Friday, May 1, 2009

21st Century Sex Ed

When I was growing up, the lesson had one-part, two-word name. Now, the same essential lesson has a two-part, ten-word moniker:

1979: Sex Ed

2009: Human Growth and Development, and Male and Female Reproductive Systems (hereafter referred to as HGaDaMaFRS).

Is this progress? Possibly, as it appears there are more issues covered in the late-elementary and early middle-school lessons offered in California schools today than 30 years ago. Still, there’s something to be said for using straight talk, getting to the point.

Let’s face it: It’s Sex Ed, folks. It’s OK to call it by its proper name. Honesty removes taboos.

In 1979 I lived in Potomac, Maryland, where the schools didn’t introduce Sex Ed until Sixth grade. We moved from Maryland to the suburbs of Chicago in June, 1979, just after I finished Fifth grade. In Illinois, students’ first introduction to Sex Ed took place in Fifth grade – the year before my arrival. Unbeknownst to me, I had missed the formal teachings.

Factor in my husband’s 13 years of Parochial school (Catholics didn’t talk about sex), and you might wonder how, four years after we were married, we managed to have three children in the span of 24 months.

I just signed the permission slip for my fifth grader to take the HGaDaMaFRS classes this month. I’ve done my research and I am not worried about the lessons. If I did have questions, however, the school district offers a parents-only meeting prior to the start of HGaDaMaFRS.

HGaDaMaFRS is going to be an interesting experience. Around our house, we’ve already had a series of conversations related to the topics of HGaDaMaFRS, including the social, emotional and physical changes of puberty and adolescence. Our ongoing discussion commenced last August when the addition of a puppy to our family sparked endless questions from the kids about reproduction. (My favorite was, “What does the dad have to do with it?”).

Our version of HGaDaMaFRS takes place largely at the kitchen table, often during snack time or homework time. No “session” is planned; spontaneity rocks. Conversations don’t include lectures and never last longer than five minutes. We answer all questions with honesty; when the questions stop, the conversation ends.

Quite frankly, I’m enjoying the openness of the subject around our house. Nothing is taboo. If one of our children asks about the subject, he or she likely is ready to know the truth, and we do our best to provide age-appropriate answers.

The conversations can flow freely. But when it comes to Sex Ed (or the more delicately put “HGaDaMaFRS”) we have an agreement in our family: “Mom and Dad will always answer your questions with the truth. No question is too silly to ask. Please don't start conversations with your friends about this yet, because we don't know what everyone else knows (or thinks they know) at this point. If you hear anything from other kids, please tell us what people are saying, especially if you’re confused – or amused. You don’t need to name names. We only want to be sure you’re getting the truth.”