Thursday, June 15, 2006

Innocence Lost

The other day I got home and saw this note waiting for me on the table, in the printing of my eight-year-old son:

"Today at recess Andy* was touching Jennifer's private part and I did it too. I am sorry I did it. It was wrong."

*not the real names
Oy! How many different thoughts this raised.

My spouse said he and my son had already discussed it. He had a few more details to add. The private part in question was the girl's breast area (though she is not developed yet, if that matters). This all took place on the kickball field during a game. Andy did it first and kept doing it. My son said as soon as he did it, he knew he shouldn't and he stopped. He even reported himself to the teacher.

I was torn. For an eight year old child to be curious about body parts is natural and normal. It was at around that age I peed in the cornfield behind our house with the neighbor boys, them watching me, me watching them. It was each of our first views' of peers' privates. I do not want my son to feel it is shameful or wrong to have that curiosity, or even to act on it.

On the other hand, any time I hear about a girl being touched or looked at by a male, especially more than one, little alarms ring. It does not matter that she's eight, that her breasts are not developed, or even that she was, according to my son, a willing participant in the process. I don't know at what age the male-female sex/power hierarchy starts to be established, but what if this is how it starts?

I do not feel it is fair advice to say, "it's okay as long as both of you want to do it," because it can be hard to know what you want. And that rule would not apply to, say, and eighteen-year-old and my second-grade son.

In the end I did nothing because my husband had already talked with him, because my son was very upset about it and didn't want to talk with me (hence the note) and because the teacher had talked with the three kids at school.

I could not help but notice, however, that my son's first sexual experience, however innocently it started, became his introduction to sexuality as taboo and shameful. That is too bad. Certainly not the path I would have preferred.

I've been planning to get this book for our household. Perhaps now is the time.

4 Comments:

Blogger I am a Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...

Wow...perhaps as it becomes less fresh and you use the book it can be couched in the not-wrong-but-not-yet-at-eight, etc. thing.

I remember this with our manboys being such a fine line to walk...

Good for you for not wanting him to feel that shame/taboo...perhaps it's just too soon with the personal sense of knowing it wasn't right (yet/in that context) and it can be something he can feel less upset over soon.

Hh

9:15 AM  
Blogger mm said...

I'm hoping that you follow up on the book and how it is recieved... I think I'll put it on our wish list... for later?
We already had the "your son can not hug the girls" chat from our local YMCA... he is two, and just figured out the word and action as the same thing.
I was stunned into contemplation of "What am I going to do?!" from this post.
I'm so thankful there are other parents out there who are brave enough to share this sort of thing. I can only hope I can have the calm strength you obviously did! I'm so lost some days in this parenting thing!
k

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Janelle said...

You also might check out the local Unitarian Universalist church- they have a really great sexuality education course called Our Whole Lives (OWL). They have ciruccula for grades K-1, grades 4-6, grades 7-9, grades 10-12, and adults. The parents are invited (and required for student's participation) to see and approve all the materials presented prior to the kids starting their class. Check out http://www.uua.org/owl/what.html for more info. My babe is only a year old, so we've got a little time before she starts questioning, but we plan on asking her to take this course when she's old enough.

4:20 PM  
Blogger doulicia said...

Thanks all for the thoughts and supports. I will check out the UU course. I'll also keep you posted on future epidoses in our attempt to raise sensitive, unrepressed boys. I also find as a woman, the absence of first-hand experience with male development is a handicap. Makes the need for open conversation lines all the more important.

9:18 AM  

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