The Birds and the Bees
This is such a sensitive subject to get into here, yet I believe that it's definitely a subject that needs to be addressed. I am very aware that many people have different ideas and beliefs on this subject... so I may be opening up a can of worms by even writing this page. Please, if you are sensitive about the subject of sex... I suggest that you leave without reading any further.
The subject of talking to a child about sex leaves many a parent at a complete loss for words. This past Thursday as my son's therapist told me that it was time to get a book and have a sex talk with my son, I could feel myself getting ready to have a major anxiety attack right there in his office. How was I ever going to be able to sit down and talk about sex with an eleven year old without screwing things up? Worse yet, how was I going to talk about sex to an eleven year old that quite often behaved as if he were a toddler. I sat there staring straight-faced at Joe, the therapist, and wondered if Joe could see my apprehension. Of course, I tried to act all cool and collective... and did a lot of nodding and agreeing.... as I sat there glancing over at the clock and thinking about nothing more than just getting the heck out of his office.
Yes, Joe was so smooth as he sat there discussing the difference between "sex and humping" with my son that day. I really wanted to crawl under the couch and hide. In fact, he was so smooth about it that I almost poked my head back into the office before I left and suggested that I just pay him a little extra... and let HIM have that little sex talk with TLP. Yet, I knew that it was my job. I was the parent... and regardless of my own anxieties... I needed to find a way to talk openly to TLP. YIKES!
I agonized over this for the rest of the evening. How could I just sit down and start talking to my son about sex? I wouldn't even know where to begin! I sat there thinking back to my own childhood. My parents never sat down and talked to me about sex... and that was just fine with me. In fact, I would have died if my parents ever sat me down and discussed "The Birds and the Bees" with me. I would have been completely embarrassed and totally mortified! Sex was just something that I knew was not allowed. Nobody really talked about it. I pretty much just learned about sex the way that most people I knew learned about it. By talking to friends... and by sneaking off to a local used bookstore and buying my own books. As I started thinking back to some of the details of that first book that I read, it was then that I decided that I'd better listen to Joe, and sit down and talk to my son before he gets any older.
The problem with talking to TLP was that he already had his own strange ideas about what sex was. Being exposed to sexual activity as a toddler really impaired his thought process as far as sex was concerned. In fact, if he even hears the word "sex" he responds with a very loud "EEEEEEWWWWWW!!!!!" So I knew that I needed to start by taking the "EEEEEWWWWWW" out of sex for him.
I went to the library and checked out all of the books I could find on the subject. After reading a few, I wondered if the library ever viewed any of them before shelving them. Yikes! There are some pretty bad sex books floating around our local library. I picked up a few that I thought maybe I could maybe sneak a little information from... and went home.
TLP wasn't alarmed at all as I picked up the books and told him to follow me to my bedroom. After all... it wasn't uncommon for us to snuggle up in my bed and read books together. So getting him there was actually the easy part. The look on his face as I started to read the first page of one of the books, told me that he was reacting exactly the same way that I would have reacted had my parents pulled the same stunt on me. He grabbed a pillow and placed it firmly over his face. I sat there looking at the pillow for a few minutes and then threw the books down onto the floor.
"I know that you don't want to talk to me about sex... but we really NEED to talk about it," I said quietly. He stayed there underneath the pillow... but I knew that he was listening... so I continued on. "You seem to think that sex is NASTY... and it isn't. The reason that you think that it's nasty is because you were exposed to sex at an early age... before you were old enough to understand... and you were given all of the wrong information."
I continued to talk to him through the pillow... actually relieved a bit that I didn't have to look at his face as I tried to find the right words to continue on. I knew that Joe would have removed the pillow and forced him to look at me if he were there... but I also knew that my son was listening from beneath the pillow... so I continued.
"When you were very small... you were exposed to some things that you never should have been exposed to. Because of that... you believe that you already know what sex is... and you're very wrong. Sex is a beautiful thing between a man and a woman. It's not dirty and nasty. God created man and woman differently. God wanted us to get married... and have sex... so we could procreate. If everyone thought that sex was nasty and dirty... there would be no more babies born into the world and the human race would die out. God wants us to have sex. But not until we are old enough to get married and start a family. He didn't intend for children to have sex because a child's body isn't ready for sex... or to have babies. But you've been exposed to sex... and you already know that if feels good.. even though your body isn't ready yet. I guess I just wanted to tell you that it's okay for you to touch your own private parts. In fact, most boys your age probably do that anyway. They just don't go around telling people about it. In fact, people do that so much that they even have a name for it. It's called "masturbating." But it's NOT okay for you to touch other children's private areas... and it's not okay for you to let them to touch yours. I know that it feels good when you touch your penis, and if you are in your own bedroom with your door closed... there's really nothing wrong with that at all. It's perfectly fine."
It was then that the pillow spoke to me. "But... I don't have a bedroom door."
"Well... if you wouldn't have smashed holes through it... you would have one. Tell you what... you start doing a better job taking care of yourself and I'll see about getting you a new door for your bedroom. But until then... maybe you could go into the bathroom if you'd like to have some private time."
I removed the pillow from his face and gave him a hug. "God didn't intend for adults to have sex with children. He didn't intend for children to have sex with other children. God wanted sex to be something really special for you to share someday with someone that you love. I'm sorry that someone took that away from you. But... now that you know what sex is... it's important for you to know that you don't have to sneak around and hump the furniture. You can't touch other children or let them touch you. If you want to have some private time by yourself and touch your own body... there's nothing wrong with that. That you can do."
I did a lot of talking about good touches and bad touches. I talked to him about coming to me and telling me if anyone ever touched him in a way that made him feel "Nasty." I talked to him about certain situations that have already occured and told him how he could have handled those situations... and who he could have talked to if I wasn't available. We talked and talked. He asked questions and I answered. I honestly believe that this was the most serious and important discussion that I've ever had with TLP in the seven years that he's been here with us. Maybe even a discussion that I should have had with him years before.
In case you haven't already figured it out by reading this site, I really do appreciate having Joe here in our lives. Although he sometimes causes me a bit of anxiety from time to time as he continually yanks me out of my comfort zone... he has been a terrific source of encouragment and support. He has taught me so much about RAD, about facing my fears, about using a mixture of discipline... play... understanding... honesty... and love... to move our son a little closer to healing. Although I have a few other special angels in my life, I know that Joe is the main reason that TLP is still living here in my home today.
I hope that those of you that are still struggling to find your way... can find a dedicated Attachment Therapist to help you pave the path to success. Please do not stop looking until you find the help that you need. Your child's future depends on you. Take the time to learn all that you can about RAD. If you need a break... take that break until you are strong enough to move forward again. Ask people to help you. Reach out to other RAD parents for support. Ask questions... and talk about the embarrassing stuff that you've been dealing with alone. Maybe you don't have a Joe in your life just yet... but you have all of us. Talk to us! Use us! Ask your questions! Tell us about your fears! We'll teach you what we're learning... what is helping... and what isn't. I know you feel alone some days... but you're not alone as long as you have all of us here at TLP. You're a really great group. I love all of you guys like family. We're all in this together. Now go talk to your kids about sex before they make too many more mistakes. : )