By Whitney Fleming
One sunny Wednesday afternoon, I picked my three daughters up from middle school. They jumped into the minivan, and then I crept into the exit line for the car lane.
“So, how was your day?” I asked, as I always do.
Sex Education for Teenagers
“OMG, we had the pacer today in gym. It was awful,” my seventh-grade daughter loudly exclaimed.
“What’s so bad about the pacer? Or, I guess I should ask, what is the pacer?” I responded.
“You know, that’s when you have to run back and forth in the gym for, like forever, and they record how many times you do it. Like, if you get forty times, that’s an A,” my youngest, a sixth-grader, piped in from the back.
Then the conversation changed. I watched as my front seat passenger turned to talk to the two girls seated in the back and stated point-blank, “Tim was trying to beat his old record of sixty-seven, so all the boys kept chanting, ‘sixty-nine, sixty-nine’ over and over. It was ridiculous.”
And that’s when a deafening silence landed in my minivan.
“Um, do you know what that means?” I asked with a sideways glance.
“Yeah, someone told me. I mean, kind of,” she responded quietly.
I caught my other daughter’s eye in the rearview mirror. “Do you know what that means?”
Talking About Sex
She is the one who hates discussing anything uncomfortable, so I was not surprised when she diverted her eyes out the window and quietly said, “Not really. I have an idea, but not really.”
“I have no clue what it means,” my youngest daughter innocently said.
I took a deep breath and looked out at the long line of cars in front of me. Although we only live five minutes from the school, it could take up to fifteen minutes just to get out of the parking lot on a busy day.
“Do you guys want to know?” I sheepishly asked. “Because I’ll tell you if you want to know.”
I heard some soft grumblings.
To be honest, I didn’t want to have this discussion. While my daughters are looking more grown up by the minute, I didn’t want to describe a sex act to them after school, I didn’t want to engage in a talk that would cause us all to feel awkward.
But I remember feeling embarrassed and unsure of anything sex-related when I was growing up. You see, I was raised in a house where sex was not talked about at all. While both parents were involved in my life and incredibly supportive of me in every way–academics, sports, friendships, job opportunities–sex was off the table. If we were watching a movie or TV show where a romantic scene popped on the screen, my dad suddenly jumped up to use the bathroom or have a smoke outside on our patio. My mom simply ignored the topic altogether.
Knowledge and Informed Decisions
While my lack of knowledge terrified me, some of my friends–ones with similar backgrounds and parents like mine–decided the best way to learn about sex was to partake in the activity, some beginning at the tender age of 13. Unfortunately, many of them had zero understanding of the risks. These girls and boys were honor students, cheerleaders and class officers. It is a miracle that my high school was not the official launch pad for Teen Mom.
I believe that knowledge encourages kids to make informed decisions and to label things as “bad” or “wrong” only fuels their interest. We all remember the story about the forbidden fruit, right?
Multiple studies show that teens who talk to their parents about sex are more likely to delay their first sexual encounter and to practice safe sex when they decide to become active. That means talking to my kids about what “69” is makes them less likely to do it before they are ready.
So, I told my kids, “I’m going to tell you what this is, and you may think it’s gross, and it’s going to be embarrassing for all of us, and when I finish telling you, let’s just all shout out our favorite ice cream.”
Yep, We Talked About That
And off I went. I reminded my three daughters that sex is best when it happens between two people who love and respect each other. I told them that they should never do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable, but there will be times they will want their partner to feel good. And then, as I white-knuckled the steering wheel, I explicitly told my three beautiful girls what performing sixty-nine is.
Just as we pulled into our driveway, I asked if anyone had any questions, and that’s when one of my daughters yelled, “Mint chocolate chip, mint chocolate chip!” We all laughed and hopped out of the car, ready to start our after-school activities.
I felt a sense of accomplishment as I watched my three tweens/teens amble through the door. While I’m relieved that the length of my conversation on the topic was brief, I know there are many parents out there who are not having any discussions regarding sex, and this scares me.
And for that, I’m thankful for those boys who chanted during gym that day.
And also for mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Whitney Fleming is a freelance writer, social media consultant and digital asst. editor at Your Teen for Parents. She is the mom to three teen/tween daughters and resides in the suburbs of Chicago. Find her on Facebook or Instagram.