First Grade Sex Ed

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Sex Ed (The Office)

Sex Ed (The Office) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I learned more about my son’s first grade class in ten minutes on the highway than I’ve learned all year at the dinner table.

We were returning from picking up a friend for an overnight. As my crowded van sped down the highway, the boys started discussing school. “Do you remember (X) doing his freak-out dance?”

Bow-wow-freak-out!” Hysterical giggles. First grade humor. I tuned out–until I heard, “…you know, when he said the word that means…” I glanced in the rearview and saw Alex’s friend indicating a particular part of his body.

“His penis?” Alex said innocently.

“Don’t say it!”

I began to listen carefully. The details were a little muddy, but the story involved the word “wiener” and miming riding a motorcycle. Not particularly risqué, but clearly, the boys found it so. It had all the hallmarks of the scenarios I’ve outlined before: the “dirty” feeling, the embarrassed giggles, the body as the butt of titillating jokes.

I wanted to intervene, but my kids weren’t the only ones in the car. It’s not my place to teach someone else’s kids about sexuality. Right?

“This is where it begins,” Christian warned when I told him about it. “You’d better nip this in the bud.” I threw my hands helplessly in the air, for the first time caught unprepared.

It was a busy weekend, and nearly two days passed before I got a chance to draw Alex aside. Yet even with 48 hours to prep, I was woefully unprepared. I know I can cause just as many neuroses by making a federal case out of something small as I would by ignoring it altogether.

I started by asking him to tell me about it, hoping I would find inSpiration by hearing his perspectives. It didn’t really help. I pointed out that (X) might not have been talking about the penis at all. After all, “wiener” is a name for a kind of a dog and for a hot dog. And I told Alex the basic sexuality lesson: our bodies are beautiful, and we should treat them with respect.

He gave me The Look. It’s the first time I’ve been on the receiving end of The Look, but I’m sure it won’t be the last. The Look told me I had both hit the important point, and missed the delivery entirely. So I stumbled around for almost five minutes, seeking a pithy statement that never came, and finally gave it up as lost.

Three hours later, I had it: Our bodies are the gift God gave us to serve him. Everything we do to serve God, to not serve God, we use our bodies to do. That’s why our bodies are beautiful, and why we should respect them–because they’re all we have to serve God with. Fortunately, I got another shot the next day when Alex brought it up at the dinner table.

You might say I’m overreacting. Boys do toilet humor. Lots of girls do toilet humor, too. There’s a whole class of movies based on toilet humor, and good people enjoy them all the time, right? You might say I’m being a Puritan by suggesting that  bawdy humor demeans the person.

But I would respond: How can women expect to be respected by men, and men by women, when the body is treated with derision for its functions? The constant barrage of disrespect toward the physical home of our souls desensitizes us to abuses. We start to look at ourselves and everyone else as two separate entities: the soul, which is worthy of respect, and the body, which isn’t.

But that’s not how it works. Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of jokes about weight or acne or Coke-bottle glasses knows the body and soul are inseparable. An insult to one wounds the whole. Like it or not, the way we treat our bodies in thought and word and action impacts the whole person.

Besides, little ears are listening. Ever since that day, Nicholas has been repeating softly, “Bow-wow freak out.”  If he got that, what else  did he “get”? Somewhere in that mysterious little brain, he’s processing all he heard from the Big Boys. He doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about, but he heard the word “penis” and he heard someone he looks up to acting like it’s a scandalous thing.

Personally, I’d rather I and my children view themselves and everyone they know with a sense of wonder and beauty.

Parents of older children–you’ve all had situations come up. Kids start learning about and processing their sexuality a bit at a time, usually in the presence of their peers. I’d like to be better prepared the next time. What situations and attitudes have you encountered as kids get older? How did you deal with them?

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16 thoughts on “First Grade Sex Ed

  1. Patti Sedita

    We told ours from the time we talked to them at birth that the parts of thier bodies have names. Penis and vagina are no more giggle worthy than arm or leg. I never wanted them to have the negative connotation or sense of shame about any part of thier body. We were always just matter of fact about it. Of course, we had one of those “my mommy has a vagina” moments too. Others giggled at my then 3 yr old but he just looked puzzled. After all, she did have one, didnt she? With that said, we do have some free potty humor, just not body part humor. The gales of laugher from two boys (8 and 11) when playing mad libs using only bodily functions (with only mom and dad in the room) were worth it!

      • Carrie Evans

        We have told our kids that God created us all differently and beautiful,but some people use their bodies in a manor which is different than how our bodies are supposed to be treated. In little kid speak, sometimes people don’t make good choices.

  2. We have always used the proper words and there’s no giggling at our house. Thankfully, so far, my oldest daughter’s friendships (she is 10, almost 11) have all been the sort where the kids don’t really talk about that stuff with each other. When she and I had THE TALK (I blogged about that here: ) I reinforced that if any of the children at school started talking about it, she should be the one to suggest, “You probably ought to talk to your mom/dad about that.”

    I don’t have boys yet, though. And my youngest daughter, by far the one more susceptible to “potty humor” is now in Kindergarten so I’ll be keeping my ears/eyes open for opportunities.

  3. I had two boys close in age. I have no words of wisdom to share about teaching them respect for their bodies. I assume they just took cues from my husband and me. I do remember how much I loved driving them and their friends around. You learn so much that way. It was often hard to keep from laughing but I wanted to remain as invisible as I could. Those were good times.

    • At this stage in life the car is the time when I want to be left alone. LOL. Driving 4 kids around in a huge van, we have to shout to talk from the back seat tot he front. But I love your thought on this–as I discovered, you learn so much by being a fly on the wall!

  4. Marcie

    Kate-It is a constant changing dynamic! Each child will require a different approach, and the younger they are the earlier it will start. Although, honestly 1st grade does seem young. Also, if those friends have older siblings, that completely obliterates the learning curve. I do have to say, though, Christian got off scott-free….in our house, dad talks with the boy and mom talks with the girls! Not that I would not handle an immediate question, but the brunt of it comes from dad. And I think mom and dad showing respect for God’s creation, both the human body, our earth, other people, sticks with our kids and they will know right from wrong. Keep up the good work!

  5. Zoiks, that scares me more than you possibly know. I don’t remember even being aware of those sorts of things at that age. I know things are different today, but wow.

    I have two boys, and we’ve made a point to just name body parts and not make a big deal out of it. So far so good, but my oldest is four, so we haven’t navigated the murky waters of first grade yet.

    I don’t know what else to add except to say that raising kids is so hard (in every generation, not just ours), but the added input from the internets and other sex-saturated media just make it more tricky to navigate the waters. Makes me want to jump off the grid and live in a yurt somewhere just to protect their innocence.

  6. Suzanna

    I encourage everyone to check out WholeLifeCurriculum.com. It is an age-appropriate curriculum that discusses sanctity of life, chastity, and social justice for elementary school children. It has so many wonderful elements that incorporate Theology of the Body. And it has the Imprimatur. You can see sample lesson plans at wholelifecurriculum.com. 😀

  7. Gosh, this hasn’t come up with Andrew yet, and I’m dreading the time when it will.

    I do remember my sister being shocked that Andrew knew the actual names of the body parts instead of “wee wee” and “boobies”, and reacting as if they were dirty words or something. {sigh} We ended up in quite a debate of it…

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