It was a series of talks appropriate for my age.
When I was really little they explained all the body parts I had and their function. They also told me about boy body parts and their function. My parents gave me the actual terms for my "parts", and explained that it was never okay for anyone to touch me there, and if someone did I was to tell them and to not listen if they told me not to no matter what. They also said if I didn't feel comfortable with someone touching me and it wasn't in my private area to let them know, and not to feel bad for not being comfortable. And, of course, they also explained where babies came from, which young me didn't like.
When I became a pre-teen they sat me down and talked to me about menstrual cycles and all that that would entail and mean. My mom also explained that now I would start having more feelings for boys, and that was okay. She talked to me about pleasuring oneself and told me not to feel guilty or weird about those urges, despite what our church said on the topic. She talked to me about boys for a bit, too, and told me that at my age kissing was the only thing that I should be doing. She also explained to me other things such as oral pleasuring, etc.
When I had just started high school, our church was doing a purity ring thing, and my parents declined me signing up for the classes. At that point, they explained to me that they didn't want me making any serious commitments to God when I had yet to reach my development. They also talked to me about intercourse at this point, more than just the basics. That they expect me to want to do it as I get older and they hoped that I would talk to them when I started seriously thinking of it. They told me about ways to make sure I didn't get pregnant and stressed that if I talked to them when that time came, they would get me anything I needed to prevent unwanted pregnancy and that they wouldn't be upset.
When I actually started going on dates was when my father had a special talk with me. He told me about intercourse from a guys point of view and the pressure teenage boys were put through when it came to dating. He explained that I shouldn't ever feel pressured and that he hoped I would wait until it was what I wanted.
He told me about when he was a teenager and how guys tended to say things they didn't mean. He also explained that sometimes with new relationships you think you're in love, but that that feeling doesn't last and it's best to wait. He also told me that I didn't have to be in love to hook up with guys, but that he hoped he raised me to wait until I was because I deserved someone who truly loved me to be with. He also told me that I should never sleep, marry, or date a man unless I would be proud to have a son just like him. I think this was the best advice I ever got on dating and have used it my whole life.
Later in high school, I had a serious BF, and they asked if I wanted birth control. I at first declined, but over the months they kept asking once in a while and eventually I said I did. I was embarrassed, but they didn't say anything about it. My mom just took me in and let me talk to the doctor myself. They just said they only wanted me to be responsible and sure. It was really great for me because when I had questions I felt like I could go to my mom.
Then they went from super awesome to super embarrassing. My mom actually had a talk with my boyfriend about it all. And it wasn't just the this is how to use protection talk. My mother apparently felt the need to ask him about if all my needs were being met...
My parents were really great all through this, and I attribute my healthy view on the topic to them. I think that more parents should be this active in their children's development, and not wait to talk to them. I loved that I could have an open dialogue with both of them on such an important part of my development and life. I know a lot of people that got married too fast so they could hook up, got pregnant, didn't understand enough about their body, had a lot of shame associated with it etc. and I never had anything like that.
My parents ignored it... entirely. I found out about it from scrambled cable adult films, my friend's father's magazine stash, and 14.4 kbps modem jpegs.
For my kids I sat them down with a 54 page power point presentation and discussed everything I could think of in the family living room.
Ok, here's my story. When I was 11 or 12 my mum (divorced by then) brought a "book for boys" from the library and left it on the table for me to find. Didn't say a word about it.
I found it soon enough and secretly read from start to finish, dying of fear because of course this book couldn't possibly be left for me and I would end up in a heap of trouble if found. A simple, "Honey, I got some books for you in the room" would have made a world of difference. Besides, the book was full of crap about adverse effects of masturbation, which didn't help either.
When I asked her about it years later, she just said, "Isn't it how you supposed to do that?"
My mom started teaching me about the biological differences at a very early age, like 4 or 5, and followed up with various books and chats until I was 12 or 13. So there wasn't just one talk, it was just sort of a subject that we revisited every now and then until I had pretty complete information. I'm gradually doing the same with my kids. I recommend "It's not the Stork" to start for any parents out there. It's a lot less awkward if you get it out of the way when they're young, before the embarrassment sets in.
It is really weird to me when I see parents telling their kids that babies come from the belly button or something similar, and using baby names for body parts, like HooHah or something. Isn't it easier to just tell them the truth?
