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Public School Sex Education Inaction

Last week, My Kid had his "Family Life" classes at school. That's southern-bible-belt for "Sex Ed." The process is such: first they send home a paper for the parent to sign giving the child permission to participate in the class. The form explains that parents can view the curriculum by coming up to the school. Children who opt out of the class will be required to complete some kind of similar health assignments in the office while the lucky kids are watching THE VIDEO. Boys and girls are separated for the classes.

So I sign. What do I care? I'm sure it will all be so BENIGN there's surely nothing to worry about. I don't want him to miss out on all the fun. Sixth graders, discussing puberty? Doesn't get any more fun than that.

Friday afternoon, I'm driving him to soccer practice and he starts talking to me about the class. Sample conversations to follow:


Him: So we finished our Family Life classes today.
Me: Yeah? How was it? Did they tell you all about puberty?
Him: No, that was last year.
Me (confused): Really? What then this year? Where babies come from?
Him: Yeah.
Me: Well that seems totally backward to me, but whatever. So did they tell you how NOT to make babies?
Him: No.
Him: They told us about AIDS though.
Me: They did? What did they tell you?
Him: (appears to be thinking or trying to remember)
Me: Did they tell you how NOT to get AIDS?
Him: No (laughs) They told us how you GET AIDS.
Me: OK, how?
Him: Ummm...if a lady is pregnant and she has AIDS then her baby definitely has it.
Me: Not true. There's actually treatment for the mom to prevent it from passing it to her unborn child.

He was confused about if you could be "cured" of AIDS, so we talked a little about the difference between HIV and AIDS. Luckily, he's just had a couple of booster shots at the pediatrician the week before, so we'd just been discussing the body's immune response. I explained that there are people diagnosed HIV-positive that have lived for years without ever getting AIDS because of the treatment that's available. Then I told him about the vaccine the researchers at my work are working on.

Me: OK, so how else do you get AIDS?
Him: From needles.
Me: Sharing needles.
Him: Yeah. And from heroin.
Me: Well, not from the heroin exactly, but a lot of heroin users share needles so they are exposed that way. What else?
Him: Ummm...something like...you have to...
Me: Exchange body fluids?
Him: Yeah, that's it. You can't get it like, shaking hands.
Me: Right. So, they didn't tell you how people can have sex WITHOUT exchanging body fluids?
Him: Nope.
Me: Did they tell you about other diseases you can get from sex besides HIV and AIDS? Syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, warts?
Him: Nope.
Me: (sighs) Did they tell you that the ONLY way not to get pregnant or a disease is to not have sex?

I even threw out the "a-" word to see if he recognized it.

Him: Yeah, I guess.
Me: Did they tell you that you should wait until you're married to have sex?
Him: Yeah.
Me: HOLY SHIT. (I didn't really say that out loud. But I was sure the hell thinking it.)

I realized I now MUST address this while I have a captive audience and we were freely discussing the issue. No heart-to-heart "when a man loves a woman..." quesy bullshit. Just me. Matter-of-fact. Annoyed with the school. Rolling my eyes, and "Here, I'll tell ya how it REALLY is" attitude.

Me: Do you know what a condom is? A "rubber"?
Him: (laughs) Yeah.
Me: Who told you about them? Your friends?
Him: No. Dad.
Me: Oh. Good.

I then went on to have a quick overview of the use of condoms with my son. Not how they're used so much as how they protect you.

I told him that he should definitely, definitely wait until he is much, much older before having sex. I told him that I didn't mind if he had sex before he was married (although if he chose to save himself, I'm cool with that, too), but that he really should wait until he's out of high school.

I told him that he should not have sex unless he's ready to have a baby, because that's the responsibility you're taking on.

I told him how being sexually involved with someone takes an emotional toll on you. I told him that I was 19 when I first had sex and when he broke up with me I was DEVASTATED because I had so much emotionally invested in the relationship at that point.

I told him that it's just something you don't want to have to deal with when you're trying to get good grades and excel in sports and get into college and chose your life path.

Man, that was good, wasn't it? I hadn't even practiced.

Me: If you have any questions, you can always talk to me or Dad. You may not be as embarrassed with Dad, but my answers will probably be more accurate. You might want to double-check his answers with me to make sure he's telling you the right thing.
Him: Okay.