Wednesday, March 4, 2015

50 Shades of Awkward

I have talked to my children, sometimes much to their dismay, about everything related to sex.  I wanted them to hear the information from me infused with my values. I didn't want them to be clueless, or hear from a teacher, or on the bus....or the internet.

Most importantly I wanted them to know that they could talk with me, and no matter how awkward, I would always provide answers and guidance.

This started when I knew they were going to start the "family life" section at school.  I took the opportunity on long car rides, going over 50 miles an hour, when we both could not escape from embarrassment to talk.  I also took advantage of teachable moments when watching TV shows and movies, like Bridesmaids...or the Bachelor.

This week I saw the benefit of all of these awkward conversations when my middle daughter Vicki felt comfortable enough to start asking me questions about 50 Shades.  Let me start out by saying that I did not anticipate this discussion and therefore did not  have the necessary barrel of wine at the ready to get me through the evening.

Over the course of this discussion I was asked the following:
  • Did she like it?
  • Why did he want to do it to her?
  • Did she tie him up?
  • Did she hit him?
  • Is it abuse?  
  • Did they love each other?  
  • What is....(insert any topic in the movie)
  • Do people wear leather?
  • Are paddles made of wood?
  • Doesn't it hurt?  
All this and my daughter did not even read the book.  

I then had the great pleasure (no pun intended) of explaining bondage, S&M, dominant / submissive relationships as I sat in disbelief I was talking with my high school freshman.  I kept to the minimum facts, talked in broad terms, and prayed for the end to come quickly...a few times I prayed for death just to end the discussion.   All jokes aside, we talked about how each person can define healthy for themselves but when requests or activities get uncomfortable it is time to use your safe word...and run away if you are not respected.    I told them that healthy relationships are all about two adults (or more if that is what you are into), coming together to build a life.  Sex is an important part of any healthy relationship (but not the only part) and both parties have to agree.

I was able to reinforce ideas about starting too young (wait until you are 30)...you can get pregnant, and I took the time to once again bring up the  issues of disease, being safe...and being comfortable.  

My daughter explained to me she was asking me these questions because she was attempting to determine her own opinion about the book and hype....she was struggling with whether or not it is abuse.

 My daughter...came to me...to ask questions...so she could form an opinion.  Welcome to Parent Cloud 9.  

Was this awkward?  Yes on many levels.  I sat in amazement and slight horror of all my children are exposed to and understand at such an early age.  There were times I was squirming and at one point  threw up my hands "I can not take it anymore, this is getting too awkward, I'm only taking yes or no questions!"  There was a small residual piece of my uptight upbringing that wanted to send her to her room with the internet so I could sit in quiet denial.  I lifted the binary question requirement and just let the conversation flow...down the awkward river...with no paddles (oh my gosh that is funny)...and remember, no wine.

I did ask where she was learning about Anastaia, and much to my horror, there have been posters plastered all over school regarding the movie and how it relates to healthy and unhealthy relationships.  The hashtag #50shadesofblackandblue  was on the school walls (ok, take a moment to digest that - yes, I was shocked).  Vicki has also seen the TV commercials and read the buzz on Twitter.  There has been controversy over the movie on the news.

If you just said to yourself "my kid is not on Twitter," "we do not watch the news or any TV," "my children do not go to school," "their friends would never talk about this,"...well, then go back to being Amish...or living in denial.  For the rest of you who live in reality....let's continue.

I am not saying it is easy to talk to your children about any of this.  And there is no judgement on my part at all.  If you are deeply rooted in religious beliefs or regularly hang from the chandeliers in your own "Red Room of Pain," it is totally your business - go forth as you wish as long as you can emotionally deal.  And, I don't care at all what you tell your children as long as you are open, honest, and keep it on a level for them to digest. You may say:
  • A loving relationship is centered in Christ.
  • We do not believe in having sex before marriage
  • There should be no physical pain between two lovers
  • Get your freak on any way you like as long as it is consensual.  
The most important thing to realize is that in today's day and age you have to open up the dialog or your children are going to learn their values from the internet and popular culture.  This is about letting your child know they can talk with you...and ask questions.  I can guarantee you that when they hear things and do not know what it is they are embarrassed.  I remember being horrified in elementary school when kids were making fun of me because they could tell I was embarrassed when I did not understand a joke with a sexual reference and was unsure how I could find the meaning.

Our kids have the internet to run to.  Just for kicks, get on your phone and Google the word "porn "  and see what pops up.   Frightening, eh?  Now imagine your 12 year old daughter looking at the same information.   They can just as easily google "50 Shades" and are given a variety of information none of which is related to a color pallet.   Armed with the phone, which is really just a mini computer, they have the ability to enter a world they are not emotionally ready to handle and need your guidance to navigate.

Look, I am not saying these conversations are easy.  And part of your open and honest discussion will be admitting to your child your skin in crawling and this is all very awkward.  But, there will come a time, like I had this week, when you realize that the open and honest communication will pay off.  Where your child will come to you...seek your guidance and wisdom...as they start to form their own opinion.

Greatest lesson learned - when you have three teenage daughters, always keep wine in the house - you never - and I mean NEVER know what is coming next.

I would like to thank my 15 year old daughter Vicki, not only for bringing me into her decision, but also allowing me to share it with you.  When asked if I could generally share it she gave me permission to give detail, and hopefully help other families.  

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