S E X - (winners!)

I am waiting for Z to start asking about s e x. She hasn't yet, and we've mostly darted around the edges of it when answering the usual "How did the baby get in her tummy?" type questions. But I know that one day she will be interested in more details or she'll hear something from a friend, and I'll need to be ready.

I think we've started off well: the girls have been taught the anatomically correct words for their body parts ("labia" and "vulva" are regularly uttered words in our house) and we model respect for our own bodies and the bodies of other people. We carefully screen TV and movies for age appropriateness and are going to fight the early sexualization of girls in our culture with everything we've got.

I am hopeful that Z and E will ask me questions about their bodies and sex but, to be honest, I'm also a little scared about it. It is such a sensitive and important topic, I am terrified to mess it up. I want our girls to be safe AND empowered. What's a liberal-minded but over-protective mom to do?

As hard as it is to imagine this, our girls will one day be sexually active. In this world of sexting and instagram-beauty pageants, I am trying really hard to not be scared about that fact.

As I always do when I'm scared or confused, I am turning to books as my salvation. I have ordered some age appropriate books about sex for younger kids and will use them to prop me up when the time comes.

And, I admit, I'm hoping that time doesn't come for a little while longer.

Have you had a sex talk with your kids? If not, how are you preparing for it?


Once upon a time, there was a young woman who liked to talk about s e x. Not only did she like to talk about it but she had a gift for it; she was knowledgeable, sympathetic and had a way of making even a clueless but hopeful college friend feel comfortable asking all kinds of embarrassing questions.

This woman was the go-to gal for not only the how and when and what questions about s e x but also the why and why not ones. She valued sex as a continuum of special, intimate acts to be enjoyed fully, intelligently and respectfully. Helping you make the best choices for you, from your moral center, point of comfort and burgeoning identity, was her hallmark.

She was so passionate about this topic, she not only got a master's degree in it but also wrote a book on it to help other young clueless but hopeful people live happily ever after with an empowered sense of their own sexuality.

I was so fortunate to have Bronwen Pardes as a friend when I was a college student. I hope that when my children are older, they will not only talk to us but also have similarly wise, supportive friends. Since I cannot guarantee this, I have two copies of Bronwen's book on our shelves, just waiting for teenage Z and E to turn to instead.

And now, you can too!

In celebration of her birthday today (Happy Birthday Bronwen!), I will give away three copies of Bronwen's empowering, fact-based book for teens - "Doing it Right, Making Smart, Safe, Satisfying Choices About Sex" - to three lucky commenters on this post, chosen at random. I will cut off the comments by Friday April 26th at midnight.

Please pass this along to anyone with kids who wants to help them navigate the emotionally tricky waters of sexuality. Winning commenters need not be regular readers of my blog. In fact, my hope is to spread the word about her book and get it in the hands of as many parents as possible.


(Edited 4/28/13)

We have three winners, chosen at random through random.org!

8, 3 and 12.

Shari, Kathi and Marie Green, you win! I will contacting you for your address so I can send you your book. Congrats!


Grief is a physical thing

Grief is currently my least favorite accessory, hanging on me, inanimate and heavy like an overly large purse or an ugly necklace that I can't take off.  My grief is usually silent but it siphons off my focus, my energy, my drive in constant, tiny increments.

When grief does speak, it nags me that maybe I'm not sad enough. That this fine day, the one that passed without much thought for my dearly departed, isn't rightly mine because I'm not sufficiently mourning. Prove your love, it says. You're not sad enough.

I don't break down when I look at photos of my dad or hear a story about a dad dying or talk about my dad or do anything directly related to my loss. I feel guilty for moving easily through moments that by all rights should make me cry. What is wrong with me? I think as I gaze dry-eyed at his photographed face.

My day-to-day life is not uprooted by his absence from this earth and so it seems as if nothing has changed. The service is over, the obituary has been put away, the photos are back in their albums.

Life, my life, goes on.

Then grief sneaks up quietly and grabs me by the throat at moments when I least expect it, like when I read an article he'd like or I hear a deep man's voice singing behind me in church or I see my youngest daughter curl contentedly into her dad in a way that I suddenly, viscerally, remember.

I want my daddy and he's gone.

Through my tears I am sure: I'm sad. I'm sad enough.


The problem is....

It started about a week ago. Well, the phenomena obviously started before that but my noticing started last week.

"But Mooommmmm. The problem is....."

"*sigh* My problem is......"

"NO! I can't! The problem is....."

My kids were suddenly negative nellies, answering my every polite request and direct order with their own conflicting issues. You see, they can't really put their shoes away because their problem is that they are so tired and the shoe bin is super far away. They can't possibly eat their dinner because their problem is that they're only hungry for fruit and bread and cookies and the steak and rice and broccoli on their plate do not look or taste like fruit or bread or cookies.

It annoyed me to no end and after a particularly problem-filled dinner, CG told them to cut out every utterance of the phrase "the problem is."

They, being wily children, quickly adapted.

"My issue is....."

"I have a pr-...... sad thing."

It wouldn't be quite so annoying if it didn't immediately become clear where they got it from.

"I know you'd like to go the library AND the park. The problem is, we only have time for one of those two options."

"Hmmm. So you'd like to make a potion in your bedroom? Out of juice, food coloring and crayon shavings? Sounds like fun but the problem is, that would waste a lot of juice and possibly make a huge mess."

"Yes, I'd like to eat a popsicle now too. The problem is, it's actually bedtime."

As soon as the edict was issued that we needed to stop saying "the problem is," the person who has been struggling the most is ME.  It seems I am constantly harshing my kids' buzz, raining on their parade and just generally shutting them down. Both of them, but especially Z, regularly make outlandish plans that involve disproportionate mess and bending the spacetime continuum. I hate that it's my job to constantly deflect or redirect these requests. I would love to be able to say yes more often and be a more positive presence.

Since I have read my fair share of books with titles like "How to Exhaust Yourself in the Attempt at Playful Parenting," I did try to play along with their schemes for a while in an earnest attempt to reroute the conversation.

"I know! We can bring a book to the park! It'll be like the library IN the park!'

"Ooh! Great idea! We can make a potion in the KITCHEN with WATER!"

"Let's pretend your TOOTHBRUSH is a popsicle and you get to spread it all around your teeth!"

But both of my kids - again, especially Z - are literal-minded. They don't want to pretend to eat a popsicle thankyouverymuch, they'll take a cherry one with a glass of water and PRONTO. They found this style of parenting maddening and not in the least bit playful.

So I'm back to acknowledging their desire and subsequent frustration but still shutting them down, as gently as possible.

I know it seems as simple as just cutting out the offending phrase and using "but" instead. But, you see, the problem is.....

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