Today’s topic is YKW, which shall be code for ‘you know what’ which shall be code for well, you know. . . It’s not that I am Victorian when it comes to the topic of YKW, it’s just that I’d prefer Google not send a certain audience of seekers to my humble wholesome blog, so therefore I have developed my own dorky top secret code. So then, now you are in the know about YKW.
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Sean prefers to sit with AD and I in our Sunday school class. And we don’t mind, we like having him with us. He brings a book to read. But he is also listening. He’s always listening. We know this because usually sometime around Wednesday, out of the blue, he’ll make some observation about something the teacher said.
For the past several weeks, a family and marriage therapist has been leading the class on various aspects of the marriage relationship. The next class, we were warned, would be on marital intimacy. So of course we told Sean that he would have to go to his own class. “Why!?” he protested, “Because you’re going to talk about s+x?” Yes, I said, for that very reason. “But I promise I won’t answer any of the questions!” he said.
Sean has a good understanding of YKW. He understands the physiology. He knows that God created male and female, each with their own unique components for reproduction. He does not yet fully understand how the components come together to make that happen because he is not ready for that.
We decided early on that we would approach the topic honestly anytime the opportunity presented. And one thing that has helped in that regard is that Sean has always been keenly interested in wild life and animals. We have watched a lot of Animal Planet, where the topic is unavoidable and usually narrated in a British voice. Which somehow makes everything seem more proper.
One time when Sean was about five and my parents were visiting, Sean and my dad were sitting on the couch watching an episode of Animal Planet while the British guy gave a play by play of two lions engaged in YKW. Sean, ever the educator, turns to my dad and flatly informs him, “The male is the one top.” To which my dad replied, “Oh.” and then quickly excused himself to the kitchen to refill his glass of tea.
Everyone has to develop their own parenting philosophy in terms of how and when to teach their children about YKW, so what follows is not to comment upon what anyone else is doing, but merely to say what has worked for us. Thus far. We may find out years from now that our philosophy was a complete and utter failure.
If I were to offer any advice in regards to how you decide to educate your children on this topic it would be to decide. That is to say give some thought as to what, when and how you want your children to learn about YKW, and not wait to see how the world fills the void.
Parenting often occurs in reaction to and against our own experience and this may be part of how our thinking on this topic developed — we looked back on our own experience and decided that maybe there was a better way. I think for many of us Baby Boomers the best practice of the day was that somewhere around puberty, your mother or some other well-intended adult would ominously sit you down and give you THE TALK, maybe give you a book which covered the basic physiology illustrated with line drawings. They would then dust their hands, relieved that the task was complete, thankful that we could all move on with our lives and pretend it never happened.
The problem with this approach in my view is that it’s like getting a bucket of cold water in the face. There was no information leading up to THE TALK (except maybe from unreliable peer sources), there was no context, and definitely no follow-up. And it was incredibly awkward at a time when your life is one big hot steaming bowl of awkward.
In light of that we decided to forego the bucket method, and opted instead for the dribble method – we would start early and give him little bits of accurate and age-appropriate information as the opportunity presented. There would be no cabbage patch or stork or cute names for body parts.
THE TALK approach, to me, always seemed to confer upon it a sense of shame, that somehow after THE TALK you don’t talk about it, ever, again. We want Sean to talk to us openly and freely, about everything, but at the same time YKW is not a topic we want him discussing openly and freely outside of our family, for many reasons, but not the least of which is because just like Santa Claus, other families might be going the stork route and we want to respect that. We don’t want Sean to be a spoiler or to get in the way of how other people are teaching their children. So, we constantly remind Sean that this is a topic that we only talk about at home among the three of us, and never with others.
When I was coming of age, my knowledge on the topic was like a book that was missing every other page. I had bits and pieces of information here and there, but by no means did I have a complete picture or a useful understanding. And I knew it. I can still remember my freshman year of high school, the panicky feeling of knowing that I didn’t know what I thought everyone else knew, and trying to pretend that I did. And that panic and pretending is awful, because you’re just waiting to be found out as the dumbest person ever. And I don’t want for Sean. I want him to have confidence in who he is and what he knows. I don’t want to leave wide open gaps for the world to fill with panic and ugly half-truths.
That is why we want Sean to hear from us first on the topic of YKW – like the local news, we want to be his first and most trusted source of information! Back to you AD in the studio!
That he should hear from us first on this topic is the cornerstone of our philosophy — the two people who love him most and know him best, who have his best interest at heart and in whom he knows he can trust completely.
We want to provide him with information on a level that is appropriate for him, in the context of our beliefs and values, with the understanding that physiology and faith are partners, not opponents, that one without the other is incomplete. We want him to feel he can talk to us anytime, openly and without reserve or shame. We want him to understand that this is a topic that is to be handled with respect, and therefore is private (not secret) and not public.
If our philosophy is sound and works the way we hope, when the topic of YKW comes up on the playground, as it will if it hasn’t already, he’s heard it before, it is old news. And hopefully he’ll yawn confidently and walk away.
If not, he can discuss it with his future family and marriage therapist.