If you’ve read my previous post, you know I’ve had to address sexual education with my grandsons, ages 9 and 12 (soon to be 13). As an abuse survivor, I find it disturbing, but as a grandparent who loves his kids, I feel it is a job worth doing. Especially given these kids are in some ways very vulnerable and need the education, given what they’ve told me in the past. They come from split families that split again; they have half-sisters and/or brothers. The 13 year old (I’d better get used to thinking of him like that) has exhibited signs of ‘sexual aggression’ towards his younger brother; I have witnessed them. Just mild threats; the playful kind males often make towards one another, but the way his younger brother reacted, fearfully drawing away with a thin ‘Nooo . . .’ made me think along a line of something long ago. I wanted to find out if something else may be wrong. And I got them to trust me . . . by being what I hope is the right friend at the right time, and not the grownup I’ve become. (This comes from “Matthew’s” mind.)
So the time has come to teach them some sex education. And along with that comes a whole lot of something I like to call “sexual education”. And that means knowing when ‘it’ is right or wrong, and knowing it all the time. The ‘feeling it in your heart’ kind of thing. So what did I teach them when the time came, as it did this last weekend.
So I’m reviewing what was said and going over it right here. Not for ‘you’ but me – and perhaps an old granddad teaching his grandchildren about sexual education will help some parent(s) who have the same trouble – or thoughts – in their mind.
I realized: I spent 90% of my time talking to them about moralities and consequences; about 5% discussing the symptoms and onset of puberty – and later found a pimple on my older grandson’s nose, confirming this thing. “Look!”, I said, pointing it out to his dad. “He’s got a pimple! It’s starting!” Which is more true than I like to think in some ways. The last 5% we spent describing the genitals and some of the more basic mechanics. I was quite a prude about the whole thing – refusing to describe in detail anything, telling them they would find out as time goes along.
But the majority of my time was spent in telling them what was right and what was wrong about it – both the errors they’ve been taught or picked up somewhere, the older one’s aggressive and excited/overeager approach to the whole thing of ‘sex’. He stated he can’t wait to do it; I suggested – hammered it in, actually – that he should.
The first thing I explained to them was that you had to love the person, and they love you. To give them a rule of thumb to go by (because I know how well children like their rules defined to them during their childhood), I told them this:
“If it’s all about you getting some pleasure, and not them – it’s wrong. That’s sex. But making love? That’s when you want to make the other person happy. It’s not about you. It’s about making them feel better – not you.” (Which is the truth in my opinion.)
“What if you make them do it?” the older boy asked one time.
“Well, if you do it right now – ,” I stopped to turn and look at him. “They would send you to a doctor to see what’s wrong with your mind. And then they would put you in jail for a long time.”
“How long?” he asked (as if this was something to be weighing the overall and lifetime consequences on).
I thought about it. With the juvenile system . . .
“Until you’re 18. And even then – they might be keeping an eye on you for a long time.”
“How long?” he asked. I pondered his question.
“Maybe for the rest of your life. It’s called ‘rape’ – .”
“Yeah, AJ, it’s called rape,” his younger brother chipped in.
“And if you do it when you get older, then you’ll go to jail – for a very long time,” I warned him. “Maybe the rest of your life. And they’ll be keeping an eye on you the rest of your life.” I began walking down the garden path again. “No means no. If somebody says no – if they even seem like they don’t want to do it – you don’t. And you don’t do it with anyone younger than your age. Period. Because if you do . . . ” I shook my head. “They’ll be keeping an eye on you for a very long time.”
“Who?” he asked as we resumed walking down the path, his little brother coming along.
He looked stunned, and then his little brother chirped behind him (his eyes round and seeming equally impressed): “Yeah, bro. Everyone.” Like he knew something. (I say that with wry sarcasm, because while he’s a smart little boy, he’s given into lying – something I’m working to correct – and stealing as well.)
That was something I kept stressing over and over again to them as well: Keep it in your own age group. Don’t go messing around with anyone older or younger than you. If you do “do it” – don’t get caught, because you’re gonna get in some trouble. Especially if you do it with a girl.
“Especially if you do it in the front, AJ,” I told him, sternly warning. “It would be just like you raped someone. You’d be better off getting caught with a boy.” He gave a snort of disgust. After talking to him some, I quite sure this boy’s gonna turn out heterosexual – same as the other one. Good thing. Homosexuals (and Bi’s) aren’t as welcomed in the South as they are in other parts of the land. It will get you openly ridiculed and mocked, and guys have been known to lose their lives over this thing: being openly gay in our redneck land. Those rednecks are as apt to rape ‘him’ (they don’t see a queer man as one of their own kind) – and then kill him for doing it (being gay). How those two opposing points of view go together – some males raping some man, and then making fun and killing him for “doing it” with some man he loved – beats me. (well, I sorta ‘understand’ – these guys are just as DID as me in some of their ways.)
