seem to be taking it in stride, and the school community more focused on supporting the players and just being happy to be together.

My son’s coach’s motto is “fight on!” It’s been the motto of the team for many years. And while it’s focused on the game of football it certainly applies to life. Keep going. Get back up. Try again. Keep fighting. Fight on!

My son’s team is being put to the test this year. Continued losses make it hard to get back up, but they support each other, want to get the best out of each other, and show each other they have given it their all. It might not be reflected in the final score of the game, but in their resilience in the face of defeat these kids are learning, they’re winning.

How does your child handle defeat? What positive impact comes from it?

We will be celebrating an older family member’s milestone birthday next week, so I will be off, but back the following.

Audition

Ever get stage fright?

That’s not exactly what happened with my son, but it was pretty close. My youngest started high school and has been looking forward to getting back into theatre. Being his first year, he wasn’t sure what he’d need to do to join the drama club. He learned they’d have auditions and he’d need to come, bring his paperwork, and read a script.

He was a bit nervous about going (naturally), but worked through his nerves and stayed until it was his turn. They called him to the stage and said, “Okay, you can start.” My son was confused and overwhelmed. He didn’t know what they wanted him to do and he broke down in tears. Thankfully, the adults realized they needed to give him more direction, gave him a minute to compose himself and handed him a script to read from. He regained his composure and redid his audition, this time feeling more confident in his effort. I met him in the parking lot following. He broke down in tears again talking about how embarrassing it was that he didn’t know what to do, and admitting that afterwards he realized he hadn’t read the paperwork completely and at the bottom it referenced coming with a monologue prepared.

We talked about this being a growing experience. That life will sometimes through unexpected things our way, and how we respond matters. He might not have liked how he responded, but recognized he was so overwhelmed that his emotions burst through. I reminded him that the good news was he survived and everything was fine after all. He appeared to take some solace in this. We talked about how he might handle the situation differently next time – be it an audition or something else. “I guess I’ll read the paperwork more closely,” he said. I told him that was a good way to avoid getting caught off guard, but the unknown can happen regardless of how well you plan. While he couldn’t come up with what he’d do differently, we discussed recognizing the feeling if/when it happens again and if possible take some deep breaths to give himself a chance to respond in a way he feels better about. It’s a start.

I’m proud of my son for trying and not giving up. I’m more proud of how in tune he is with his emotions and his understanding of his need to feel them, counter to how many of us who will do anything not to.

The drama season officially kicks off soon and the school has several plays. Whether he has a speaking role or plays Tree#3 😊 I’m grateful he’s sticking with it, as it proves even when we fall/fail/didn’t-realize-we-were-supposed-to-have-memorized-a-monologue there is always the opportunity to dust yourself off (regroup), and try again.

How do you handle the unexpected? How are you helping your child navigate a perceived failure?

Being Good Enough

Have you ever struggled with self-esteem?

I sure did (and still do, though no where as much as I did when I was younger thanks to the help of some very smart people (therapists) over the years). My oldest comes across as very confident in who he is, and what he’s about, which I admire, yet I see him struggle with his esteem in a repressed/painful way. He has high expectations of himself — always. If he doesn’t live up to those expectations regardless how unrealistic they are he gets frustrated and defeated. He does have resources to talk to, yet, I’m not sure how much he is sharing (working on/addressing), and how much he is holding back. I remind myself he is young, and he will continue to learn more about himself as he grows and allows himself to be more vulnerable/open.

My youngest has high emotional intelligence. He has great empathy and can quickly understand when others are feeling. He is my ‘happy’ guy, but even he gets unhappy sometimes. He starts high school this year and is starting to think about what that means — new building, new teachers, new people, new pressures, and more. He sighed while we were in our family room. I asked him what was up. He said, “I’m just thinking about high school, and what that means. I think it will be fine, but I guess I’m just worried I won’t make any friends.” As a kid on the spectrum, forming new friendships is something he struggles with, though, he has friends and people often approach him because of his sunny demeanor. He will have opportunities to make new friends, assuming he puts in the effort. The way he said his statement it made me feel like he was trying to tell me something more. I pried, “you have friends and most people like you, so what is your concern?” He thought and then said, “I don’t know. That I’m not…” he paused, looked down, then back as me and said, “good enough.” You could have knocked the wind out of me. It took me til my mid-thirties to have that epiphany about myself and here he was at only 14. I asked, “Good enough for who?” I thought he might say, “the other kids,” or something along those lines, but instead he said, “me.” Wow! I was in awe of my child. To understand something so profound about himself as his age just blew me away. I asked, “how are you not good enough for yourself?” He shared that he thought he might have to change who he is (autism mannerisms (flapping and humming) and all), and he hated the idea of not being true to himself in order to fit in at school. I loved my son so strongly in that moment. That he loved himself that much and knew he’d be letting himself down if he had to change inspired me. I need to be more like my son. He has got this loving yourself thing all figured out!

