Parenting: Health class is a learning experience for Mom, too

News-DemocratNovember 11, 2013 

What a challenge 7th-grade health teachers have.

I couldn't do it. I'd giggle through the entire class and the kids wouldn't learn a single thing. It's not the subject matter that would send me into giggles but, rather, the reactions of all the 12- and 13-year olds when you start talking about body parts and body functions and the differences between boys and girls.

I've never been shy about discussing the "birds and the bees" with my kiddo. She lives on a farm. She is witness to how babies are made (baby bunnies, baby chickens, baby sheep) and it doesn't phase her. She has had a hand in helping select which stock will be responsible for the next generation. She's never batted an eye when it comes to the livestock making more livestock. She has seen birth and knows what took place between the male and the female for that birth to happen.

But when you take that exact same information and apply it to humans, her cheeks flush a darker shade of red, and I get shushed quite a bit.

She started health class about two weeks ago and it has been an endless supply of amusement for me. Every day I ask her what she learned in health class. Every day, I get the same response.

"We learned about bodies, Mom," she replies, eyes averted.

"Oh yeah? Cool. What did you learn? Did you learn about boys or girls?"

"Just bodies, Mom." (Insert sigh here.)

"What about bodies? Did you learn about the circulatory system? The brain? Skin? Did you talk about good nutrition?" At this point I can feel the giggles hiding in the back of my throat, just waiting for her to flush red and glare at me so they can sneak out.

"No, Mom. We learned about boys." And the flush starts.

"Really? What did you learn?"

"You know."

"I do?"

"Yes, Mom. You know. We learned about ... stuff. Boy stuff." The flush spreads across her cheeks and down her neck.

"You mean you learned about penises and testosterone?" A giggle escapes. I really try to hold it in, but I can't help it. Her responses are cracking me up. The girl who chooses which doe to breed to which buck and then puts the two together to make baby bunnies happen is embarrassed about human anatomy.

The conversation continues and I press on, asking more and more ridiculous questions, giggling between each, until I get her giggling enough through my inane comments and questions that finally she opens up and seems more comfortable talking about bodies, and boys and girls and puberty.

This is an important conversation to have, and I can't imagine how much more difficult it would have been if I hadn't spent her entire life keeping her as informed as I could, as informed as her age permitted. I never deflected the embarrassing questions, even if I was the one turning red after a particularly mortifying question. I still tryed to explain her question in terms best suited for her age.

Sure, I could let it be, and just let her health teacher handle the embarrassment and the giggles. But I don't want to. I want to know what she's learning, what she's retaining, what she understands, and what confuses her. I should be the one she comes to when she has questions or concerns about sex and puberty and growing up, not her classmates. And certainly not any future boyfriends.

The more I push her to talk about it now, when she's at the peak of any kind of talk about anatomy being mortifying, the more likely later conversations will be comfortable, simply because we got over point where such talk with an adult, especially your mom, is embarrassing.

Oh, it's not over yet. Health class has just begun and I know they have a lot of really fun material to cover and fascinating information to discover. I don't think health class has changed a whole lot since my first embarrassing foray into the topic in 7th grade, but it sure is fun to participate in it from this side of the experience.

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