Is it just me or is the memory of your parents giving you ‘the talk’ seared in your mind’s eye as if it happened yesterday? I had pretty evolved parents, I mean, my mom was Swedish and well, you know those Swedes…she couldn’t wait to sit me down with that dreaded book with all those pictures.
Now that the roles have reversed I realize that every child is different in this regard. Colt, due to his early acumen in math and his enrollment in a coding summer camp with kids far older than he was (how proud I was that he had placed into a program for 12+ at age 7! A genius! I had a genius on my hands!) was exposed to let’s say “less than ideal” content during free time at said camp. This necessitated his ‘talk’ far earlier than even I (with my Viking ancestry) had imagined. He took it well. As well as discussing the birds, bees, and porn with a second grader can go.
Lucca on the other hand presented novel issues. Every time I broached the subject he would stick his fingers in his ears and yell NANANANANA so he couldn’t hear me. Umm, what? I was perplexed. I kept trying, because we all know I ain’t no quitter. He outlasted me.
This summer when Lucca turned 13 it was do or die. Yes, I knew he was getting health education at school but I am not that mom. I don’t outsource the uncomfortable stuff. Well, not most of it anyway. For whatever reason it has never phased me to discuss sexuality with my kids. Again, perhaps it’s my Swedish heritage or progressive parents. Either way, this was not the issue I had anticipated.
In August I went down to Colt’s therapeutic boarding school in North Carolina for their Parent Workshop. The best part of these (I’ve been to many over the years) is usually the speaker. This time was no different, and in fact I was incredibly excited to hear this particular talk. It was about Puberty and Autism. I will not digress too much here but suffice it to say this is a subject I am passionate about.
Adolescence is difficult for all children, but the world is truly a scary place when you are the mother of a 6 foot, genius IQ, 15 year old young man with Asperger’s /Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder. How do you teach a young man with no real understanding of the Social Contract for personal space boundaries and consent and non verbal social cues what is right and wrong? How do you have faith that he will navigate the highly charged waters of burgeoning sexuality without being misunderstood at best or falsely accused of something terrible at worst?
On the lunch break the speaker took questions. I raised my hand and asked “What do you do when your kid, a neurotypical kid, refuses to engage with you on the subject of sexuality?” She offered me some sage advice. Advice that I not only took, but ran with. She said I should challenge him to a quiz of sorts. She said it would generate conversation and that I could even write down the questions and offer for him to peruse them at his leisure and write down any thoughts or responses so as to spare him a face to face encounter with his mother on this awkward topic.
Ok so, picture it, I’m back home in Connecticut a few days later armed with my plan. There is a plot twist though…Lucca came to the table with an ask. A big one.
“ALLL the seventh graders have this scooter mom. ALLL OF THEM!!!” Lucca begged.
It was an absurdly priced, road approved electric scooter with a top speed of 45 mph. Not an item I was totally comfortable getting for him. It was also one month after his birthday and four months before Christmas. This was bad timing. I did the research and I constructed my response.
“Hey Lucca, I have a proposition for you. You know how you never want me to talk to you about sex? Well, you can TEST OUT of that conversation. You take my quiz and get a perfect score, and I’ll get you the scooter as an early Christmas present. But you can’t miss one.” I grinned like Dr. Evil.
“Umm ok mom. Whatever,” Lucca brushed me off.
I set about authoring the hardest, most dialed in quiz on human sexuality I could come up with. It had to be spot on. The questions had to generate the right conversations, test the deeper theorems and subtle nuances of these murky, pubescent waters. I took my time. Two weeks of time in fact. I used video questions, I beta tested on some friends (NONE of whom passed with a perfect score). Finally I felt I was ready.
We sat down at my desk together and I administered the test with all the gravity of the bar exam. I checked his pockets and I confiscated his phone. I pulled up my chair next to his and we began. My quiz is 20 well thought out questions long. I will preview a couple below and you can download the rest of the full quiz if you so desire! Let’s talk about sex!
The end of the story goes like this. Lucca sits down, I pull up the quiz, proctoring like a boss. He had zero access to the material ahead of time. And he nails every question. EVERY SINGLE ONE. I was equal parts impressed and horrified. Did it generate conversation? Yes, it sure did. Interesting ones too. Was I long a ridiculously overpriced electric scooter with all terrain tires? You bet.
Q) You are out on a date. Both you and your date have been drinking and you don’t feel like yourself. Your date says to you “I really want to have sex with you.” You know that your date is somewhat drunk. This is considered consent.
Q)This is how you catch herpes
- Toilet seats
- Sexual contact
- Hot tubs
I mean you can’t make this up. Except I did, and I a prouder parenting moment I would be hard pressed to recall.
Sex ed? Roger that.