The Speed Version of the Birds and the Bees Talk by Sharon Johnson O’Donnell

This past week I had ‘the talk’ about the facts of life with my youngest son who is 11. With my two older sons, I had the talk with them when they were ten; but, I kept putting off the talk with my youngest. I’d gone through some facts about puberty when he was younger because the questions would naturally evolve as he saw his older brothers grow. I’d also talked to him about the private areas issue when he was much younger, but the actual sex talk got put off somehow. I don’t really know why other than perhaps he is six years and nine years younger than his two brothers, and I still think of him as my baby. I had also thought that with friends and two older brothers, he probably had picked up a few of the tidbits about the facts of life along the way. But I knew that in the last part of the fifth grade (which he just finished in in year-round school), the teachers would send home that note I’d gotten twice before — the one about the last science unit the class would study was human growth (puberty) and reproduction. That was my deadline. I knew I didn’t want my son to be the only kid in class to perhaps be blindsided by some really startling information, so I knew it was time for the talk. Of course, I’d answered a few curious questions from him over the years, but I hadn’t delved into the topic the way I needed to do yet.

With my other two sons, I prepared notes to make sure I gave them all the information both factually and about the way I feel about sex and relationships from a moral point of view. I chose a time at home to talk with each one alone, and then I did so. Both of them seemed to be ignoring me as I spoke, but I knew they were taking all the information in. Then afterwards, I left some very good sexual education books with them for them to read and told them to ask me any questions if they needed to do so. I began to prepare the same for my youngest and got out the educational books and put them on my bedroom dresser near the door. I was going to sit down and jot down some notes beforehand like I did with my other boys, but alas — that was not to be.

Instead, I ended up giving an impromptu talk. When I picked up my youngest from school one day last week, he handed me the note. The one from the teachers letting parents know the birds and the bees topic would be covered in school in a few days and requesting permission from parents. I sighed as I read the note. I needed to talk to my son that night — couldn’t put it off any longer. But he had a baseball game that night and so did my middle son, and there were some other things going on too. But there we were in the car right then — alone — and I wouldn’t have to worry about making eye contact as much because I’d be driving. I decided to go ahead and do the talk right there in the car while my son was basically a captive audience. I launched into the talk and found that it was pretty easy.

Perhaps too easy. My car version of this information was done at a much quicker pace than when I had talked to my older boys at home. I was on a roll and feeling relieved that I was finally getting ‘the talk’ checked off my list of things to do. But somewhere between explaining how the uterus prepares for a baby and sperm production, I glanced over at my son. His eyes were wide, but his brow was furrowed, and his expression was one of disbelief and disgust. He looked over at me like as if to say ‘what the hell are you talking about?” I laughed and realized I needed to slow down. I got the job done, despite a few “Okay, mom” comments that I think were intended to make me stop. Bless his heart.

But hey, the talk was all over by the time we’d pulled into the driveway, including the part about how anybody can have sex, that it doesn’t make you grown up or popular (at least not for the right reasons), and that ideally sex is meant for marriage or a committed relationship between adults and that it should not be something taken casually. I knew while saying this that the media he sees around him often does take sex casually. It’s so tough to express values to our children when so much around them shows them things that are contradictory. Whenever I hear people say that such values are antiquated or that my views are from another generation, it really gets to me. I’ve told my sons and nephews and nieces before that the passage of time does not mean that a person’s morals should change. Each generation thinks it is somehow more insightful or cooler than the last generations, but basically, the people are the same. They still have the same feelings, the same need for relationships. They suffer the same kind of broken hearts and revel in the same kind of falling head-over-in-heels-in-love. And with all of that goes the importance of having respect for yourself and others — no matter what decade it happens to be. I felt this same way in college in the early ’80s when my generation was the cool one.

OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now. And let me also apologize to my youngest son for giving him the facts of life talk in the car. Didn’t realize how fast I was talking while driving. Too much information conveyed in too much of a matter-of-fact tone. I can only attribute that to his being the youngest of three, and sometimes I suffer burn-out and just want to check things off my list. No excuse, though. Sorry, son. But to his credit, he actually brought home the puberty hand-out from school and shared it with me, even telling me some of the vocabulary words they’d discussed. My older sons would never have done that. I guess the Birds and the Bees Speed Version wasn’t so ineffective after all.