All the good things and the bad things that will be

I just got in the mail a notification that my son's school is going to be having sex ed classes for the fifth graders. And information on how to opt him out of taking this sex ed.

I feel so sorry for the parents who choose to opt out, and for their children.

My kids have known the mechanics of sex for years, from when they each first asked about how a baby gets into a woman's stomach. We started with the very basics, answering the questions they had, and as they asked more questions I gave more answers and some context. I have found some of these conversations to be hilarious and some to be just interesting, but I feel so glad that my kids know that I will always answer them truthfully when they ask me how something works.

I understand that some of us are afraid to talk about sex with our kids. But sex is part of how the physical world works, so they need to know about it. If you start early enough, it's all just the mechanics anyway, nothing at all to feel weird about, like you're explaining how a steam engine works.

Being afraid to talk to your kids about sex is like being afraid to talk to your kids about math: you might feel a little weird about it, but you do it anyway because you know they need to know. And if you feel like you don't know what to say, you find some books to help you start the conversation.

I understand that some people might not agree with everything a school sex ed program is teaching, but opting their kids out steals a huge opportunity from the parent to open up a conversation about what they think. And to have their kids know what the general culture thinks about sex, and explain how they agree or disagree with a little bit or some or all of that. Their kids will eventually hear everything they'd hear in a sex ed class, but if parents don't take the opportunity to talk about it with their kids, they lose the chance.

I'm guessing my fifth grader will know most of what this class is going to teach him already, but I'm glad he's taking it because it gives us another chance to talk about it. And who knows what I haven't realized I didn't cover that the class will talk about? Super opportunity for honesty, communication, and trust with my son.

Talking about the mechanics of sex, and later when they're older about the ethics and emotions of sex, is also part of teaching your kids how great and useful and healthy their bodies are. And what they're worth (both your kids and their bodies).

So. If the idea of talking about sex with your child is making you feel anxious, or like you want to dodge the conversation, think about why. How did you learn about sex? How do you feel about that? (I did not have the best first few conversations about sex, and I wish they'd been different.) Do you wish a caring adult had been more open or neutral or guiding or something else? Then, look at the opportunity you have to give your own child an easier learning path about what they need to know about sex. You can give them what you didn't get, or what you wish you'd gotten, because you are just that awesome. Take a few deep breaths first. And don't worry about saying "the right thing," because this isn't a one-shot conversation. They'll keep asking questions and you will keep telling them what they need to know, for years. (Unlike the steam engine conversation, which probably will only happen a couple of times.)

Hugs all around. How much talking about the mechanics have you done already with your kids? Was it as tough or as easy as you thought it would be?