If it's fifth grade and spring time around here it means it is time for the Human Growth and Development Unit in science. In case you didn't follow that, I'm talking about Sex Ed. As a parent, I am going through this for the third time so here is a primer for the newbies. This is how it'll go down:
The Letter: You will get a letter from school warning you that the topic is about to be raised. It strongly suggests you have a talk with your child before this happens. I strongly second that. If you do not, you will have a child looking puzzled for the next few weeks as there is much talk about eggs meeting sperm and fertilization but not a whole lot of talk about how that sperm met up with the egg in the first place.
-Desensitization: The teachers, wisely knowing that some words have the ability to make a fifth-grader burst out laughing, will work on some desensitization training before they get started. This is why, if you walk past Ms. Pierce's room this week you will hear twenty fifth-graders shouting out "penis!" "vagina!" then laughing uproariously. If this makes you uncomfortable, I suggest you avoid fifth grade. If it makes you want to laugh and repeat the words under your breath then come on over for happy hour on Friday and we'll say dirty words and giggle together because yes, I am that immature. This explains why my fifteen year old son and I are equally likely to laugh out loud if, say, while playing a word game he draws the card and reads aloud the clue that says "I am a tool" No really, that happened over Christmas. I snorted a martini through my nose.
-The presentation: At the end of the unit, the parents are invited to take their kids to see an enlightening and educational presentation put on by a local health museum. This is pretty straight-forward though again, not much is made of how A goes into slot B. Still, there will be graphic questions in a co-ed setting about "nocturnal emissions" and "menstrual cramps" that would have made our parents extremely uncomfortable. This is however, much preferred to the sex-ed "filmstrip" I was shown in fifth grade, you know the one they showed the girls while the boys saw something else. It was produced by Kotex and was so vague and unhelpful that I left being concerned that I would have to put a belted contraption on a butterfly after it emerged from a cocoon.
-The Talk: Whether you do it before, during, or after the Sex Ed unit, you will most likely have to have the talk. Most families agree that dad will have the talk with the boys and mom will have the talk with the girls. For most families this is just a formality because when it comes down to it mom will end up having the talk. Here is how it often goes:
Dad takes son out for dinner/movie/snack and to have the talk. Afterward, mom checks on dad.
MOM: So, did you tell him you know, the penis goes into the vagina?
DAD:(looks horrified) No, I was supposed to say THAT?
MOM: Well what did you think you were supposed to say?
DAD: I said, 'you know where babies come from, right?' and he said 'yes'.
MOM: Great. Now I have to do this for the girls and the boys.
Later there will be an enormously uncomfortable moment when mom traps her son in a room alone and says, "Okay, I'm just going to say this out loud to make sure you know," and she says it. Son will look mortified and they will move on.
So, if this is your first time with a kid in sex ed I wish you well. If you go over the homework carefully you might even learn something new and hopefully when it's all said and done you will know just what to do when a butterfly comes out of its cocoon.