With the eyes of his little brother and two 10-year old girls on him, Ethan’s heart began to pound as he realized the pickle that he had gotten himself into.
Eight months out of the year the sunshine in Texas allows children to run around outside, roam from lawn to lawn, climb huge pecan trees, pedal around on bicycles and bask in the company of their neighborhood friends. During my children’s early elementary years we were fortunate enough to live in a cozy master-planned neighborhood. It was made even cozier by the geographic convenience of being tucked away in a back corner. We nicknamed this pocket of nostalgic America as “The circle”.
With the safety of living in an enclosed circle in a quaint town, I constantly nudged the children outside so that they could enjoy the freedom that is almost unheard of these days. The other parents and I were all enthusiastic fans of the children leaving the house. Modern day conveniences allowed us to, at any given moment, text the entire circle to find out where our children were currently playing and get them sent home in time for supper.
In this pocket of an idyllic American neighborhood my oldest son, a 4th grader, could often be found romping in the greenbelt or riding his skateboard around the circle with the other kids his age, which happened to be girls. One day some of the girls that he was roaming around with began to whisper to each other. He overheard his friends mention ‘the Talk’, speculate about its meaning and wonder why it was so secretive. Since I was close to these parents, I knew that these particular girls were actually about to receive “The Talk” about puberty; their mother had adamantly declared she was definitely not ready to discuss sex with her 10-year old daughter.
On this particular day Ethan had chosen to be a benevolent big brother by allowing his 1st grade brother, Dylan to tag along. As the girls kept bringing this topic up, Dylan became more and more curious. His ever-inquisitive nature itching to have all of the answers, he felt a compulsion to uncover this great mystery. He lucked out when his big brother offered up an opening; Ethan leaned over to Dylan to quietly brag that he had already received the talk – Mom and Dad had told him everything just last year. Ethan wasn’t going to spill any secrets, or at least he didn’t intend to when he first opened his mouth to brag about his superior knowledge. But Dylan, being the precocious little brother that he has always been, leans over and asks Ethan to tell him what it means.
Kids can always sense when a topic is being discussed that they are not to be privy of, so unsurprisingly, it was at this moment that the boys’ whisperings caught the attention of the two girls. Now, with the eyes of his little brother and two ten-year old girls, Ethan’s heart began to pound as he realized the pickle that he had gotten himself into. He had knowledge about ‘the Talk’ but he did not actually feel comfortable verbalizing the things that he had learned from a weird book about how babies are made.
He slowly backed away from being the all-knowing kid and successfully changed the subject. However, he should have known that his little brother would never drop the subject. Dylan bided his time until the girls had left. Shortly after the girls left, surely fueled by the lack of adult supervision and the seclusion of the green belt (that was two feet from the nearest house), Dylan threatened to beat up his older brother if Ethan did not spill the beans about ‘the Talk.’ And so, Ethan, hesitantly, shared the mechanics of the birds and the bees with his 7-year old little brother.
A week later the boys finally let us know what had transpired, and so began a phase of never-ending questions about sex from my middle child.
It is ignorant to think that children can be sheltered from everything. Sheltering a child from the realities of the world is like keeping them locked up inside to prevent a sunburn. When they finally find their way outside, they will not know how to prevent a sunburn. Instead, we should take them outside, educate them about the sun, and teach them about sun protection. Then we have given them the tools necessary to make good decisions when they venture out on their own. Sheltering children too much deprives them of the necessary experiences to make good decisions in their adult life. Inevitably, they will get a sunburn or two, and then we will show them how Aloe Vera works, how to recover from hard experiences, and how to learn from those experiences.