Pros: a must-read for parents
Cons: my parents didn't have this book when I was an adolescent
Hi. I'd like to introduce myself. I'm the parent of THAT child. You know, the child who goes into your child's preschool class and announces that not only is her mother going to have another baby, but that the baby is in her uterus, and that most babies come out their mommies' vaginas, but not our babies. They come out with an operation.
Please accept my abject apologies.
My five-year-old daughter Beanie, you see, wants to be an ob/gyn, at least right now. At a preschool art show, her bio let everyone know that she wanted to be "a doctor... the kind who takes babies out of mommies' tummies" when she grows up. She has an almost eerie fascination with the whole birth process, and has quizzed my obstetrician more than once on the model of the female reproductive system in the office.
As a result, I knew I needed some help for my daughter's premature fascination with how babies get here, and telling her it was a stork bringing our new baby wasn't about to cut it. I found a review of Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid They'd Ask) in a magazine and thought it sounded like just the ticket for giving me a leg up on this particularly frightening area of parenting.
::: Everything? Really? :::
Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex was written by Justin Richardson, MD (an assistant professor of clinical psychology at Columbia and Cornell Universities) and Mark A. Schuster, MD, PhD (an associate professor of pediatrics and public health at UCLA, as well as serving on boards of several adolescent health organizations). As you might guess from the subtitle, this book is supposed to help you with everything from the first time your little baby finds his or her naughty bits during a diaper change right up through high school, covering all the bases in between.
Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex consists of 12 chapters and two appendices, organized into sections about nature and nurture in children's sexual development, stages and facets of your child's sexual development, and risks. The appendices provide a refresher course for those of us who haven't had a high school health class in a while, with one discussing the various forms of contraception, and the other the signs, symptoms, and treatments of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
::: Still Get the Giggles? You're Supposed To :::
Drs. Richardson and Schuster have made Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex a dream come true for parents like me. Sure, it still covers the nitty gritty details, but it does so in most cases with a sense of humor. The authors take into account that not only are parents human, but they are also coming from a wide range of belief systems, cultures, and attitudes about sex. Richardson and Schuster keep an open mind about everything from abstinence to homosexuality, and encourage parents to do the same, as much as they are able.
Facts and studies are presented, but not in such an antiseptic way that you find yourself bored. Some of the studies and facts presented were surprising to me, and I consider myself a fairly open-minded and well-read parent. For instance, I was shocked to read that while the rate of sexual activity among adolescents is the same in the United States as in other industrialized countries, we have a much higher rate of teen pregnancy here.
My husband and I realized long ago that I, for whatever reason, am more comfortable answering most of the awkward questions that little ones ask, from why mommies and daddies have pubic hair to where babies come from. However, Richardson and Schuster have provided suggestions for even the most reticent parents to broach topics that might be awkward for both parent and child alike, even giving examples of different ways to approach the topic based on your comfort level. Everything from contraception to abstinence to masturbation is covered.
Richardson and Schuster have really covered all the bases, talking to parents you might consider liberal, as well as those who might be considered to be very conservative. They take religious beliefs into consideration when discussing topics like abortion and contraception, and at no point does the reader get the feeling that they feel any one method of parenting is better than any other. The main point that they seem to want to drive home is that parents need to maintain an open and honest line of communication, accepting that no matter how hard we try to impose our beliefs on our children, they may not always adhere to those beliefs, and that the parent should always be available to answer questions and be supportive.
::: I'm Keeping It Near My Bed :::
While obviously I'm a few years away from having conversations with my daughter about whether or not she should have sex with her significant other, there are lessons for me to learn here. I remember how awkward anything relating to my sexual maturity was with my parents, and I was one of those kids who learned about tampons and sex from friends, not parents. It took me almost a year to screw up the courage to ask my mother to get me any form of feminine protection other than napkins and a belt, and to be honest, I don't even know where she FOUND those relics of the 1950s! I want my kids to get more from me than a book left on their bed, and to feel comfortable with asking me questions, because what better way do I have to communicate what I hope for them in this area of their lives?
I'm sure I'll be referring back to Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex time and time again over the next 18 years or so, and I've already assigned my husband the homework of reading it himself, because I know that there will be certain things that some of my kids may not want to discuss with me, and might turn to him on. I'm also going to recommend this book to ALL my friends with children, even if they aren't as curious as Beanie is quite yet. I wish my parents had this book when my sister and I were growing up.