Giving your kids THE Talk is usually not easy, and I’ve come to realize I’ve given them several TALKs from the time they could understand until, now, as young adults. These are moments of imparting necessary pearls of wisdom upon them with the hope that they are listening, even if they only just latch onto the important parts. And the experienced parent knows, too often these talks are like those lectures you got in school that after a while sounded like the warbled teacher-talk in Charlie Brown.
None-the-less talking to children from experience is essential. Communication is everything.
One of the earliest talks was when I had to tell my toddler that biting is unacceptable. Not long after came the It’s time to stop sucking your thumb talk. Only to be followed by the Look both ways before you cross the street, then look again talk. As young children, these talks were a matter of imparting lessons, not of the uncomfortable nature.
It didn’t get uncomfortable until puberty when it came time to talk about body changes. I remember buying the book My Body Myself for my firstborn, Ryan. It’s an educational/journal/workbook of sorts with, perhaps, too many pictures. I told Ryan he might like to flip through this book to give him some information about the ways in which he should expect his body to change. A reassurance for him that he isn’t morphing into some kind of monster. After a day or so, I knew he flipped through the book because he said to me, “Mom, did you read that book before you gave it to me? Because I’m not sure it’s really appropriate for me.”
The next conversation became even more uncomfortable, as my husband called NO DIBS regarding the sex talk with Ryan. At his school, a pediatrician came in, girls separated from boys, to explain the changes in body and discuss the birds and the bees. I saw this as a teachable moment. So, when he came home, I asked him about the talk, and it became clear that he wasn’t giving up any details. I said, “Now, Ryan, I’d like to tell you about sex which you may or may not know about already, but I’d like it to come from my mouth so I can be sure you have the right information.” His face blushed and he shrugged it off, saying, “You really don’t have to mom. Do you?” He was not getting out of listening even if he chose not to respond.
As he approached middle school, the talks became more important and touched on things like being a leader, listening to your inside voice, not succumbing to peer pressure regarding alcohol, nicotine and drugs.
In high school, the first AHA! moment snuck up on me when Ryan, as a freshman hockey player, got into the car of a senior for a ride home. I thought, OH RITE, time for this conversation. I was taken off guard that he would do so without permission. And this began a long line of decision making without permission. Welcome to those horrible teen years every parent already in-the-know warns you about. I thought I was ready… armed with my talks and positive reinforcement, feeling like I knew my child and his friends well enough to assume the kinds of risky behaviors they’d take part in. Afterall, I had been there. I thought I was a parent in-the-know. Turns out, I wasn’t until after I’d lived through it at least once. Then I thought I KNEW. But, I didn’t. The second is never exactly like the first. In fact, I’m still learning, but I haven’t stopped talking. I’ve even lowered myself to sneaking and prying and spying. Now, I know, there is nothing I will stop short of for the safety of my child.
The next TALK came the summer of my son’s junior year in high school. For this talk, I left a box of condoms, stealth-like, on his bed with a note that read, “This is not permission, it’s precaution, but I hope you will wait until you’re in love.” He was completely mortified, but his friends thought it was a cool way to deliver the message. I suspect my son did too, deep down, though he would never admit it.
As the TALKs continued, they became scarier and scarier because the next talk came upon him leaving my comfy, cozy and SAFE nest– when he went off to college. We talked about safety, independence, responsibility, time management, money management, considering consequences before acting/reacting… we talked about how what he did for the next four years would certainly be a foundation for his LIFE. His life. It was becoming abundantly clear that his life– apart from me and all our talks– was drawing near.
As a college graduate on the cusp of moving to the other side of the country for a very good job offer he’s accepted, we once again had THE Talk. This time is was about money and budgeting, legal documents, and credit ratings, banking and paying bills. This was one serious talk, but the difference this time is that he had become a man. I know this because he was fully engaged, taking it all in like a sponge.
I suspect this will not be the last of the TALKs I have with my firstborn, though they will most likely become farther apart from the last.