I know one day my precious little girl Tova, who was in a car seat not that long ago, will come to me to say that she is going to or already has had sex. And when that day comes, I expect my husband and I will laugh and cry, feeling sad for the baby that has grown up in front of our eyes and happy that we have created a home in which she feels comfortable talking to us. I imagine the conversation about sexual safety that I will have with both of my children, ensuring that they both know that it is their responsibility to be prepared. And I imagine the conversation going so smoothly and being a comfort to us all, so much that the door remains open and my kids feel emotionally and mentally girded for what it means to be a sexual person. I dream it will go this way… YEAH RIGHT!!!!!
Actually, the thought of my kids being sexual fills me with dread and fear. Fear that they will be too young like I was, not value their bodies and what it deeply means to be sexual with another person. I dread it because although I know I will have many conversations around these issues, at this point in our society I know the majority of parents won't and our school's hands are being tied around this issue with the ropes of religion and ignorance!
I realize that I am trying to raise autonomous human beings; human beings that will one day have the drive and desire to have sex and procreate. And as human beings go, this drive and desire will probably kick in somewhere around sophomore or junior year of high school, not the ideal age at which to become a parent. My wish is that our country wouldn't have enough "Teen Moms" to support two reality shows on television. The problem is we have too many teen parents and the cost to those babies and our country is way too high.
We as a country are spending millions of dollars to support these immature and broken families because of course they can't support themselves financially and least of all emotionally. So as usual we would rather pay more on the back end than deal directly on the front end of this problem. The tragedy is that the back end of this problem involves living, breathing teenagers and babies. Again, we have it ass backwards! Oh and I must remind you that the right wing religious based politicians who don't want to deal with sex education appropriately are the same ones that would be hell bent on withdrawing governmental support for these kids who have had babies. So they become another disenfranchised poor subset of our culture that we or THEY actually created! They have so much compassion for the babies that are unborn but not for those that are living and breathing and born into a world with little or no compassion for them or their moms.
I am writing this now out of anger, fear and disappointment in a society and political system that would rather stick its head in a sandbox of legislation and religious ideology, than embrace what is true. Young people are hormonally driven. There is a period of late adolescence, early adulthood, where we are arguably more sexually motivated than we are motivated by any other thing or object. During this time, I think it is of vital importance that my children have information about safe and healthy ways to meet these needs and that they know that they can always talk to me or my husband or someone at school. I'm talking about masturbation. I'm talking about contraception. I'm talking about knowing you can say no, and also knowing what to do if you say yes.
I could follow my fear and sadness about my babies becoming big and not needing me as much anymore, but to do that would be to take myself away from them during a time when they need me in a new and different way. I think for any parent to pretend that their child is not growing up, or that their directive to simply say no, or take a pledge to remain chaste, or to turn to God when they feel tempted is simply naïve and unrealistic, and actually bad parenting. I know I risk offending people here, but this is serious, and I want to offend you-offend you into action about how we are failing our children around their sexuality.
How many babies have to be thrown in trash cans at a prom out of their teen mother's fear of having the pregnancy found out? How many girls have to risk hurting themselves physically rather than turn to their parents for help with something they have been raised to believe will bring shame to the entire family? Our young people need us to show up for them even when it is uncomfortable for us to do so.
My fantasy is the parents that don't have their heads in the sand would revolt against this insanity. I could see us all marching with our children demanding that we deal with teen pregnancy like the public health epidemic it truly is. Maybe we could have all those teen moms who don't make the cut of the reality show producers to receive the "free wedding" or "teen mom makeover" march as well pushing their beautiful babies in there strollers. Just maybe our country would realize that our kids need direct, honest and repeated help in dealing with the issue of sex, sexuality and contraceptives. Would we let our kids decide if they needed to be vaccinated? No, because that would be crazy, right? Believing they can handle this issue without serious interventions by the adults in their lives and our country is just as crazy.
So, let's stop legislating against abortion and try to decrease unwanted teen pregnancy. Let's put some money into good solid sex education. This is not about pro-life or pro-choice, but the fact is that argument only serves to distract us from the people who are carrying those babies that we feel so compelled to argue about. The already very alive young women, for whom the argument only serves to punish them for having had sex and shakes there heads that they didn't protect themselves. Let's teach our children to love and respect their bodies, to know what their bodies can do that is pleasurable and how they can remain safe and healthy. Let's not continue to fill them with shame and embarrassment about the fact of their sexuality. Let's teach instead of legislate, and let's see what can change. I believe, at the very least, we'd be able to usher a generation of sexually healthy, emotionally developed young adults into the world.
So, I will get the poster boards you bring the paint and let's meet on the corner of Main Street and Public Health Avenue; raise our voices together to wake up those that have there heads in the sand.