This week my 13-year-old daughter watched The Sex Education Show……….. 3 days later after watching Glee together, this aroused an interesting and sensitive conversation between us, prompted by her. She is a bright and socially confident young person, and far more educated than I ever was at her age. She goes to a Roman Catholic School and based on her knowledge, one day will be able to make fully informed choices.
As a 13-year-old child I thought I was fairly street wise, though most definitely not formally fully informed, and did not have a mother or father that approached sex education or P.S.H.E from within the family, or from a formal view-point. In fact short of puppies and kittens at infant school, my only other sex education in secondary school, was a time tabled hour of ‘puberty and its side effects’, where we were given a free tampon sample, and were immaturely and uncontrollably hysterically grossed out, over Doctor Whites Towels of antiquity, whilst being assured we were all ‘quite normal’.
Based on what I physically felt, experienced, learnt and observed at 13 years of age, I would say that there is not much difference between our experiences………..
……….or is there? I had the freedom of going off to discover and play and mildly experiment in certain social situations from which my children have been restricted. They do not have the same freedoms that I had as a child. I did not have the same social media exposure, awareness and education or support that they have as children.
My daughter’s body is most definitely physically more mature than mine was, by about 4 years. I was classed as a tomboy and was a waif and a fairly late developer compared to that of my peers, she is very feminine and curvaceous and far more physically developed than most of her peers. I was the middle girl in the family, she the oldest child, this comes undoubtedly with different expectations. With her development into a young lady (which began at age eleven) there becomes a different posture and an advanced mental attitude/outlook. One that can not be denied and needs guiding.
Being a mother in each new situation, for the first time is tricky business. Manoeuvring through new unknown territory with honesty, openness, trust, and truth, whilst trying to maintain a modicum of protectiveness and privacy is a funny business. A 13-year-old does not just want to hear of our experiences at 13, but beyond 13 till marriage. A business which commands the greatest humility.
To maintain an avenue of welcome, open and safe dialogue, you have to be non judgmental, non reactionary, and non emotional. The ambiguously sketchy lines between the right levels of inquisitiveness and experience, innocence and education, the addressing of personal safety and of possible dangers are like balancing on a tightrope. A moral tightrope whereby quite often for many young people, especially the ones on the sex education programme, especially young people today, the reality is far different from the preferred party line.
Catholic teaching, dignity, self-respect, abstinence, one night stands, peer pressure, love, thinking you are in love, marriage, terminations, contraception were all brought up within the context of our conversation, based around the T.V programme, her friends conversations at school, and her formal eduction. What I found difficult was that she in her questioning of me had certain expectations, she presumed or rather expected that all adults have experienced a one night stand if not more, my daughter was shocked when I told her I never had, or wanted one. Suddenly societies new norms seem to have far greater and worrying significance.
Our talk was not half as uncomfortable as I expect it could have been. It was an eye opener for me, surprisingly. For as a contemporary mother, I consider myself positively approachable and open with all of my children, all of the time, and had not realised how much ground she had not covered before, and now wanted to share. At the end of our talk she came and gave me a long, deep and Loving hug. Of course as a mother I worry, but I also feel incredibly privileged and peaceful that I have a daughter that is embarking on her journey with a sharing and generous heart, and a level of maturity that I had neither expected or experienced at her age.
I pray that maternal Grace will continue to bless us both in our shared female journey together. x