Even as you are figuring out how to tell your kids about the birds and the bees, they are out there doing it!
Vinita Dawra Nangia
A friend’s 10-year-old daughter asked an innocent question, “Mama, is it bad to talk to boys?” As her panicked heart almost dropped to her silver kolhapuris, the mother managed to reply equally casually, “No beta, it’s just the same as talking to your girl friends.”
It’s another matter that she spent rest of the day on phone with friends, torturing over whether she gave the right answer. Right or wrong, who’s to say? I spent years in dread of my kids asking me about the birds and the bees, preparing myself and priming my husband on possible answers. Advertisements of condoms or sanitary towels had us squirming, waiting for the questions that never came. Apprehension turned to curiosity, till one day it sunk in that by now the children could possibly teach us a thing or two!
When and where did they pick up the facts of life? That doesn’t matter as much as the fact that we were left totally out in the cold; our children never really felt the need to come to us for explanations or answers. Peers and media fulfilled that need.
There’s a huge disconnect because we are looking at the situation through the prism of our growing up years while these children have grown by leaps beyond a mere generation gap. I may have shed some tears of humiliation while changing out of my clingy tops as a teenager at my dad’s orders. Today’s children just laugh right back in your face, “Grow up, Mum!” What is ridiculous is that your children may well be indulging in consensual sex while you are still wondering how to impart sex education to them! So that it comes to a situation where parents need counseling far more than children ever do!
A colleague got a wake-up call when she discovered a packet of condoms in her 17-year-old’s bag; another hapless mum furtively screening her 17-year-old daughter’s text messages, was horrified to read, “Last night was wonderful!” She thought she’d sent her daughter for an innocent sleepover at a girlfriend’s place.
In both cases, when confronted, the children (unknown to each other) exploded at the invasion of their privacy and threatened to walk out. When the mother refused to back down, the boy stopped coming back home from his boarding for the weekends. In the second case, the mother realised that all she could do was accept the fact that her daughter was sexually active and just offer herself as a friend, to warn her against an unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. She thus won her daughter’s confidence.
Whether sex education be imparted at home or school is an irrelevant debate for talk shows or print media today. Children have their own ways of knowing; they are out there doing it while you are busy figuring out how to tell them! Everyone tells parents to be liberal and talk about sex to their children, but nobody tells them how! A far better approach to your child is to be a confidante rather than talk down to him, hemming and hawing and making sex sound like a crime!
Virginity is no longer a noble word, nor is it an expected virtue by most youngsters. As in other fields, Bollywood stars lead the way here too. When an Aishwarya has a rather public affair with first Salman Khan, then Viveik Oberoi and ends up marrying Abhishek Bachchan, who has been through a similar number if not more of lovers – what price virginity?
And yet, parents will be parents and not sleep easy till their young ones are back home, sleeping peacefully in their own beds. So between being the protector and the confidante, where do you draw the line? One is quite amused by an interesting compromise some parents in Hyderabad have arrived at! Their young, working daughters and sons – mostly the IT or call centre crowd – cannot be debarred from late nights and visiting discotheques. So what have parents done to avoid sleepless nights? They have appointed security guards who accompany the youngsters to and from these venues.
One has to agree, the presence of a security guard can put a dampener on any ideas of a backseat canoodle!