My dad in his age-old wisdom sat me down on a park bench. This was after they had divorced so it was a weekend and he'd take my brother and I to kill the ducks slowly with bread and kick a ball about. Whilst my younger brother was playing in the kid's area I sat and my dad asked me a question. 'What words are the other kids saying you don't understand? I won't shout at you for saying them.' So I hesitated, was this a trap? But I went for it, especially the [dirty words people used to describe lady parts]. He calmly explained the various uses and meanings for all these words my young mind had heard but not quite understood. Somewhere in between, I learned about everything.
My parents sat down with me when I was 9 or 10 and explained the birds and the bees in very clinical terms that I only partly understood, but I got the general gist of the subject. A few years later, when I finally figured out that boys and girls were different and had not yet the vaguest notion of how to put that information into practice, they set me down for the "real" talk.
As it turns out, my mother and father were cousins (legal here in Tennessee) and explained that while the occasional cousin marriage was okay, it wasn't something you wanted to make a habit. No problem. Except that I eventually realized that I was part of a very large family in a very small town, and pretty much every time I met someone new, it was, "This is your Uncle A and your Aunt B, now go out back and play with your cousins C and D." Which always sucked because either C or D or both were real pretty to look at.
I was embarrassingly old when Uncle Dave took pity on me and explained that uncle and aunt and cousin were just words used to describe anybody distantly related or just a friend of the family. In fact, he asked that I stop calling him Uncle Dave, since I was getting too old for that and it was really creepy since we weren't at all related. Oh, and my parents were actually 5th cousins.
My dad waited until my older sister was doing my hair and I couldn't escape. It was also the day after he saw me kissing a boy at the bowling alley. I was 15.
He came in the kitchen, paced around, then goes, "You're developing a figure, and boys are going to begin to notice you"
Then it went downhill from there. And I couldn't even run away. I was mortified. Plus, why does every chat with girls have to start with, "This is the way boys will look at you now" like we're some sort of object who are waiting to be acted upon?
My mom made sure I was really well-informed and even answered the difficult questions I asked. She was really hesitant to talk about female climax though, and her take on it all was that getting it on is something that is mostly enjoyed by men. It can feel good for a woman, but most of the time it doesn't and a climax is a special thing that doesn't happen often.
At first I thought she lied to me, once I was older and became experienced myself. Then I got to know my mom as an adult woman and realized that it wasn't that she was lying to me, I think that she told me the truth, or her version of truth anyway.
My ma sat down my older sisters and I at the same time (I didn't understand half of it and it led to a lot of confusion because I was 7), but she thought it was a good time to also explain how dangerous getting it on could be with visual aids in the form of pamphlets she still had from when she was in nursing school in the 80's. There were bright pictures of different STDs.
Because it included the statistics, I would rarely eat at my friend's houses because there was no way for me to know whose parents did or did not have herpes or anything else that scared the stuffing out of me. One of them brought it up to my ma, concerned I had an eating disorder, and it led to a tear-filled conversation about how they might have STDs and they could kill me so I'd rather go hungry than risk getting an incurable std. I did eventually figure out that I would not get STDs from eating at a friends house.
I had a weird relationship with my parents. It was very professional-feeling and impersonal. So as you can imagine the talk was super awkward. It was my mother who gave me the talk and her approach was to pull up a chair outside my locked bedroom door, open a biology textbook and exclaim "how interesting is this...?" As if she herself had only just found out about it.
The first time I hooked up with someone, my bed broke (we were quite rough). After lying to my mother and saying that the bed broke because I jumped onto it, she decides to ask me in the car if the bed broke because I hooked up with the girl I had over the other day. I say yes and awkwardly stare out of the window. She then asks me if I remembered to use protection. I tell her yes and just continue staring out the window. She tells me that she is proud of me for knowing the basics, and tells me that if I ever bring someone home again, I shouldn't be so rough because she didn't want to replace another bed.
Dead silence for the rest of the trip. It was a bit awkward.
I never got the talk from my parents. I got it from my 7th grade bible teacher. A little back-story: I went to an ultra-conservative, baptist private school. We were incredibly sheltered. All I knew about making love by the time I hit puberty was that that's how babies get made.
This school did not like to talk about doing the deed and encouraged our parents not to talk to us about it either, but like all pubescent teenagers, we were starting to have feelings and urges that confused the heck out of us.
The boys and girls were split up for bible class. One day our teacher was talking about a verse in the bible that referred to a woman as a "harlot." Most of us didn't know what a harlot was but were too afraid to raise our hand and ask. Well, one intrepid soul decided that his purpose in life was to find out just what a harlot was, so up went his hand and what followed was one of the most disturbing things I had ever heard in my life.
