Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Diary of Zita Cecilia McNamara: Sex Ed

Editor's Note: Click HERE to read Dr. C's previous post on the origin of Zita's diary. This entry begins with 13-year-old Zita writing to her guardian angel, "Bishop."

Dear Bishop (Age 17, Day 15) Haven’t had much time to write. Working hard in school. I need your help. I need your prayers and strength so I may preserve my virginity. This is so important to me. I love Tom so much that I wish I could give myself to him completely, but I know better. It would not be love but selfish emotions. God and all, please grant me the graces to control my emotions. I love Tom so much. I want to marry him 8 years from now. Please make it come true. I, also, hope I attain my education at University of Michigan. Please help Tom. Help me. God help Tom spiritually. This is what he needs, and this is what I want to give.

Dear Bishop (Age 17, Day 16) I need Your help. Help me to make the right decisions with Tom. I must preserve my virginity and that means no petting and necking. So far I’ve done fine. No problems but I still need help. We both do. I love him; and so, I do not want to let him down. Today, we got the opportunity to kiss one another, and that was good. I’ll be glad when we can be alone and talk. About life—the funny things and the sad ones. I want him to be able to confide in me. Oh God, I love Tom. Thank You for letting me experience love. It is wonderful! It is good! Thank You!

Reflections: Well, in the 21st century, for many youngsters and parents, these entries may seem quite unrealistic and out and out ridiculous. What red-blooded female teen would even concern herself about preserving her virginity? Isn’t everybody “doing it”? Well, I was a red-blooded female teen when I wrote those passages so long ago. And I have shared them because, as I may have stated when I started this diary, I wanted to remember what it was like to be a teen in love and be able to share these feelings if and whenever I would have children. 

I did not want to ignore or make light when my children, son or daughter (definitely, the daughter), told me she or he loved or really cared about a person in the romantic way. In many cases, when parents have adolescents, finally, they seem to descend from somewhere (yes, parents of teens wonder, sometimes: “Who is this person? Where is my sweet innocent child? Who or what took that child from me and replaced said child with hormones?”). I did not want automatically to think the worst, but as a mother I did not want to bury my head in the proverbial sand about the realities of a teen experiencing that first love.

Well, having had two children, a son and a daughter, I was blessed that they got through those teen years with a few emotional bumps and bruises. Still, no unprepared-for pregnancies occurred (I do not like the term “unwanted pregnancies” because it implies that an innocent human being is not loved from “jump street.”) However, no matter the maturity of a teen, male or female, neither is prepared for the responsibility of nurturing a child. Good grief, in reality, there are many adults, in their 20s and 30s, who are not prepared either. However, that is a discussion for a different entry.

Any mom who thinks her child (let me focus on the daughter) will not have an emotional connection and care for a guy before she walks into a college door is not being realistic. So, what do you do? Put a myth-referred to chastity belt on her? PLEEZE! Just not talk about these feelings hoping they will go away? PLEEZE! PLEEZE!! Or not want to discuss this subject because her own embarrassment, feeling to share her real experiences will make her less perfect and pure in the eyes of her daughter? Well, after reading my diary entries during my adolescent time of love, yep, it helped me to remember. 

And the fact that I loved (and, still do) my children’s father helped me when discussing those “birds and bees.” And the fact that my first real and special experience with love as a youngster really helped me not think the worse every time my daughter went out with an individual for whom she cared. I did my best to let her know that she could talk with me, and I shared my special experiences when I felt it was appropriate. I wanted her to know that I understood that she was probably not as naïve as I or as trusting, but I did not forget that those feelings occur. And, yup, I let her know about every birth control device that was available BEFORE she even became a teen. 

Yes, she was a tad embarrassed when I initiated the subject at such a young age (I believe it was 10). I wanted her to feel comfortable asking me anything. No, I did not share some of the above or previous content with her until she was about 12. In some cases I questioned if I told her too much. 

Yes, I questioned my “wisdom” regarding sharing. I can remember one day when she came home. Her Dad was going through her backpack, seeing what work she had to do. She willingly gave the backpack and went upstairs to change from her school clothes to some casuals. And what fell out with the books? A condom! 

