Monday, May 19, 2008

Sex Ed For Dummy Parents

Some time ago Dinidu, probably my favourite sexual rights activist of all time, said that my blog should be sub titled "parenting for dummies". I laughed at his wit and chuckled at the thought that secretly I'm a great father, despite the image I might portray to you and all who are kind enough to read around here.

Then I went to collect the girls on Wednesday for our weekly evening together.

I'll digress for a moment and tell you about a tangential thought that's just entered my head. As I write this and think about what to write next I pondered on the approach, if that's the word, one should take when blogging. I know that I have the occasional regular reader and I wonder whether it's best to talk about my girls as if you, the reader, already knows all about them, or if it's best to introduce them every time, for the benefit of newbies around here.

I wonder what's best, I wonder if it matters at all.

Still, at least I don't over analyse these things!

Back to the beginning. I was at their house and doing the usual hassling for them to get ready. Wednesdays are great fun and enjoyed by all ( I think) but they're not easy going and relaxed. The idea is that it's a "normal" school night for the girls, just one that's spent with their Dad instead of their Mother. The idea is that it's not a big treat on which I take them out for fancy food or do glamorous things like gigs or outings.

This means that it's an evening on which I leave work early, pick them up and take K to her piano lesson. Me and A then rush off to buy things for dinner, then rush back to collect K. Then it's homework for them, cooking for me, clearing up, arguing, shouting, cramming a week's worth of Father and daughter stuff into a few hours and dropping them back for 8.30.

It's hard, it's fun, it's sad and it's happy. It's also a massive learning curve for all of us. One of the things about this divorce business is that I've had to reevaluate my role as a father, to redefine many of my own ways of behaviour and try to maintain the right balance between all the elements involved in this parenthood thing. Anyone can be a parent these days, being a good one is a different matter. Being a good divorced one, with time as a scarce resource, is yet another matter.

As A and me were driving to Tesco to get dinner the first bombshell hit me.

"Dad, we're going to be doing sex education next week and we're going to be shown how to put a condom on a banana". She said.

My head felt as if it contained nothing but rubber arrows of confusion bouncing around in all directions. Damn this whole fatherhood thing. Sometimes when you're supposed to be serious you can only think of funny things and other times, when you're supposed to be funny, you're busy thinking about serious things.

I felt pleased that sex education is done at school, that I live in a society in which it's accepted that young people have sex and that they're taught how to approach it. I felt nervous and anxious that A, my 14 year old, is reaching that age. I also felt sorry for their male biology teacher. It's a girls school you see. He's probably quite used to it by now but I feel huge amounts of male sympathy for any chap who will have to show a class full of 14 year old girls how to put a condom on a banana. Poor bastard!

I listened to A, I had nothing to say really, but sincerely hoped she wasn't going to ask me any questions. She didn't, so I cracked a joke about how useful it would be if she ever had to put a condom on a banana. She laughed, I laughed and we continued our journey. I thought I had got away with it. We did our shopping and went to collect K from her piano lesson. A car with K in it can be a dangerous place. The conversation went like this:

"K, I was just telling Dad that we're going to be doing sex ed and Mr X (I can't remember his name) is going to show us how to put a condom on a banana" said A.

"Uurgh, urgh, urgh" said K.

She said it in that teenager's accent, the one where the voice raises and lowers in pitch, usually to indicate to listeners that the user of the accent is a male whose balls are currently dropping with the force and speed of a few roof tiles falling off in a violent storm. I think they call it voice breaking or something, I don't know if it happens in girls, perhaps a girl might read this and enlighten me. Then K went quiet, which can only mean she is thinking or asleep. She was wide awake. Then she said

"That's nothing though. We're seeing a video soon and I heard it's got pictures of men with boners in it."

I positively choked on the steering wheel. There was a strange split second silence from A, the elder but more middle of the road sister. The split second gave her enough time to figure out a response. It came:

"Uuuuurgh, that's disgusting. A boner, really?"

"Yeah, seriously." responded the younger sibling.

I realised something important, something that filled me with fear and made me wish for an ejector seat in the car. Perhaps that should be an "erector" seat. It wouldn't have mattered which seat ejected, I'd have pressed the button either way just to get away from them. My realisation was that neither of them knew what a boner is, that they were half bluffing and half telling the truth. They knew it was something to do with sex, with men and with things that are rude. That was about it. They also knew that someone in a position of authority, like a parent, would know what a boner is. I was that person.

"Dad" came the voice.

"Umm. What?"

"What's a boner?"

"Um well it's a erm you know well it's erm like well a well you know." I reckoned that my explanation was pretty good under the circumstances.

"It's a what?"

"Well it's erm a willy, you know, like when two people are having sex."

I was feeling chuffed with myself at the level of technical detail I had managed to get into the explanation. I'd done the science bit yet still made it easy to understand. Even as I write this I predict a flood of calls from TV people asking me to present their next nature or biology show.

