The Talk

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Hanna Clements-Hart

My husband and I have long anticipated and, I confess, dreaded  "the talk," or what used to be called "the birds and the bees." Our children know they came from Mommy's tummy, but not how they got there. So we have waited, figuring they would ask when they were ready. As our kids got older, we realized that we might have to bring it up ourselves, lest they hear about it from less reliable sources. I consulted friends and books, but still I felt stymied. Secretly, I wished someone else would just do it for us.

And then my wish was granted: our son's Sunday school class was offering a course that included age-appropriate sexuality education. Finally, expert help! At the parents' orientation meeting, the teachers asked us all how we had learned about sex. Most shared memories of awkward parents or lack of information. This contrasted sharply with the sensitive curriculum -- from anatomy to gender identity to reproduction -- that the instructors presented.

But instead of feeling relief that I had been let off the hook, I found that I didn't want someone else to be the first to tell our children how they came to be. Sex education is not just about biology or mechanics. It's rich with values and meaning and that is parental territory. What message would it send to our kids if their dad and I felt so tongue-tied that we tried to fob the talk off onto "experts"? If our children are to develop a healthy, unashamed sense of themselves, we parents have to let go of our hang-ups and embarrassment and re-connect to our sense of wonder -- and our sense of humor.

Don't get me wrong: I still support sex ed in schools so that all kids get accurate information. But I have come to appreciate -- and even jealously guard -- the role that we parents play. So before they cover it in my son's class, we've got a date for "the talk," and I am actually looking forward to it. For parents as well as children, this conversation is a rite of passage that relates to our very essence, and I don't want to miss it.

With a Perspective, I'm Hanna Clements-Hart.