Now, I KNEW she was not sexually-active (that is another thing; as a mom you need to KNOW your daughter and what she will and will not do; in the eighth grade, I knew she was not “going there.”) Still, why the condom? 

Yes, I had shown her some during one of our mother-daughter chats. And I had told her about other devices, etc. Still, why the condom? And I knew we had talked about the sacredness of one’s body and that God had not intended for pre-teens and teenagers to have babies, although some do, that was not what God, her Dad, or I wanted her to get into a situation in which this may occur; however, if such would occur—hopefully, at least in her teen years, she should have her own condoms; don’t depend on the dude, but think very seriously about engaging in any activity that she would even have to use this. 

And if she really thought she could not keep her emotions in check, she should not be embarrassed to come and tell me, and I would take her to the doctor for the appropriate birth control item. Soooo, I just KNEW she was not sexually-active. Again, the question remained: Why the condom?

When she came downstairs from changing her clothes, her Dad asked, “Why is this condom in your backpack?” She answered without hesitation and no embarrassment, “Mom, Dad, I took them to school so my two best buddies could see what one looked like. You see I can talk to you and Mom but they cannot talk to their parents and I wanted to help.” I must say I felt blessed that she included her dad as one she knew she could talk to and ask questions about serious issues. Then, I began to reminisce about my own relationship with my Daddy. 

When I was twelve, I shall never forget the day and where I was when I asked a question of my Daddy. First, I asked my Mother, “Mommy, I know when women end having periods; you call it ‘menopause’. Right? Well, when do men stop having sperms?” My Mother, in her wisdom, said, “Well, Sweetheart, you should ask your Father. He knows about men.” Oh my, in a “hark moment,” I responded, “Daddy?? Oh no!” Mother responded, “Well, if you want to know, ask your Father.”

So, after about two weeks, I recall Daddy was in the kitchen. Finally, I got up the courage and asked. And it was not the answer that I remembered. It was his attitude. He was so open and ended his answer by saying, “Any other questions you want to ask, you can ask Daddy anything at any time.” And that solidified our closeness as father and daughter.

So, whenever I met a chap and considered marriage, I looked to see if he would be a Dad like my Daddy. I wanted any children that God would bless me with experience that same openness that my Daddy had that made me feel so comfortable to talk to him about anything.

Thus, the man I married did have that same openness that made, obviously, our daughter comfortable to talk with him about any and everything. Now, there is a lesson to be learned for mom; it sure was for me. Just because the Dad does not bond with his children as you, the Mom, this does not mean there is not bonding occurring. Let him do his thing his way. 

For example, I recall when the TV soaps were beginning to become more and more “steamy,” dealing with all kinds of subject matters. First, I thought this was too much for my innocent daughter. Why couldn’t he and his daughter look at something different? Oh, am I glad I kept my mouth shut. Slowly but surely, I could hear those two having conversations about the character who became pregnant by a guy or characters’ taking drugs or a woman’s letting a man beat her. He would ask her, “Well, what do you think about this? What would you do?” Those interactions actually helped her critical assessment about various situations that she would, in the future face. And it was pleasant her say about some scenes, “Dad, that was just plain stupid. She should have known that guy only wanted to get into pants!” Um, out of the wise mouth of the pre-teen!

So, after hearing this explanation and her open candor, my hubby and I chuckled. He, too, KNEW, because of their many conversations that she was not putting this device in use. Still, we knew one of us needed to caution her about sharing her “wisdom.” So, I  reiterated to her that every mom and/or dad has the right to share such information when s/he wanted to discuss such items. And so, it is not her responsibility to share this kind of information, especially not do a “show and tell.”

Of course, I wondered while I functioned as the middle-class mom who attended all of those track meets if my daughter became known as the “Dr. Ruth of the Eighth Grade”? Oh well, I never received any complaints, and I never asked.

So, moms of America, just keep in mind when you talk to your beloved about the “birds and the bees” make sure they know they do not have to bring any items to enhance the discussion. Of course, in this 21st century, this may not even be an issue. However, still, being able for your daughters and sons to be able to confide in you will, hopefully, never become “out of date.” 

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