First of all, I’m going to mention that I started writing this blog because of the blog Raising My Rainbow. In it, the mother (Lori) details raising her son CJ, who describes himself as a boy who only likes girl things. While Jeremy is not as girlish as CJ, the blog brings back a lot of memories.
The flip side is the blog brings back memories. It doesn’t help with what’s going on now. CJ is in grade one and navigating primary school. Jeremy is in high school and navigating… well, he’s not navigating much. He goes to school then comes home and stays here. If I didn’t send him on errands or take him grocery shopping, he wouldn’t go anywhere.
When he was younger, he was my social butterfly. He didn’t hang out much with other kids but he was out all the time. Every shop in the area knew him by name and we couldn’t walk anywhere without someone yelling, “Hi Jeremy” from a car window. But he’s slowly withdrawn to home and we’ve moved since then. Now almost no one knows him.
I realized that there was no way I’m the only one dealing with this teenage minefield and, that maybe our struggles might help someone else. I wrote the introduction and showed it to Jeremy. He was horrified and wanted me to delete it immediately. Why would I write that? He’d told me those things in confidence. I explained how I’d felt about reading Raising My Rainbow and he looked at me thoughtfully.
“You’re not going to use my picture are you?” he asked. I hastily assured him I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t use his real name either.
“Can I read the post to you?” I asked. He nodded then started smiling as I read. Some parts made him laugh.
“Okay,” he said once I was done. “You can post it.”
Now, at one point Lori wrote a brief post on Sex Ed, mainly dealing with who gives the sex talk if one of the children is gay. There’s no discussion on who’s going to deal with sex ed in my house. I’ve raised these kids on my own. All the discussions fall onto my (woefully inadequate) shoulders.
Over the years I’ve made it a point to talk to both Emma and Jeremy openly and honestly, answering their questions as best I can. Since I was raising two children of opposite genders, I couched my answers in gender neutral terms. Emma was a preteen when she informed me she was straight and I could just talk about dating boys when I talked to her. Jeremy never commented and I still use gender neutral terms with him.
Often our conversations occur at the dinner table or out walking. And while the conversations can make me feel uncomfortable, I’m still glad we have them. Some of the misinformation they overhear or simply come up with on their own can be mind-bogglingly wrong.
We were on a walk home from the library about three or four years ago. We were chatting about something completely inane then Jeremy asked, out of the blue, “Mom? Why do people have anal sex when it kills them?”
My mind went right to AIDS and other STIs but I’ve learned over the years to ask questions instead of just assuming. Especially with Jeremy, whose mind tends to wander in some pretty odd directions.
“Umm… what do you mean?” I asked cautiously.
“Well, you know, they explode,” he replied.
His expression said he felt this was perfectly obvious and I was a tad slow. Emma erupted into a fit of giggles while I stared at him in amazement.
“Hon, no, they don’t,” I quickly assured him. He shook his head.
“But Mom, that’s where poo comes out. Nothing’s supposed to go there, so they explode,” he informed me seriously.
His sister was laughing so hard by then, she was squeaking. I began to worry she’d wet herself. We were a good twenty minutes from home.
“Jeremy, trust me on this. No one’s going to explode. I swear I have yet to hear of a single person exploding anywhere ever from any type of sex.”
“Dorkface, you’re an idiot,” Emma helpfully added between giggles. “No one dies from having sex.”
He eyed us suspiciously then shrugged. “Okay, I guess so,” he said grudgingly.
To be fair, it was funny as hell, but kids come up with absolutely wrong ideas and sometimes there are devastating consequences. How many young teens end up pregnant because they thought she couldn’t get pregnant the first time, or if he pulled out, or if she stood during sex or douched with pop? How many kids have tried (and failed) to make homemade condoms to protect themselves from STIs or pregnancy? I want my kids to feel comfortable coming to me with questions, no matter how odd or embarrassing those questions might be.
Emma never had any issues asking me questions. Jeremy, on the other hand, found it quite awkward to talk to Mom. I signed him up for a comprehensive sex ed program. The good news was it covered EVERYTHING. The bad news was it encompassed two full weekends of information. Jeremy’s been suspected of ADHD before. He doesn’t listen to two full weekends of information.
Then one of his teachers decided to organize a sex ed class. I found the letter at the bottom of Jeremy’s backpack, crumpled into a ball.
“I should sign this,” I mused, smoothing out the crinkles.
“Don’t bother,” he mumbled. “I don’t want to go. I learned everything in my other class already.”
