My daughters, 12 and 10, and I were watching C.S.I. last night and my husband who could overhear their questions and my answers, irritatingly commented: “Do they have to watch that show? Do you have to talk to them about sex and rape?”
I did not get defensive. I understood. He is very protective of the girls. I answered, “Would you rather that they grow up not knowing anything? That’s why we watch the show together… so I can have a chance to explain what they don’t understand.”
Sex, deviance and death–natural or gruesome–are part of reality. Kids become adults, no matter how much we parents would like to shelter them from the harsher side of life. I want my kids prepared. And as a parent, I am supposed to help prepare them. Are my kids too young for C.S.I.? I don’t think age is the determinative factor–it is the level of maturity.
That little dialogue last night brought to mind Korina Sanchez’s interview of Zsa Zsa Padilla last Sunday. I caught the last few minutes while I was preparing dinner. Zsa Zsa Padilla, 40, the live-in partner of comedian Dolphy (he must be over 70) for fifteen years was married to a doctor at age sixteen and is still waiting for the marriage to finally be annulled. She was saying that she did not want her own teenage daughter (from the marriage) to grow up the way she did. In short, ignorant about sex and other things that many parents feel too uncomfortable discussing with their young children.
As a singer, Zsa Zsa Padilla does not impress me. But I agreed with her on that singular issue. We have to talk to our children truthfully and openly. Not just about sex but about other things as well–drugs, relationships, peer groups, friendships, death, religion, politics. These are subjects that can be discussed without causing young children fear and trauma, in terms that will make things understandable for them, using language that will make them compassionate and not judgmental, critical without being hateful. In other words, very much unlike the mother in the following anecdote.
A Mother is driving her little girl to her friend’s house for a play date.
“Mommy,” the little girl asks, “How old are you?”
“Honey, you are not supposed to ask a lady her age,” the mother answers.
“Ok,” the little girl says, “How much do you weigh?”
“Now really,” the mother says, “these are personal questions and are really none of your business.”
Undaunted, the little girl asks, “Why did you and daddy get a divorce?”
“That is enough questions, honestly!” The exasperated mother walks away as the two friends begin to play.
“My Mom wouldn’t tell me anything” the little girl says to her friend.
“Well,” said the friend, “ .. all you need to do is look at her driver’s license. It is like a report card, it has everything on it.”
Later that night the little girl says to her mother, “I know how old you are, you are 32.”
The mother is surprised and asks, “How did you find that out?”
“I also know that you weigh 140 pounds.” The mother is past surprise and shock now.
“How in heavens name did you find that out?”
“Annnnd,” the little girl says triumphantly, “I know why you and daddy got a divorce.”
Oh really?” the mother asks. “Why?”
“Because you got an F in sex.”