He raised his hand and said, "Mr. J, what's a harlot." Mr J. was obviously taken aback by this question as it took him a good 10 seconds to form a suitable reply. He walked over to the box of tissues that was on his desk, took one, blew his nose in it, and proceeded to ask my classmate if he wanted to blow his nose in the newly used tissue. We were all mortified. My friend said no, and Mr. J proceeded to inform us that a harlot was any girl who did the deed before she was married. He told us that if we married a girl that was not pure, that it was the exact same as blowing your nose in a used tissue.
My parents were very open with me... maybe a little too open with me.
I was in first grade when they told me what doing the deed was all about, and how it happened. I remember we were driving in the car down 2nd street when they brought up the conversation. They were so scientific about it that I was under the impression that it was a medical type procedure, where you go and lay on a medical exam table and then do it with your husband or wife.
Throughout the years, my dad was too open about the topic with me and it often made me uncomfortable. We had a very liberal household and he often encouraged me to "not put myself in a box" when labeling my orientation. I am a straight female, but when I was 14 he spent the summer before high school telling me I should be fluid with my choices and experiment. While I appreciate my parents' open-mindedness now, the way they handled it was inappropriate for my age.
My parents were not open about it at all. I even got in trouble when I asked about man-bits and what they were.
After I got my first period at age 10, my mom left a copy of "The American Girls Guide to Growing Up" on my bed along with a box of pads. I guess she just expected me to figure it out, this of course meant a lot of embarrassing experiences for me. I eventually learned a bit about making love and my body in school and from reading about it in my grandfather's encyclopedia but nowhere near what I would consider a functional education. The rest I gleaned from my friends and my own eventual fumbling experiences.
This is most assuredly not how I will raise my kids. It is so important to raise kids to be accepting of their own development and all that goes along with it. It is also important to teach them how to be safe when they do become active.
I am a parent of a ten-year-old boy who now knows almost everything there is to know about reproduction. Here's how we did it:
My son (we'll call him G) started watching nature shows at a young age. David Attenborough includes a lot about animals mating habits. So G asked what mating was. "It's how babies are made". He asked no more questions. so we said nothing else. He watched more shows and asked more questions. We would answer as specifically, but as limited as we could. Kids are ready for the answers to the questions they ask and not much more. He knew all about male and female anatomy. Where sperm was made and stored, he knew about eggs, ovaries, the uterus and the menstrual cycle all before he knew about the actual physical act. Then one day he asked, "How does the sperm get to the egg". I think he was eight.
I told him how dogs do it, and that that's the same way giraffes do it, and elephants, and cats, and mice, etc.
I finally told him that that is also how humans do it. He was done with the discussion for the night.
Since then, he's asked and had answered every imaginable question including STI's, contraception, pleasuring oneself, adult films, the fact that the act is done for pleasure and not just for making babies, tampons, age-appropriate behavior, consent, predators etc. We treat it like any other subject that comes up, matter-of-fact and with no judgment or shame. I want him to grow up with a healthy attitude towards the topic. I want him to be able to come to us when he has questions and to never feel ashamed. My hope is that this will lead to a safe and happy adult love life. And age appropriate behavior between now and then.
My mom wrote me a letter when things started getting serious with my boyfriend. She explained that making love didn't make me "bad" and told me that she regretted her high school love life. Then she offered to get me birth control. My mom rules.
They didn't give me a talk. I used to go into my dad's office to play computer games. Behind his computer were two gigantic bookshelves full of military history novels, and I would often browse them when I was waiting for games to load on my dad's "it's good enough for me to use the internet on so I'm not upgrading it" machine.
One day, there was an educational book on the shelf. I very much doubt it was there because my dad enjoyed reading children's educational books. It was later confirmed to me that my mother left it there so that curious me would find it and read it, which I did.
Of course, by that time I knew everything there was to know about the subject because I went to school around other 11-year-olds.
My mom had the coolest interactive computer program. It was mainly about pregnancy but it also talked in an in-depth, frank, kid-friendly way about the reproductive organs. It was called ADAM and EVE: 9 Month Miracle. It pretty much answered anything I could think to ask. Then one day in 5th grade I came home to the book "What's Happening to my Body: For Girls" on my pillow and enthusiastically read it cover to cover.
No talk needed!
Actually, since I waited until marriage to get it on I got a small version of The Talk by my favorite church ladies at my bridal shower (my mom was out of town and not present). It wasn't a big deal and I welcomed it.