Things went silent for a few seconds. I could hear cogs turning. There were cogs in A's and K's head turning and thinking about similar things. I didn't have to look but I knew there would be perplexed, puzzled and disgusted looks on their face. The loudest cogs were the ones in my head. Turning at hundreds of miles per hour and producing a fight inside my head. The fight was a big one and was between the mature Dad bit of my brain, the bit that thought it was good that we were having the chat, and the childish bit of my brain, which is more than a bit and actually about 98% of it.

Then the thinking was done, it was time for more.

"What do you mean Dad?"

I wasn't sure which child said it, but it didn't matter.

"Ermm it's the willy. You know, when two people are having sex."

I thought this added more detail and approached things from a different angle. Some more thinking was being done by the girls and I, like most Sri Lankans, drummed on the steering wheel.

A, the 14 year old was a bit more pensive than K, the younger sibling. I think it was because she knew more and was getting embarrassed. It was K who piped up with the closing argument.

"Ah I know. Is it like when two people are having sex and the man lies on top with his willy?"

"YES, YES THAT'S IT!!" I grabbed at the escape hatch that had been suddenly appeared through the mist, not that escape hatches normally appear through mist. It's normally wolves, monsters and cars without foglights on. The explanation was only vaguely near the mark, but these things are relative and I wanted out.

"Uuurgh yuk" said K.

She was thinking, I was thinking and A was thinking. It wouldn't have taken Sigmund Freud to figure out that we were all thinking about sex. He may have been needed to look inside each of our minds and make sense of the different approaches.

K was thinking that it was all disgusting, a bit chee and unnecessary. A was more advanced, still uncomfortable that we were talking about the dreaded sex thing, but fascinated and fixated too. Those couple of extra years meant that her interest was more healthy. RD (that's me) was fascinated and fixated, half loving the moment and half hating it.

We got home in silence, then all jumped out of the car as quickly one of those chaps who's been trapped on a desert island and has to jump onto a passing ship. We went inside, did some token unpacking of shopping and relaxed. They started to watch TV and I sloped up to my room. I felt as if I had been sent up there.

I spent some time mooching around then went back down when I thought the coast was clear. We had dinner to make, homework to do and anything was likely to happen....


Scrumpulicious said...

LOL! That's really unfortunate that you had to squirm your way through that but it's nice enough to know that they can ask you these things though.... :S

T said...

hahaha OMG. i would never ever have the nerve to ask my dad about that stuff. EVER.

L said...

Just thought I would tell you this. Had a chat with a non-divorced dad who made a comment about a mutual friend who is a divorced dad. What he said is even though he spent most evenings and weekends at home with his children, he felt that the divorced dad having just a weekend a fortnight to cram things in spent more quality time with his son. He was beginning to think sometimes, the constant contact with his children at home made him take the time with his children for granted and he felt a sense of admiration and respect for the divorced dad. I never thought of it that way and it made me think as well of what I take for granted.

We were also thinking of some divorced mums who don't live at home with their children. We know two mums who coincidentally both go to the home every morning and clean their rooms, and take them to school, before going off to work. I honestly don't know how they do it!

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

T - Well, if there's anything you need to know just ask me, I'm quite the expert in this stuff now!

L - I wholly agree with your friend's friend. The quality of the time we have together is much higher and also needs far more planning on my part. It's a total change in attitude and behaviour and has many positives as well as the odd negative.

sach said...

haha this is the advantage of having a father who is an Ob/Gyn Specialist. According to those privy to day to day life in our family, our approach towards sex is almost disturbing it seems. lol. as in, how comfortable we're when discussing stuff like this. you have just inspired me to write my next post.

mixedblessings89 said...

I never would have asked my Dad anything of the sort... and he's a doctor!!
BTW... girls' voices don't crack. They mostly end up sounding like their mothers, actually...

Jane Doe said...

At least you didn't have your 10 and a half year old younger sibling ask you very innocently (when you were thirteen and had just found out what sex was) whether the two dogs who were at it in front of the gate were Siamese twins or just stuck together and needed our help to get separated...
I don't think I've ever been that embarrassed about discussing sex actually...

samanalee said...


Rhythmic Diaspora said...

MB89 - I'm sure you're right about girls' voices not cracking but they definitely do some "pitch changing" thing at that age.

Jack Point said...

heh heh a most amusing tale.

mixedblessings89 said...

Yeah,they just start sounding more mature. No crackly uneven rust- pot like sounds, though... thankfully!

Dinidu de Alwis said...

"Well it's erm a willy, you know, like when two people are having sex."

LOL! You're kidding me right? Aiyo! He he... Good one though...

Mebbe you should tell their Mom to have the "chat"?

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

DDW - They've had the chat many times, it's these finer details that are awkward to deal with. I'll be sending them over to Sach's place for lessons