That boy – the older one – he’s gonna be some kind of problem – have some kind of problem – if ‘we’ don’t get a handle on his head. But in some ways . . .
thinking back, accessing those memories from when I was a little kid; the ‘preteen’ “13”, that mess or so . . . and yeah, the other ‘guys’ were given into that ‘stuff’ – raucous randy raunchy jokes, making fun of it – well, I won’t say “all the time” but some of it. But only amongst themselves. Never when the girls were around. And most certainly NEVER!!! when the parents – or any grownup for that matter! – was around.
I guess I should feel privileged that they trust me to this amount, but it feels more like a burden. Because it IS a burden. A burden of responsibility. To teach them “right” about one of the most testy, messy issues in human history, that being the one of human sexuality. You’ve seen it done: the issues one way or another. I’ve even studied cultures that had sex with kids; seen that done. I’ve got to teach them the right way – not just for THIS culture that we live in, but the one coming. The one I can sorta ‘see’ down the road. Though I am sort of a prude about that sort of thing, despite my years spent in Europe (I see nothing wrong with nudity in a painting or work of art or something like that. Even the paintings of naked children, done by the ancient masters, are beautiful in some way – as many depictions of the human being can be.
But getting them ready for the culture they are going to be in . . . that’s quite a trick, and something most grownups forget in their pursuit of all that is around them. Especially the parents of some young children. It’s not about ‘you’ or what YOU want – it’s about the culture they are going to live in. Making them ‘right’ for that – where they can get along okay without any major problems in life – no matter what that culture says that may be clashing with your own views – preparing them for a life in that culture beyond your own limited horizons – because your own horizons are limited by time if nothing else, and you are reacting according to the training you’ve been given.
Let me ask you: did it prepare you for that thing called “life”? Did it prepare you for the given moment – and the one beyond? Or did your parents look towards preparing you for a future that was not theirs? Or were they just vomiting forth that which they’d been fed – all right for THEIR own given culture – but not yours.
Such is the way with human children that it applies to human society: it is changing all the time. I see videos of clothed people ‘humping’ in the street. Is it any wonder my grandson’s got “ideas” about porking someone in the behind? He sees this going on all the time; him and his younger brother . . .
I asked them: “What got your curiosity up about this thing?”
“It’s important!” the younger one said. This little boy is proving quite astute in his observations of some things.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because it’s how you make more people,” the younger one said.
“It’s all around,” the older one said, and then he referenced something he’d seen on “American Dad” – something about a dog humping.
“Well, it is important,” I confirmed. “It’s about the second or third most important thing in most grown persons lives. But to you it shouldn’t be that important right now. For now you wanna not have sex. You are too young.”
That was something else I kept stressing with them: you are too young. Over and over again. The little boy got it but the big one kept saying “I can’t wait to try this thing! (have sex)”
“You’d better be careful,” I began to warn him. “Later on – if you get some girl pregnant – you can just kiss your dreams goodbye. Because once you have a baby – everything changes.”
“I don’t mind if I have a baby,” he nonchalantly said.
“Oh yeah?” I came back at him with a little snarl of sarcasm. “How are you gonna feed that baby? How you gonna cloth him? You can’t go to school if you’re working some job – you can just kiss your idea of a good job goodbye. You’re gonna be working down at McDonalds – but they won’t let you – what’re you gonna do?”
“I didn’t think about that,” he confessed. I could see he was musing, looking at the ground as we made our way up the hill. The sun was hot and it was sweltering. We were coming towards the end of the path.
“There’s a lot more to it than sticking your thing in some thing,” I said. “While it might make you feel good while you’re doing it, it can come back to haunt you in the end. You might find yourself spending the rest of your life regretting the thing. I know I have. And your dad (whom they know is sad and lonely sometimes) has. And your Uncle M. (another kid who grew up screwing everything around) does. Each and every time. If you don’t love them, don’t screw them – you might just screw your own self up. Wait until you’re in love.” And then I warned them:
“You don’t even know what true love is – not yet.” I said that because it’s true – in a way. There is a whole lot of difference between grownup love and a child’s love – and the love a child may have towards another who’s done him a ‘sexual favor’. A lot of mean things can happen right there: exposure, embarrassment, shame – the stigma of having used or been used by a child – as a child – any child. I know this because I am, and have been through this.
This was one of the last things they said as I dropped them off with their stepdad:
“Thanks for talking to us, Grandpa, and answering our questions,” they both said. “We’re glad we can talk to you – .”
“And why is that?” I asked, curious.
“Because you’ve been through it.” And they know I have. Because I confessed a few of MY truths as well to them . . . that I had been used in some of these ways by other kids – and grownups – before – and it hurt me in some ways that I’ll never get over (perhaps . . . in time; I’m feeling better about them every day) . . .
And I think that some of this will stick in their head.