Friday, June 11, 2010

Sexuation Situation

Bookmark and Share  Parents have been buzzing about 5th grade Sex Education Class since kindergarten.  They ask in hushed tones if you've had "the talk" yet, when you plan to.  Whether the mother or father will take the task.  They give a concerned frown and knowing nod when you tell them you have a child in 5th grade, " Have they done the sex ed thing yet?"  Parents report what a big deal the school presentation is. A special Health Teacher visits the school for the day.  The boys and girls get separate presentations, and the rumor is that the kids don't even look at each other for weeks afterwards.  We get notes sent home, we sign permission slips resembling legal documents.  The teachers make a to-do of it.  Parents are offered the opportunity to take the video home to review it.  The principal is available to discuss concerns and questions about the material covered. The school does a marvelous job of preparing and making everyone at once comfortable and supremely uncomfortable. On the presentation day, they cordon off the room and paper over the windows to shield the movie from younger eyes, adding to the mystery and drama of the event.
 So by the time the school presentation arrives, kids and parents are flustered and anxious.  I'm tense with worry at what could go wrong.  Have I left out some vital detail, prepared him for what he'll see and hear today?  Have I opened the door wide enough for discussion or will he instead talk to friends and get bogus information - or worse yet, look on the internet (yikes!).  I can't even predict what is going on in my tween's fragile psyche.  One of his close friends has not turned in his permission slip - may avoid the talk altogether he's so nervous.  I wonder if N will make it through the presentation.
A week ago N stressed wondering if I'd sent the permission slip, yes.  I'd told him the last 3 times he asked.  Then N wondered when it was.  Later he told me that he'd looked up the date for the "Sexuation" thing.  Just how do you keep a straight face with that kind of funny mix-up?  What an ingenius new term!  The marketing geek in me got thinking of a youth book on "Sexuation, the New Sex Education", or how-to-have-the-talk-book for parents.  My mind raced to design and promote a "Sexuation Kit" for the whole family...Discover the healthy way to share this intimidating subject matter.
I laughed, N had created another of our "family-isms", aka inside jokes.  He slipped up and wordbined (combined 2 words), that's now our family term for sex education. So funny!  We laughed at his new word to break the tension filling the days until the DAY.
By the DAY, the whole household felt the effect of my worry over N's review.  N got home and I asked him how his "Sexuation" was.  "Horrible!" he declared.  "Horrible - why?" I asked, alarmed.  "It was just gross."  "What was gross and horrible?" I pried.  "I dunno, but some kid actually barfed!"
I chuckled with comic relief!  I sighed in relief that N thought it was gross because someone barfed, not a  struggle with the content.  I visualized a kid so disgusted with the material that he barfed.  It rings of a sitcom or SNL skit. 

"It's a bad sign that a boy barfed during the 5th grade sex education presentation today."
After I posted this gem to Facebook, I found out the barfer was a friend's sick son.  What I thought was a funny post about the presentation stress turned into a mom's nightmare.  It took me awhile for the reality to fully sink in.  I was surprised because this mom is fun and outgoing.  I thought she was being hypersensitive about her son.  Just make him laugh, I thought.  Help him to see the humor in it to shed a new light on it, or give him ideas for a snarky response to teasers. 

My experiences with G have changed my perspective on how devastating this could be for a boy, a mom; lowered the bar of proper public behavior and public opinion alike. 

But then I remembered how big this "Sexuation" was.  Years of worry, years of preparation, but mostly years of BUZZ.  I imagine she worried that parents would buzz about her son for years to come, telling how the presentation made one boy throw up.  "Oh yes, he was so nervous he just threw up and they had to...blah blah blah."  Blech.  This IS how these things start, and I'd potentially exacerbated the situation by reminding those who knew and letting others know who may not have known at the school.  UGH! 

In a response to my private apology, she mentioned that he'd been teased on his way out of school already.  I envisioned her handsome son: deflated, pale, feeling sick, out of it, and teased by classmates to top it all off.  Kids can be ruthless.  

Please parents, don't make this into a story, a drama to scare parents with.  We already have enough reason to worry.  We worry that we're doing enough at home to support our children, to help them make sound choices and to discuss problems and questions with us.  To help them grow and learn.  To let teasing roll off their back and not to be a bully or be bullied. 

I'm grateful that my friend let me know that it was her son and that she was hurt by my post, my action.  I may have forever lost a friend and damaged her son by promoting gossip and stories to be passed on from year to year, growing in intensity like a bad game of telephone.   All this boy did was to get ill at a most inopportune time.  Let's wish him well and hope that his mother doesn't have a sick stomach from all of this.  I do.