The start of high school will come and go. He will adjust, and God-willing, it will go much better than he anticipates. What I don’t think my son understands is that by loving himself and his uniqueness, he will inspire others to do the same. Wanting to fit in is normal, but oh how boring. Loving who you are is (but shouldn’t be) the exception. It inspires, and draws people in. I hope my son understands just being himself is not only good enough, but exactly (the role model) what others need.

How are you helping your child adjust to the new school year? How are you helping them embrace who they are?

I will be off taking some time off to enjoy the last weeks of summer and be back in September.

First Day Jitters

How did your child’s school year start?

My oldest is starting high school (gulp), and while school being remote lessened some of his first day jitters, it didn’t eliminate them.

Our son stressed about how the first day would go. Not about getting lost in the new school, or worrying about how he’d fit in, but about when to connect online, how to, and what his schedule was going to be.

My husband and I tried to reassure him that that everyone was working hard to get schedules done and communicate the details out to students. He was in the same boat with his classmates and needed to have some patience. He wasn’t convinced. I didn’t realize how stressed he was until I got an email from one of his teachers with details on a class. Trying to show my son he didn’t have anything to worry about, I decided to have a little fun with him. I genuinely thought he’d catch on to my ‘being silly’ immediately. “I got a note from your teacher,” I said. His shoulders relaxed. “It’s a sewing class.” His shoulders tightened again. Ah oh, I thought, I was expecting ‘a yea, right!’ Not tightened shoulders. “Sewing? I’m not taking sewing!” He was overreacting and, while I should have let him off the hook, I decided to let it play out a little longer. “Yea, sewing. It’s a good skill to have.” “I am not taking sewing!” he said. His stress was way up. I decided to let him know the truth. “I’m kidding kiddo, the note is from your PE teacher.” I smiled. I didn’t know how he’d react. He smiled relieved. “Mom,” he laughed. “Sorry, I just wanted to have a little fun with you.” He was happy to have a class he wanted, and I was relieved he wasn’t upset with me.

There were some technical challenges we suffered through on the first day (with computer apps, etc.), but otherwise he had a good first day. At the end of the day he was happy. It clearly went better than he’d expected. All those jitters for nothing, right? Yet, we all feel them particularly when we are doing something new (school, new job, new city).

We don’t know how the school year will unfold, but are grateful to have first day jitters behind us.

How are you helping your child acclimate to the new school year?

Silver Linings

What’s grabbing your attention during the pandemic?

The first few weeks, news of the virus held my attention, but as time has gone on, I’ve started tuning more into the needs of myself, my family and others. Just paying attention– really close attention — to my boys and how they are doing has led my husband and I to have some ‘aha’ moments we easily would have missed if the pre-Covid-19 busyness was still around — be it how they are doing with school, dealing with isolation, and their overall health.

We did have a moment this week, where being tuned in to my kids felt really nice. My oldest got a notification that it was time to register for high school and the classes he’d like to take (electives beyond mandatory courses). I knew it might create stress for him since it’s the first time he’s had to make these types of choices in this way. We sat down together and watched the tutorials and downloaded the course catalogue and after awhile, got the hang for what he needed to do. It probably took all of 30 minutes, but I realized how having no distractions (nothing else my mind was focused on — such as an upcoming work day or appointment I needed to keep) allowed me to relax and have patience to spend the needed time with him. It showed me how impatient I’ve been in the past in these types of situations, and provided me an opportunity to be there for my son — truly be there for him — to help him. I knew he was fine once he started reaching out to his friends so they could try to coordinate schedules. 😊

I sometimes miss the rush of my previously busy life, but continue to look for the silver linings. Being able to pay attention fully has been one of those gifts.

What silver linings are you experiencing as a result of the pandemic?