It has happened: My son has discovered the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. He’s 11…I knew this was going to happen. I tried putting him off by telling him to imagine his mom wearing all that stuff when he looks at it, but apparently that only works for so long. Some of you are thinking “I don’t see what the big deal is.” It’s a VS catalogue…he’s been to the pool, he’s seen women in bathing suits, he’s been to the beach in Florida so he’s seen scantily clad women before & he knows not to act like a doofus and stare with drool coming out of his mouth. Fine, whatever. The VS catalogue is not my problem.
My “problem” (for lack of a better word) is that now is the time when he starts to form the beginnings of his opinions on women, relationships, and sex. What those things mean to him, what they’re supposed to be about, and how he will conduct himself when faced with them. I want to be the one that shapes those opinions…not some airbrushed, size 2 barbie doll & late night premium cable, okay? Because that’s where this VS catalogue thing ultimately leads. Soon after him, his sisters will start to become interested in boys, his friends will become interested in his sisters and so on. I know all of this is a natural cycle. The parental controls I’ve had on my television for months now? That’s apparently (& sadly) natural, too.
What’s not natural is how we teach our kids to deal with this. Or more accurately, what most parents as a whole are NOT teaching our children. Do we think by avoiding the subject because it’s uncomfortable that they’re going to magically do what we’d wish for them without guidance? A lot of us have this mentality: “I had to figure it out on my own…so will he. He’ll be fine.” Um…no. That’s just stupid and lazy.
I don’t know about you, but the subject of sex and relationships is a pretty damn big deal to me. Unlike most people, I think our relationships are the most important thing we have in life. I think relationships, respect, & love (familial connections, your friends, and certainly romantic connections) are what life is all about. Not money, not your super important job or your expensive education. Not the car you drive, the house you live in, the clothes you wear, or how fit you are. It is PEOPLE and your connections with them that matter. Family. Friends. You can’t take all that other shit with you when you go. (There’s a country song that backs up my point.)
The imprint you leave on the world is made by the people left behind who remember you, who loved you, and who were important to you. That is why I want my kids to learn to approach their relationships with love and respect from the very beginning. Not just because of the mark it will leave behind when they’re gone, but because I truly believe it will enrich their lives and make them so much more balanced and happy while they’re here. It’s the reason why I encourage them to start building relationships of all kinds – even age appropriate “romantic” ones – now. That’s how you learn. It’s how you grow.
The reason we have so many relationally-retarted & romantically-challenged adults in the world is because they didn’t learn what they were supposed to learn when they were teenagers. As a culture we spend so much time doing one of two extremes: we are either constantly bombarding our children with sex in the form of television, magazines & music, or the kind of example we set for them at home OR we’re trying to avoid the subject altogether & telling our kids to wait until they’re 30 before they even date! Most of the time we’re joking. I know that, you know that…your kids don’t always know that. They’re growing up either having unrealistic fantasies or thinking they’re supposed to wait forever to have all these experiences they should be preparing themselves for NOW. That YOU should be helping them prepare for and guiding them through, especially if you want them to do better than you did. Especially if you want them to be able to withstand & resist the societal norms.
I know I want my kids to do better than I did. I don’t want them thinking that “normal” and “okay” are synonymous. There are a lot of things in our culture that are considered normal. That doesn’t make them right. I want them to be smarter than me &/or more prepared than I was. I don’t want them to struggle unnecessarily. Don’t get me wrong – I want them to struggle – because struggle builds character and it builds strength. You grow from struggling. I just don’t want them to have struggles they are wholly and entirely unequipped to conquer. I don’t want to send them into the world blind & dumb. Sure, part of me wants my kids to stay innocent for as long as possible, but the logical part of me knows they can only do that for so long and I’m only putting them at a disadvantage by treating them like children forever.
In a couple of years, (if not sooner depending on how his VS catalogue phase progresses) my son will be watching this video. We have an open line of communication, but I’m just not as funny, as blunt, or as eloquent as Mark Gungor so I feel like this is a good option. I thought some of you could appreciate it as well, especially if you have teenagers and you’ve been struggling with how to approach them with “the talk.” Maybe you haven’t even thought about giving them “the talk” and if you haven’t, maybe this will still help you. It’s only a 30 minute preview, but there is a full set on his website that covers a range of topics you may or may not want your kid to hear. I would recommend watching it for yourself before showing it to your teens. It’s discussed in a religious context, but even if you don’t consider yourself particularly pious, there is still a lot of good, logical stuff in here that even someone who doesn’t consider themselves a christian can relate to. Just watch it before you make a judgement. 🙂
I especially love that he talks about getting married young. Getting married young doesn’t automatically qualify you for a life of misery & a future in divorce court. I got married at 18 & here I am almost 12 years later, happily (& yes, sometimes frustratingly) married to the man I’ve had all of my firsts with. 🙂 Not every single moment has been a happy one, but all of it has been educational, enlightening, & strengthening. We’ve struggled through some bad times, but “through” is the keyword there. We always come out on the other side so much stronger than we were. It’s worth it. And to be perfectly honest, if I have to struggle, there’s no one I’d rather do it with than my husband. ❤ If my kids have to struggle, I’d rather them have someone by their sides who is faithful, loving, & worthy of struggling for.
If you like this, feel free to share it or let me know what you think in the comments. Tell me your experience giving your kids “the talk”…should I take the cocktail before the talk? Or maybe a few shots of whiskey?