If You Get It, You Give It

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 
sex education tween
wernerimages / iStock

I knew this day would come as I had been warned by those who had gone before me.

He’s going to ask someday.

She’s going to have questions.

You need to get your story straight.

You have to be *prepared* because you’ll be caught with your pants down when your kids ask about the specifics of sex.

And, in a dark car, on the way home from dinner, it happened: My son and I had a whopper of a conversation.

While I’ve mostly recovered from the trauma, my friends are still reeling from the advice I gave him.

The evening started out innocently enough. After attending an event as a family, my husband and I decided to take the kids out for dinner at one of our favorite watering holes (read: drink martinis as the kids consumed large quantities of fried foods and dessert). We spent that time talking to each other, visiting with friends who’d also gone to the restaurant, and joking with our favorite bartender. It was a picture perfect moment: warm sweaters, noisy atmosphere, a family smiling together. I had no way of knowing that my son had questions brimming, and he’d decided he was going to get some answers on the way home.

As we had taken two cars, my son opted to ride home with me. I should have seen this as a sign, people. Of what, I don’t know, but I should have seen something coming.

Once in the car, and about two seconds after I navigated the car away from the curb, he dropped a bomb on me: There was a sexting scandal at school and he was upset.

Let me repeat that: My 12-year-old was upset about a sexting incident. Twelve. As in, he doesn’t even have the word “teen” in his age yet.

While he was not involved (thank you, sweet baby Jesus), he was upset about the consequences for the children involved and the general implications that this kind of thing brings. He wondered what would happen if he received salacious texts, whom he should tell, and why kids would do such a thing. Heavy topics weighed on his mind, and he wanted to talk about all of it, with me, as I was driving heavy machinery, in the dark, without my husband as a backup.

I’m not going to lie: I was caught with my pants down, and I swear, the deer we passed on the road did not look nearly as surprised as I did as I listened to my son’s questions.

But, I made a choice to keep driving, to take the longest way home possible because my tween was talking—openly talking to me about sex. I didn’t know when or if this situation would ever present itself again. I don’t know if it was the dark country roads I slowly drove, the fact that we weren’t facing each other, or if the stars just magically aligned to make him open up, but it happened.

And it was eye-opening.

As we quieted from the sexting discussion, he shyly said, “I have one more question,” and the tone of his voice made me realize I needed to brace myself.

“What’s that, bud?” I said.

“Well, some of the boys, they talk about this thing that involves blowing. And work. Blow work, is it? Something that is like a job and involves blowing. I don’t know what that means. Can you explain that to me?”

Here I was, in a car, being asked a specific question about a sex act from my 12-year-old. In the split seconds that followed his question, I debated: Do I tell him? Do I push it aside and tell him that’s for grown-ups? Do I pull over on the side of the road and call my husband to take over? I honestly didn’t know what to do, and as I gripped the steering wheel and tried to keep myself from driving into a cornfield, I made a decision.

I told him. Just like they are in sex education class, I was honest and forthright. And then it was him wearing the deer in the headlights expression.

As the reality of the answer set in, and realizing these moments with tweens are fleeting, I took it one step further: I told him a committed relationship is a two-way street and when you are intimate with someone, it’s never one-sided. If he’s alone with a girl, it’s to be enjoyable for both of them and it’s never OK to let a girl please him solely.

I told him that if you get one, you give one—plain and simple. Because no daughter-in-law of mine is going to stand in my kitchen and wonder why he’s such a greedy Neanderthal in the bedroom.

And, judging from the looks of horror on my friends’ faces as I’ve recounted this story, I seem to be in the minority when it comes to talking openly with my kids about sex. I’ve been accused of condoning premarital sex. I’ve been told I crossed a line by explaining the specifics of a sex act to my child. And I’ve been told that I’m asking for trouble by telling him that his eventual girlfriend’s needs are important too. Mostly, my friends have cry-laughed at the image of me driving down the street being asked about knob polishing.

But, for all the judgement, all the shocked outcry, I stand by what I told my son. I stand by my honesty, and I hope that in doing so, I’ve set the stage for him to want to come back to ask questions, to get good, solid answers from his father and me. And in that moment, he trusted me with his thoughts and was open and honest with me. The least I could do was be honest right back.

Because, people, if you get it, you give it.

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