‘The birds and bees have left the building’
“The pendulum always swings back,” says my mother, referring to the loss of 1960s mores. She often speaks in euphemisms (thus the pendulum reference), especially when discussing sex, drugs, or rock and roll.
Birds and bees, cows and free milk, blushes being off roses just call them “euphe-MOM-isms,” the words and phrases of my youth. Now children’s books give textbook names for private parts that would knock your knickers to your knees. Kids can watch a birth on TV or hear about bodily functions on countless Web sites. With so many concepts funneling through their little brains, a jumble of words often pops out of their mouths.
When the bus driver asked one of my nieces, then five years old, about her plans for a costume party, she came up with an anatomical answer that got her sent home from school. Imagine sewing that costume.
This past summer we read a book at the library about “Bill and Ted”’s gay courtship and the sequel about their marriage. My young children aren’t sure how they came into the world, but they certainly know how Bill and Ted came out of the closet.
While our parents may have chosen not to discuss the facts of life, our generation is barely given the chance to be the first ones in a sweat.
Sure, parents can still “get around it” for a while (Mom would love that one). But soon enough public school children encounter what we used to call “the filmstrip,” now a film, that at our school, fourth- and fifth-grade boys and girls view separately. The film sticks to the basics of puberty, but the difference between then and now is that then, what happened in the same-sex assembly stayed in the same-sex assembly.
Nowadays we, the parents, in order to ensure that our kids some day will form a more perfect union, are invited along with every other parent to a big town meeting to preview “the film.” After the screening we gather in the library to discuss the pituitary gland at length (or is it the vas deferens?) before the kids see the film the next day at school.
The first year I missed the meeting, so I asked my neighbor what transpired. “They tell you that the sperm and egg meet, but they don’t tell you where,” she said. So what are the kids to think? Where do the sperm and egg meet? On the golf course? At the supermarket?
During the fifth-grade meeting this year, parents with whom I’d previously only discussed bake sales listened uncomfortably as the moderator went on and on about raging hormones and what our kids knew already. Couldn’t we have talked about fund-raising for a new playground? Even though the children would be asked to put their questions on cards, the answer was mostly, “Go home and ask your parents.” Gee, thanks for the set-up.
So where do the kids get answers to the really tough questions? Mom and Dad? Internet? Magazines? Try playground. That became the watch-word of the evening.
Like the generations before them, somewhere between the jungle gym and the teeter-totter sits one or two kids on a swing who, thanks to an older brother or sister or just an innate knowledge about these things, will tell all in a whisper to anyone who asks.
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