We are in the mid-teen stretch. Band season has started, and school starts in another week. Hope and I are, as always, trying to find our way in the world.
Recently we were out doing some school shopping. We needed to pick up all kinds of things, and the next thing I know Hope wants to talk about really personal stuff.
She wants to have the conversation at Target on a busy afternoon and not with an inside voice. It’s always Target. Seriously that damn bullseye.
I really started talking to Hope about sex about two years ago. I decided early that I wanted to be the mom that she could talk to about anything. We have our own little code for initiating these conversations—our code tells the other that this is a time for grace, no super emotional drama, no attacks, no drama. We focus on facts, but I do get to share my opinion as long as it is presented respectfully and focuses on helping her with her decision making and not imposing my will. My daughter has survived a lot of things; I want to be her ally. I want her to make good, informed decisions. I want to teach her values, and help her understand how values play out in your life. I also wanted to deliberate about promoting body and sex positivity.
All of this isn’t just laying groundwork; it’s about rewiring. My daughter is still young, but there are some really icky things that are in her original wiring that need some work. So, I work hard to be positive.
I also think it’s been important to talk about agency, choices, emotions, and control. Often during these conversations, I find myself recounting my observations about some of her decisions—not critical, not saying they were wrong, just how I read them and how other people might read them. I also share what I think the motivation might have been. It also makes me reflect on my own life and choices; I find myself reframing my own life lessons and distilling them for her.
I love that Hope feels like she can talk to me about this stuff. I didn’t have these kinds of chats with my parents. That’s no shade on them; Hope and I have a bit of a different situation because of her history. Every now and then she will mention that she had these confabs with her friends and she will say that the kids wished their parents were able to talk to them. #winning
So, how did our conversations start? Well, I came up with some logical statements that I thought would meet my daughter where she is at any given time. They are also so simplistic that sometimes they make us giggle—not just because of the subject matter but because the statements should be obvious on their face.
ABM’s Logical Relationship & Sex Chat Mottos
- Relationship status (monogamous and committed) should be clear before considering physical activity that goes beyond a hug and a peck on the cheek. Know where you stand.
- Potential partners should care about your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, and you should be able to tell they care in their word and deed.
- If you are too afraid to ask where you stand, then things might be moving too fast and/or there is evidence that you’re not moving in the same direction towards a monogamous and committed relationship.
- Take your time, you are not a Monarch butterfly with the life cycle of 2-6 weeks. You have a lifetime to live; there is no need to rush into any decisions or *make* anything happen (especially by the homecoming dance).
- It’s good to be courted; yes, it makes you feel vulnerable and not in control. The upside is you deserve to be treated well and cherished.
- Know how physical expression fits into what you believe spiritually; does your partner know that about you? Do they share your values? Is there a disconnect and if so is that a deal breaker?
- It’s good to know where your boundaries are before you bump up against them and are in a situation that is too much for you. Figure out where your “bases” are before you are on the “field.”
- Consent is essential for both parties. If you don’t discuss it, you can’t definitively say you have given it or received it. If it’s not talked about directly then you have a slippery slope in the moment that may result in activity that isn’t what you really you want.
- Your body is yours; own your agency. If your partner doesn’t get that, take a pass; they aren’t worth it. Also, your mom is crazy, so…there’s that.
- If you are embarrassed to say the words vagina and penis in a sentence, you are probably not mature enough to get together with someone and use yours for expression and entertainment.
- If you can’t have a chat about previous history and hook ups, then you aren’t close enough to the person to bump uglies.
- If buying condoms or any other kind of protection is mortifying consider how mortifying it might be to see the family doctor to discuss your new friends “itchy, scratch and oozy.” Pregnancy might be the least of your worries.
- Physical attraction can be really intense; so much so that it can make you do dumb ish that you think is ok until the morning or moment after. That time can be really crazy—you and your partner’s connection make the difference between it being a walk of shame or basking in some dumb romantic novel scene.
- Focus on the bigger picture. Sex is a physical activity that is as much expression as exercise. It should fit into something else; not be free standing. It shouldn’t stand alone; it was never intended to be and we know that from our spiritual references and because of our emotional reaction to sex. Keep focusing on the big picture and understanding what a healthy relationship will look like for you. Thinking about sex first is backwards in the decision making process.
So that’s where we are these days. I’d love to hear how other families are navigating their chats about sex and relationships. I think Hope and I have a good thing going. I smiled when she said recently that she had reflected on something I said at a critical moment. I just want her to feel confident about herself and her choices.
So, what strategies have worked well with your family?