“I know you learned a lot but there’s always a chance you could learn more,” I replied and reached for a pen. He plunked himself down beside me and scowled.
“The teacher asked the class if there was anything they wanted to discuss and I said ‘gay stuff’. Then she told me not to be rude. I asked her how I was supposed to ask and she said she didn’t know but not to ask like that. I don’t think they’re going to mention anything and I don’t want to go. Can’t I just stay home?”
I looked at the crumpled paper then sighed. Jeremy was already coming home at least once a week due to anxiety issues and I didn’t want to add any more missed days to his already spotty attendance.
“How about if I write that I want them to discuss same sex relationships and intimacy? Would that help?” I asked. He nodded then sighed with relief.
I quickly penned my agreement and note, wondering what the reaction would be then put the paper in his backpack. At least he’d brought the form home with him. As far as I could tell, the permission forms for his school field trips were going into the recycling bin at school. I never saw those.
I was talking to his teacher several days later on yet another day he was coming home early.
“Did you get my note regarding the sex ed class?” I asked cautiously.
“Yes,” she replied. “You actually didn’t need to write it. We already had that on the agenda. Jeremy’s very good at advocating for himself.”
Jeremy felt she hadn’t listened to him at all but I didn’t say that.
Once I got home from work, I told Jeremy about the call. He flashed me a mocking grin.
“I only told them I want to discuss ‘gay stuff’ to piss them off. It’s not something I’m interested in,” he informed me.
“Don’t!” I snapped. He looked surprised. “I will stand up for you but I will not play games and I will not support you teasing your teacher. If you want to discuss ‘gay stuff’ in sex ed, I will fight my hardest to get you that information,” I replied, complete with air quotes. “But I refuse to take a serious issue and use it for bullying.” He nodded.
Several weeks later, I asked Jeremy how the class went. He shrugged. “It was boring,” he admitted. “I learned nothing.”
“Did they discuss anything to do with gay relationships or sex?” I asked. He shook his head. My heart sank and I tried to figure out how to bring this up with his teacher.
The next day I got a call from his teacher. Jeremy was coming home, again. I headed into the stock room and leaned against one of the shelves. This was the most privacy I could find at work.
“Jeremy said same sex relationships weren’t discussed in the class,” I said hesitantly.
“Really?” his teacher replied. “I don’t know why he’d say that. This was penciled into the schedule and I was there, in the room, during that part of the discussion. He got silly for some of the talk and had to leave but he was there for that part too. It got really controversial with some of his classmates arguing that they thought being gay was wrong.”
I rubbed my head and hoped I’d remembered to put the bottle of pain pills in my purse. I knew I’d need them.
“Jeremy,” I said almost as soon as I walked in the front door. “I talked to your teacher and she said that gay stuff was brought up in the sex ed class, that it got really controversial and she was there when it was discussed.”
“No, it wasn’t,” he protested. “Just ask anyone like… no, not him. His parents wouldn’t sign the form. Maybe you could ask so-and-so.”
The name washed over my head. He was someone Jeremy hadn’t mentioned before. I wasn’t going to track down a random student.
“Honestly,” he continued. “It was never brought up. She’s lying. I don’t know why but she’s lying.”
Both of them were totally, completely serious. And both were making the exact opposite statement. I looked at my son and wondered if it was too late to start a drinking habit.
“At least you learned about same sex relationships in the class I signed you up for,” I said pragmatically. He stared at me blankly then shook his head.
“They talked about a lot in that class,” he said quietly. “I got tired of listening.”
He thought for a moment then shrugged. “It doesn’t matter anyways because men and woman have a lot more sex than two men would.”
“Why do you say that?” I asked cautiously. I was reasonably sure he still didn’t think people exploded during sex.
“Because gay sex would hurt,” he replied logically.
If I wrote a book on all I know about gay sex, it would be pretty much blank. However… I used to lurk on a sex forum for parents and I did read a thread on anal sex before. It had been at least five years since I’d read that thread but I had to remember something.
“Umm… sex doesn’t hurt if you do it right,” I replied, thinking so hard I’m surprised smoke wasn’t pouring from my ears. “You’re supposed to use lube and go really slowly.”
He looked at me, his expression blank with surprise.
“This is new information, isn’t it?” I asked and he nodded. Damn. I thought hard again, remembering a scrap of information I’d seen on a safe sex notice somewhere.
“And use two condoms too,” I added, hoping I wasn’t misremembering. Another look of surprise.
I barely felt qualified to give my daughter information on straight sex. Now I’m really flying blind.