By: An anonymous teen
My first memory of my mom talking to me about sex was when I was four years old. Coming from a family with a history of sexual abuse, my mother always said she could not sleep until she knew her daughter could identify a sexual predator.
That first “talk” was just right for a 4-year old. We mainly talked about what was normal touching and what was not. My mom made it clear that I should always tell her if somebody asked me to touch them or if they asked to touch me in a way that felt inappropriate. One of the things I remember most about that conversation was that my mom talked to me in a way that didn’t make me feel scared. Instead, I know she was teaching me how to be safe. It left me feeling empowered, rather than afraid.
After that, I knew my mom was there for me if I needed her. If I had a question, it never felt weird if I asked my mom for information, answers or advice. Sex wasn’t taboo. If it came up, we talked about it.
This is not to say there were no boundaries. My parents would never talk about their sexual life with one another. That was clearly private. They never tried to pry into my own sexual life by asking what I had or had not done. They let me know that they respected my privacy and that I could share what I felt comfortable sharing.
When we talked about my sexual life, my parents made it clear that what they would only address me having sex in terms of my being safe – emotionally and physically. Never did my mom or dad try and probe into one of my hookups. They did their best to avoid making me feel awkward, by not being awkward whenever a boy came over.
The only thing my mom asked of me was to tell her when I started having sex so I could be safe. Let’s fast forward.
A few years ago I wound up in the emergency room at 2 AM with my mom. My stomach hurt so bad that it felt like it was broken. I could barely move. We were there for hours, with neither of us getting much sleep. At least I had a bed; my mom got an interrupted hour of sleep on two chairs that had been pushed together. When a doctor finally came in to see us, they said nobody knew what was wrong with me. The doctors did their thing: asked a million questions. One of them was, “Have you ever had sex?”
When they asked the whole room got awkward. I had known that question was coming, and I had nothing to hide from my mom…except my losing my virginity to a musician she had never met. My mom was taken aback by my hesitation to answer.
“Um… yeah,” was the best I could do.
As fate would have it, the cause of my pain had nothing to do with sex. I had appendicitis. I had to get it removed later that morning. But, I couldn’t remove the fact that my mom found out I had already had sex.
Although I wished the fact that I had lost my virginity had not come out that way, something good came out of it. That night changed the dialogue my mom and I have about sex. My mom wasn’t mad at me. Instead, she was horrified at the idea of me having had unprotected sex – that I did not have the tools to protect myself when I choose to have sex.
I thought back to that conversation when I was 4 years old and how I had always told people what a great mom I had who talked to me about anything. Yet, I was unprepared for the first time. It made me just as horrified at that thought.
My mom helped me to get a prescription for the birth control pill. She and I called my doctor and made the appointment together. She helped me keep track of taking it, when I was not very good at remembering.
Rather than seeing my sexual life as this private thing I should not share, I started to go to her as a kind of resource for how to be the safest version of myself. When I decided the pill thing just wasn’t working, my mom helped me to get an appointment to get an IUD, or intrauterine device. It’s a little piece of plastic with medicine in it that is put in your uterus (or womb) and keeps you from getting pregnant. My mom took me to the clinic to have it placed and drove me home afterwards.
For me, what has been the most important part of talking to my mom is knowing that my mom trusts me to take care of myself. And, that she will be there for me when I need to learn more to keep myself safe. I trust her to help me do that, without judgement, with boundaries, and most importantly, with love.
- Talk with your children in an age-appropriate manner
- Make sure your conversations grow and change as your tween/teen needs change.
- Be an Askable Adult, someone your child can come to when they need to talk about something or need help getting health care services.
- Importance of parental caregivers being able to identify a teachable moment