“Mom, what is oral sex?”
On a cold winter evening, watching a tense India vs England cricket match when your about-to-be teenager asks you these questions, you want go deep under cover inside that blanket and never come out. Not possible, of course. I see myself as the quintessential modern day mom, pal to her kids, cool, unflappable.
I have barely got a sentence out when my older son interrupts, ”Oof, Ma is making it sound like a Biology lesson, I’ll explain it properly later.”
Oh no you won’t, buddy, and what do you mean explain properly? But it’s a good escape, make it now, my pounding heart says, but I find the courage to stick it out. Many questions and answers later, the trauma ends. Note: Husband has decided to go deaf, except for some strange guttural sounds, there is nothing else.
With those 12-year-old eyes boring into me, I say it is something that two people in love do, they are both consenting adults by which I mean they are both over 18, and they both want to do. It is something that does not produce babies.
Question: But how is it different from normal sex?
Answer: Well, the method is different and when you are old enough, you will know how. Like super heroes’ super powers, it’s difficult to explain or describe but with time and age one comes to know.
He is almost satisfied and a super delivery from Ashwin comes to the rescue and he is distracted.
As the boys head to bed, I ask myself, do we allow too many questions, is it too early to be discussing all this, where are they picking up this stuff?
I would have never imagined asking my parents about anything of the sort. I thank my stars my mom spoke to me about menstruation, but that was it. Any difficult question when we were growing up was answered with “You are too young to know this”, “It’s nothing”, “I will tell you later”, “No, that’s enough”. Follow-ups were not allowed.
Perhaps that’s why I have encouraged my kids to always question me about anything, everything. But were our parents smarter? Particularly in defining lines more clearly? Perhaps, but in an age of screaming, ever-at-hand devices, can a parent restrict information at all? Should I?
We gave my older son a cell phone when he turned 13, and were told we were one of the last set of parents to do so. Forget about him facing peer pressure and constantly hitting us with it, I was told by many moms, “It’s so unsafe for him to not have a phone.” Now we have constant arguments and negotiations about the amount of time he spends with the phone. The world of Snapchat, WhatsApp, YouTube and the 208 other apps on his phone is one that I despise. But if you want to keep up with your children’s lives, one must know and comprehend the gains and pitfalls of technology that children use.
The balance between keeping the conversation going offline and knowing what they are learning from their handhelds is perhaps the only way to maintain an insight into their lives and ensure they are on the right path. Sometimes a random conversation can lead to many different questions.
Setting: The breakfast table
12-year-old: Mom, what’s the meaning of perplexing?
Me: Very puzzling
Me: By the way, Baby, you do know that Kindle has an inbuilt dictionary and you can look up a word whenever you want?
12-year-old: Yes, I know. I looked up “whore” yesterday.
Quickly recovered and steered the conversation around the table to always respecting women and not using words that can demean them, even if we think they are in jest or just cool.
It is impossible to know what is being retained, if anything at all. Teen years are a tumultuous mix of confusion, anger, love, hope, dreams and jumping hormones, and no can understand what is going on, not the child and more than often, not the parent either.
Especially important then to not back away from any topic, no matter how embarrassing or difficult. Don’t give them some dry or dismissive adult answer, tell them the facts, tell them the truth and tell them you will not judge them about anything even if you disapprove of it or don’t agree with it.
Yes, there is the plague of self-doubt: what if this is more information than they need, are they too young, what if they go tell their friends who go tell their parents and I land in trouble?!
At the end of it, it comes down to this. At least they have the correct information, they know what their parents expect. At least when it rains – and it will – they know there is an umbrella for cover.
Manika Raikwar Ahirwal, the author of this post, is Managing Editor and Editor (Integration) with NDTV. This article was originally published on NDTV’s website.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
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