In the year 2000, I was a 24-year-old teacher in Atlanta. I taught fifth-grade, and every year in the spring we presented a two-day lesson on sex education. Each fifth grade class paired up with another class. We separated the boys and girls, and one teacher taught the girls while the other teacher taught the boys. I taught the girls.
You might think that this was a crash course in sex education, but that was hardly the case. On day one of the lesson I explained the details complete with an overhead projector (remember those?) and transparencies of the human body – all of the human body. That day the students were expected to listen. But at the end of the class they could anonymously write questions on index cards and put them in a box. I took the box home, read over the questions, and prepared to answer them the next day.
You may (or may not) be shocked by the questions the ten and eleven-year-old girls asked. I know I was.
The school I taught at was a public school in a very affluent part of Atlanta. There were even some celebrities’ children who attended there. For instance, Whitney Houston’s daughter was in the third grade at the school that year.
The only reason I mention the affluence of this school is that I think we sometimes believe schools in “good areas” are sheltered or protected from real world stuff other schools experience. And that’s simply not true. Even with extremely high parent involvement, a lot of money, and plenty of opportunity, the questions my students wrote on the index cards showed me they knew more about sex than they should at their age. Their affluent environment didn’t protect them.
I remember two topics that I got several questions about, and those topics surprised me. The first topic was babies. The girls wanted to know all about babies being born. Honestly, this was refreshing. It was proof that God designed girls in such a special way to appreciate and long for motherhood even from their childhood.
The other topic I got a lot of questions about was rape. That’s right. It stunned me. I didn’t expect it, and it took me off guard.
Then there were all the other questions you may (or may not) expect about sex – everything from dating to oral sex.
That second day when the class began, and before I started reading and answering the questions, I stood in front of the class and wrote the word ABSTINENCE in all capital letters on the dry erase board. I explained as best I could to little girls that sex is much more than physical – it’s emotional and spiritual. I lectured them for about 15 minutes on why they need to wait until they’re married to have sex.
Of course I couldn’t talk about Jesus in my public school classroom. In fact, just writing the word “abstinence” on the board was towing the line. I quickly erased it after the lesson was over.
Whether I should have even been teaching in a school that taught sex education in such detail or whether I should have participated in the lessons is another topic for another post. But I did teach it, and I tried my best to do what I could to teach truth without losing my job.
As I look back on that experience, and I think about teaching my own daughters about sex as they get older, I remember the advice I gave a parent one day in the cafeteria.
It was the week before we were going to teach the sex education lesson. A parent of one of the little girls in my class came up to me and asked me about what I was going to say. She was asking so that she could decide whether or not she should let her daughter participate. (Yes, parents could opt out from allowing their child to participate, and some did.) I gave this mom a synopsis of the lesson, and then I said this:
“When your daughter walks into my classroom that first day, she should already know everything I’m going to teach her.”
This is what I keep at the forefront of my mind as I prepare to teach my daughters about sex. I want them to learn everything – and I do mean everything – from me first. And believe it or not I’m already starting with my three-year-old, using age appropriate information and terms, as we talk about her body and she asks questions about babies.
When my daughters learn about sex from me first, they hear truth first. I have the opportunity to plant seeds of truth in their hearts and minds before anyone else does. The person who takes care of them, has their best interests in mind, has never lied to them, and loves them more than any other person on earth is telling them the truth. Then when they hear it from the world they can say, “Oh yeah, I already know that. But this is what’s really true” or “Oh yeah, I already know that. But that’s not what my mom taught me.”
I’m not naive enough to think that following this simple formula will protect my girls from sexual sin. Like all behavior, sex is a matter of a person’s heart trusting God or trusting themselves.
However, by being the first person to tell my daughters about sexual matters I am giving them something to think about. I’m giving them information to compare to the information the world gives them.
What this means is that I am going to have to be pro-active. I’m going to have to keep the dialogue open in order to beat the culture in teaching my daughters. That may mean that they learn information sooner than I would hope. But that’s okay. My goal is for them to know it first from me.
I wonder how many of those little girls in my fifth grade class remember those lessons. I imagine several of them do. And I hope that I taught them in truth as best I could. But how much better would it have been coming from their own moms? How much more comfortable would they have felt? How much more would they have trusted what their moms were telling them?
What do you think? How much information do you think moms should share with their daughters about sex?