Yesterday, my “little girl” turned 14. I found myself a little teary-eyed as I thought about her going to high school next year, probably falling in love and having her heart broken and all the things that go with teenage-hood. One thing that I am very proud of, however, is our relationship. I have tried to raise her without judgment so that she feels that she can talk to me about anything she wants to. I know there will always be things that she only talks to her peers about, but I am thankful for the close rapport we have.
My policy is that nothing is taboo. As the mother of a very inquisitive child, I have always tried to answer her questions as honestly as possible. I remember when she was 5 and wouldn’t accept the explanation that tampons are “band-aids,” causing me to basically explain menstruation to her...in Kindergarten! Then there was the time she came home in 2nd grade and told me she was a lesbian. I smiled and asked her what made her think that? She said, “Well, I’m a girl and you’re a girl and we love each other,” very matter-of-factly. After I pulled myself up from the puddle I had become, I explained about mom/daughter love vs. woman-to-woman love. Then, there was the time she asked me what the word, “fuck,” meant. She had heard it on the school bus. I explained not only the history of the word, but the many ways it can be used. Then, in 6th grade, she blew my mind during a car ride when she confirmed what she thought masturbation was and that she had discovered it.
I know that having a curious kid has helped me get past my awkwardness about some of these topics, and I am thankful for that. When my clients or friends are having a hard time explaining things to their kids, I think about what I would tell my daughter if she were the one asking. The facts about sex – more about safe sex than the actual mechanics – are hot topics right now. While encouraging abstinence is every parent’s right, I’ve chosen to use what I believe is a more realistic viewpoint.
Most teenagers aged 16+ are either actively having sex or will soon be. Some start earlier and some later, and yes, there still are the kids that wait for marriage. If and when my daughter decides that she is ready to start a sexual relationship with someone, she knows to come to me for help. I have promised to take her to the doctor for birth control pills and buy condoms from the store if need be. I’d much rather have her get through high school without an STI or pregnancy than deny her access to these things because of her own embarrassment.
I realize that my way is very liberal and is not everyone’s cup of tea. My rationale is that I want my child to hear the facts of life from me, so that she’ll know what is correct should the topics come up at school or somewhere else where I am absent. It has taken a lot of effort on both our parts: her to get the nerve to ask and me to not freak out, but just to answer. Even if this is not how a parent-child relationship has been in the past, it is never too late to open up the communication channels and educate your child to protect your child.