Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sex Ed

There's a couple things that have me thinking about sex ed lately.

One of them is OMSI.  There's a "Life Science" exhibit there which includes diagrams of inner body parts, reproductive organs included.  They have a whole display of babies at different stages of fetal development (which creeped me out when I discovered that they were actual preserved pre-1940s babies and not just replicas).  I kind of hurried the kids past the part with the reproductive organs that looked like it might go into some details about conception (albeit with scientific language that goes way over the kids' head).  

The second thing that has me thinking is Kyrie's First Communion classes.  I'm trying to do some Religion Lessons in our homeschooling now and then to make sure she understands the prayers she has to memorize and the topics they talk about (as well as introducing Elijah to it).  We discussed the 10 Commandments... and when she asked me what "Do not commit adultery" means, I was at a loss.  I really want to discuss the Apostle's Creed with her too (that's one of the prayers she has to memorize); but it has the same issue, with its "conceived of the Virgin Mary".

The thing is, my instincts are very firmly of the opinion that I should just be straightforward about it and tell them, in basic terms, what sex is.  I could then explain what adultery is as easily as explaining what murder is.  I wouldn't have to worry about Science Exhibits.  I could share with them the miracle that is the Virgin Birth in a simple but meaningful way. 

But Kyrie and Elijah are only 6 and 8.  First and second grade.  That is, by the standards of everyone other than me, way too early for kids to know what sex is.  Ken certainly thinks they shouldn't know, and I'll abide by his resistance.  But I don't really get it.  How can we think kids are old enough to learn the Apostle's Creed, but not old enough to understand all of it?  


  1. I know! I struggle with this, too. Actually, I'm leaning pretty heavily toward getting one of those scientific books that lays it all out straight and sitting both kids down (4 and 7) to give them the skinny.

    Thing is, with my kids, we have issues with flaunting body parts around even in public. I think it's important for my daughter to understand WHY she does not show her butt or her vagina to people at school. At this point, I'd rather they have the facts straight and risk them saying something inappropriate to their peers than have them show their private parts around because they don't have a sense of how important they are.

    I did explain that to make the baby I'm carrying, God took part of Dedah and part of me and mixed them together inside my womb and that made the baby, but I completely left out anything about how part of Dedah got inside me, and thankfully, they didn't ask.

    But you're right. How can we teach them about the sacredness of God's marital plan without also telling them what it involves?

  2. Well, I'll grant that I wouldn't be as ready to teach Savi about it, since she still can't grasp the concept of making her dress cover her underwear at Mass. Frankly, I'd worry about her doing something inappropriate with the knowledge, since she's already got no sense of appropriateness. But Kyrie and Elijah are past that phase, and I can't see any point to not telling them. It's good to know I'm not the only person out there who feels this way, though. It seems like everyone I know is caught up in the "kids must not be told this to preserve their innocence" way of thinking.

  3. Hmm, well I agree with you, Anna- I think that's an appropriate enough age to know the basic facts and introduce the concept of something that is part of marriage. But I might just think that because I was 7 when I found out that sort of thing... because I started asking a lot of questions after Greg was born!! :) Since your kids have younger siblings, how did you handle the "how did the baby get in your tummy" questions, or did they ask?

  4. Mmm. I think I told them to ask when they were older or something. Which is also what I did when Kyrie asked about adultery.

  5. I had wondered what your reaction would be to the baby display when you saw it. I find it very fascinating, powerful, sad and creepy myself.

    Here's my $.02 on your First Communion queries, if you'll have it from an ex-catholic current aethiest-spiritualist(?) like me ;) I have explained adultery, or unfaithfulness, by first explaining things that differentiate male friends from husband examples- living together and sleeping in same beds, kissing romantically, commitment levels, helping out. We have explained that to go outside these things can really hurt that special someone that you have chosen to love as your blood and that is really not good.
    And on the "conceived of the Virgin Mary" bit, a part of Jesus' history I can't wrap in a tidy package either. I actually knew what earthly conception was when I made my First Communion at age 12 and the thought of any strange being, angelic or not, coming in the dead of night and having that sort of announcement for a married, young girl for that sounded kinda strange and scary. I have always thought the Catholic church has done a pretty good job of cloaking it in a beautiful, angelic mysticism too special for anyone except Mary to know-right? Or maybe that just how I saw it to make it ok for myself :)

    We also have been trying to figure out a good way to teach Jubal the sex basics. It so far has been just doling out "age appropriate" tidbits at the right times, but I don't know when to give the whole story either. I think Shawn tried once a few months ago and Jubal got distracted and wandered off bored.
    So is this crazy too long of a blog response to someone who lives knocking distance?

  6. Sara,

    My reaction to the baby display is mixed. I think the learning potential of something like that is awesome. And in this day of abortion, seeing the faces of the unborn is actually very important. But using real bodies instead of replicas seems disrespectful to me. Like that "Bodies" Exhibit. Especially since (in both cases) the person did not give permission for their body to be displayed after their death. I can understand the benefit to science and learning, but in the end, I would rather see accurate replicas made, and the bodies buried.

    On First Communion... yeah, I suppose if I am going to not just tell them all the facts outright, a good compromise would be like you describe, to talk about the romance and other non-biological things that only spouses do, and put adultery in that context. That's a good thought.

    Hmm. I never really thought of the angel coming to Mary as strange or creepy. An angel shows up - and for the record, the Bible says nothing about "in the dead of night", it just says an angel appeared to Mary. We don't really know what time it was or where it was or whether the angel looked human or not or anything like that. But an angel shows up and tells her not to be afraid, and she's going to have a baby. A son who will be very special and rule forever. (And, being young and short-sighted, she assumed he meant she would have a baby right now instead of off in that vague future all of 6 to 12 months away when her marriage would be finalized; thus she asked how this would happen, and the angel answered that it would be a miracle of the Holy Spirit). If an angel had come to you and told you that you would have a son, and you were to name him Jubal, and he would be a great prophet in the eyes of your Creator... would you find that disturbing? I think it would be scary, yes, but in a really exciting way, especially at first. (Later on comes all the mundane, dispiriting hassle of dealing with other people accusing Mary of having an illegitimate child, I imagine.) That underlying excitement about being the lucky woman who gets to give birth to the Savior that all her people are waiting for - that's what I see in the Magnificat, the poem/prayer thing she says when she goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. It's all like... "God has remembered his lowly maidservant; all generations will call me blessed. God has remembered his promises to my people."

    Maybe that explains how I see the whole thing. I never found it disturbing or thought that it had to be something that only Mary could understand. Does that help at all?

    As for when sex ed is appropriate... I don't know. I know I got "the whole story" in 5th or 6th grade. I'll probably tell the kids all about it whenever Ken becomes ok with it, since my instincts say that Kyrie and Elijah are already ready to hear it.