Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Pinching my Paperback
While I was teaching workshops in Utah, my oldest son got a hold of one of my books. He had asked to read my book a couple weeks prior to my leaving. I told him that the book was written for adults. It would be hard for him to understand some of it and some of it he would learn as he got older. He could always come ask me or his dad if he had a question about sexuality.
After I left, he found a copy I was saving for a friend on the top shelf of our tall bookcase. He put it in his backpack and was reading it at school (imagine if the teacher saw that book!). I found out because his backpack tipped over one afternoon when he got home from school and the book fell out. Here is our conversation:
M: Woah, that's my book!
K: Yeah. You weren't supposed to see that.
M: Why is it in your backpack?
K: I wanted to read it.
M: We had this conversation. I told you it was for adults. I'm always ready to answer your questions if you have any.
K: I know. I was just curious.
M: Did you read any of it?
K: Yes. The first chapter.
M: (I'm thankful he only got through the first chapter because that was mostly the temple perspective and not into the teen stuff he's not ready for yet). Did you understand it?
K: Not really.
M: You know, I didn't tell you not to read my book because I wanted to keep information from you. I told you it wasn't for your age group because it has language adults understand. It's written in a way that adults will learn, but kids don't understand that language or the concepts yet. Do you have any questions you want to ask?
M: Are you just looking for more information about sex?
K: Yes. I just want to know.
M: Well, let's do this. How about when I go to the library next I can check out some books about sex that are your age level. Then, you can look through them and see which one you like best. Then, we can buy that one for you to reference when you want more information.
K: That sounds great! When are you going to the library next?
To bear my soul.....I was devastated that he had gone behind my back when we've been so open with him. I felt betrayed somehow by my oldest son. I had a moment of doubt, that maybe I've been too open with him. My husband was also feeling heavy with the responsibility we have as parents to teach. We counseled together about what had happened. That evening, as I knelt down to pray, I asked Heavenly Father if I had been too open. I asked if there was another way I should approach sex with our oldest. I felt an incredible amount of peace. As I was praying, I realized that many children my son's age are dealing with this, but their parents don't know about it. They are curious and seeking information, but many parents don't know. I felt the need to be grateful that I had been so open with him and knew about his curiosity so I can appropriately guide him. I remember my little brother gawking at pictures of JCPenney catalog bra models when he was about 9 or 10 years old (our son will be ten in about 6 weeks). My parents didn't know about it, even though his siblings did. He struggled with pornography as a teenager. No adult knew what was going on. Therefore, no adult could guide him. I want to be that guide for my son.
I recently went to the library and brought home lots of books for him to choose from. We let him pick 2; one about sex and babies; one about puberty. He was very excited. He asked his dad to help him pick a puberty book - the "one that would have helped dad when he was a kid" (as K put it). He asked me to help him pick his sex and baby book. It actually turned into an incredible experience. I went from doubt to gratitude. He knows now how to ask for help in looking for more information, even if he doesn't have a specific question. He knows we will help him pick appropriate movies, websites, books, and other media. He knows curiosity is okay and there are appropriate places for him to find good information. He knows we will be calm in the face of a poor choice and help him figure out how to make a better choice.
I knew in the moment of seeing my book slide out of his backpack that my reaction would determine the outcome of some of his openness with me. If I reacted, instead of acted, he probably would have continued seeking information elsewhere because my reaction would have indicated I was not okay with him being curious and finding other information. It would have indicated that only the information I was ready to give him would be what he would get. But, by staying calm, he knows that I understand I won't be the only source of information. We can seek information and we can seek appropriate information.
I believe I was inspired in the moment to realize what his true need was - more information. I realized that he took the book because he didn't know what questions to ask next. He was curious, but didn't have a specific question. It helped me get past the deed - pinching my paperback! He's at an age where he realizes that there is more to sex than he already knows, but doesn't exactly know what questions to ask. Hopefully now, with open parents and a couple books, he will feel his curiosity ebb as he feeds his mind.