Ah, the talk. My brother and I received two very different talks. Being five years older, he was my parents’ trial run. Dad took him on a walk to the park, sat him down on a park bench, and laid into him on the different ways sex could destroy your life. He summed up this display of shock-and-awe parenting with, “Cuz you know Matt, that stuff can fuck you up.” Matt told me, that everything prior was lost on him, because he couldn’t stop thinking that “Holy cow! Dad said ‘fuck’!”
Mine was less intense, and took place later – during the summer before high school out on the deck. There were more vague metaphors like “doors opening,” and phrases like “choices I’d have to make,” and “strange feelings.” We were long past the mechanics of the thing, so I just cut him off at the pass once I realized what was happening and said, “I know Dad, don’t worry, I’ll use a condom.” After that we talked about the Mariners’ chances for making the playoffs.
I know I probably won’t do much better – I can’t imagine anything that could be easier to procrastinate. With such a complicated taboo surrounding sex in our culture, how do you spontaneously open that conversational door with your kid? After watching Julia Sweeney’s talk though, I’m going to be prepared if I ever hear that Josie has to write up a report on frogs.
Inevitably, someone in Josie’s life is going to die. Hopefully it’ll just be a goldfish, but understandably, she will have a lot of questions about this. I don’t plan on reading her “Love you Forever,” since I think this would scare the bejesus out of her, but I’m not sure this song would be any more helpful. Actually, it’s downright creepy.
Not having been brought up in a religious family, I was aware of organized religion kind of like you are probably aware of the Masons. I knew vaguely that other people went to churches on Sundays, sang songs, drank grape juice and ate crackers, and asked for things from a big guy who lived on a cloud and looked, and acted, a lot like Santa Claus.
My first real public confrontation with religion came when I was11 years old. I entered the Boy Scouts, but before I did I had to take the following oath:
On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.
I understood that my duty to my country was fighting back invading Russians or aliens with my slingshot and what the Scout Law was. The phrase ‘mentally awake’ seemed a little confusing, but sounded like something out of the D.A.R.E. program, and I assumed ‘morally straight’ alluded to not masturbating. But, apparently I had a duty to ‘God,’ which seemed pretty important, and not something to gloss over. So I went into my parents’ bedroom and asked my Eagle Scout Dad what he believed. I must have caught him off guard because he sat down on the edge of the bed, rubbed his hands together, and told me that he believed in some higher ‘force’ that created everything. Obviously Dad was BSing, so I figured if he could, so could I.
God is an easy question for the devout parent. Not so much for the non-believer. Everyone tries to hand down their religion to their children, but if you don’t ascribe to one, religion is just sort of an ignored subject. This is pretty much what I plan to do. Indoctrinating six year-olds with complex theological or atheistic belief systems just seems wrong to me. And besides, I imagine that you really don’t want to be on the receiving end of that phone call from a devout parent of your daughter’s classmate, telling you that your daughter told their Sunday school-attending child that ‘God doesn’t exist.’ It would be a little awkward. And besides, with 83% of Americans associating themselves with some sort of religion, I’m guessing out-and-proud elementary school atheism kind of puts a damper on the number of birthday party invitations one might expect to receive.
So I’ll let my daughter make up her own mind. But if for some reason she becomes a pious little girl, I think I’ll be able to defend my own beliefs from any crazy six year-old logic like this:
More than likely, my wife will be in the batting box for this one, but in case our daughter throws a curve, I’d like to think that I could explain this without turning beet red. I’d also like to think, though, that we will be good progressive parents and explain all this early on, unlike the guy in this skit.