I don’t know any parent who manages to escape unscathed after that the harrowing ordeal of teaching their kids about puberty and sex.
And yet I think our kids get the worst end of it.
This week I am so excited to be launching The Whole Story: Not so Scary Talks about Sex, Puberty, and Growing Up. It’s an online video based course that moms share with their daughters to teach about puberty (and sex!). And it stars my daughters! Rebecca and Katie (22 & 20) do the talks for the daughters, while I have videos and audios to give moms pep talks. And then checklists, discussion starters, and mother-daughter activities help moms to continue the conversation. Check it out here!
It’s not a REPLACEMENT for you. It’s a RESOURCE to make it not so scary!
Very few of us do this well. I was speaking about sex from the stage, and yet when it came to my own kids, I still clammed up (I got progressively better, and by the time they were 14/15 I was a champ. But it took a while to get there!)
And as the girls and I were commiserating together, we remembered 10 things that I really messed up with when teaching them about sex. I thought I’d share those with you so you can see that you’re not alone!
1. I forgot to give them the words for female genitalia
I shared this story yesterday, but it’s too good not to share again.
One day we’re grocery shopping around a holiday, when the parking lot is packed. I’m unpacking the groceries into the car, while the girls are hanging on outside of it. And 5-year-old Rebecca pipes up, really loudly, “Mommy, why do you have hair on your bum and I don’t?”
Other shoppers stared at me and started to snicker. Was I really some werewolf under these mom jeans? Did I really have hair on my backside?
I wasn’t even sure what Rebecca was getting at, until it dawned on me…
I had never given her a word for female genitalia. She didn’t know how to say “vulva” or “vagina”. She just called the whole thing a bum, kind of like a big basketball that extended from the back to the front.
2. Rebecca thought the penis was like a finger
But don’t worry! I was an equal opportunity offender. I gave her the wrong impression of the male genitalia, too.
When Rebecca was 10 I took her away on a weekend where we listened to a CD based course on puberty (that’s where I got the idea for our course). In it, a man was explaining what sex was. And he said that the penis was sort of like a finger. So for the longest time Rebecca thought the penis operated like a finger.
And she could just never figure out, why do guys have to scratch themselves if they already have a finger down there?
3. Rebecca thought sex involved women looking like a starfish
Along the same lines, that CD explained that, during sex, the woman lay on her back with her legs spread out while a man entered her. So Rebecca pictured sex to be a woman lying still like a starfish. She was busy taking advanced swimming lessons then, and they “starfished” a lot in the pool. Yep.
4. I pushed purity too young with Rebecca
Now, if having a finger “down there” and pointing it at a woman who is starfishing doesn’t sound that attractive, have no fear! It only got worse. So then this course took us through a lot of activities where girls were taught that having sex before marriage will ruin the beauty of sex (because starfishing, apparently, is beautiful). So girls were asked to promise never to have sex until they were married.
Rebecca was more than willing to promise never to starfish and never to let anyone get his finger-thing near her. So that wasn’t hard to do. But as she grew up and we got talking, she said that this idea of purity being so important really impacted her spiritual life. She grew up thinking that if she wasn’t perfect, she’d lose something precious. And that’s just not what I wanted her to know. Yes, we want our kids to wait until they’re married, but we don’t want to scare them into it or make them feel as if God is inaccessible if they don’t do all the right things. This one made me sad.
5. I waited too long to have Katie wear a training bra
Shortly after I went through the trauma of that weekend with Rebecca (which was rather difficult for her, too!) I started to notice something. Katie, who was only about 9 1/2, was starting to develop. There she is, this little girl who still likes polly pockets, and her T-shirts look remarkably odd. Like she’s almost become a pair of walking nipples (you know what I mean? Sometimes those develop first and it looks so ODD!).
But I wasn’t prepared for it. She was just so young. So I tried to ignore it, until finally Keith said that we just had to put her in a training bra.
6. I made Katie think sex was a horrible torturous thing
I waited too long for that. But I handled sex a little bit better with Katie, I thought. I had always decided that I would answer any questions they had, whenever they asked. Rebecca never did (hence the weekend), but Katie sure did! When she was 8, she wanted to know all about it.
“How long does he have to put it in for?” was her first question, after I told her the facts.
Then, the next morning, right after she got up, the first thing she did was to run over to me and give me a big hug and say, “I’m so sorry you had to do that to get me, Mommy! But thank you for going through that!” Obviously something was lost in translation.
7. I forgot to tell Katie how to shave.
I also forgot to tell her some basic stuff, like how to shave. I kind of assumed Rebecca would, I guess. They did share a bathroom, after all! But one day Katie’s just crying because her whole legs are bleeding, and it turns out she was shaving dry with a rusty razor. She didn’t know you weren’t supposed to shave dry. Whoops. I think she may still have a scar on her ankle!
8. I gave up talking about the personal stuff once they knew the factual details
Nevertheless, somehow we muddled through. I think I handled periods well with both girls (at least there’s nothing too traumatic they could remember). But somehow the conversations seemed to stop from the age of 11, when puberty hit and we went over everything, to about 15 when I started to become a confidante. I told them the facts; I wasn’t very good at engaging them in making it personal. What about sexual feelings? What about crushes? Nope. Ignored all that.
9. I ignored porn, because, after all, they were girls!
And I especially ignored porn! After all, they were girls, and they were REALLY good girls, and I shouldn’t have to worry, right? Besides, how would I even bring it up? (Yeah, there’s that pesky stat, too, about how the fastest growing group of porn users are teen girls…) I wrote about teens, media, and God in a post here after Katie told me about how she struggled watching Vampire Diaries.
10. I didn’t explain what boys were going through
Finally, I explained NOTHING about what boys were going through with puberty. Nothing about erections. Nothing about wet dreams. Nothing about anything. And so my girls weren’t as sympathetic to the guys in their youth group as they could have been. Rebecca was just adamant that in our course we record a video explaining to girls what boys are going through, and giving them tips to leave a boy alone if he just wants to stay seated or stay in the corner for a little while!
But here’s the good news…
I figured it out!
And as they got older, we began to laugh about a lot of this stuff. I found it easier to talk to them. And we really did get over all of those mistakes. Like Rebecca writes in her upcoming book Why I Didn’t Rebel, when you’re open and honest with your kids, you don’t need to be a perfect parent. Authenticity really matters more. Forging a close relationship where you can talk helps overcome even awkwardness!
You don’t have to make my mistakes when teaching YOUR daughters about puberty
Many of these problems were because I told them the bare minimum I could get away with…and didn’t follow up to see if they understood. And I didn’t create an environment where they felt that they could ask questions.
That’s where The Whole Story comes in! Our course features my daughters giving the lessons (because most 10-15 year old girls would rather hear this stuff from young women), but then it encourages the moms and daughters to keep talking, with lots of discussion questions and printables!
It’s YOUR discussions that really matter…but we help facilitate them in a non-awkward way.
So check the course out. It’s our prayer that it makes these talks much easier for you–because EVERYONE finds them hard!
PS: Want to see Katie and Rebecca and me all laughing about how I messed up? Here you go!
Now let me know in the comments–how did you mess up teaching your daughters about puberty? Or how did your mom mess up with you? Let’s talk!