One day my parents and I were sitting in the living room watching TV. It was about a year ago, so I was twenty-four. My father was in his big blue lounge chair, with the five or six mismatched quilts piled up on his lap, like always. My mother was seated comfortably on the couch, her legs tucked neatly and casually behind her. I sat on the small couch, my legs tucked not so neatly, but just as casually, off to my right, with the comfy blanket over me. I’ll admit, it was nice. The three of us are rarely all home or awake at the same time, and when we are we’re rarely getting along. It was nice to have a moment to just sit and watch TV together.
A commercial came on in which a teenage girl smokes pot and kisses some boys but then her night is rewound to the point right before she leaves the house, where her mother holds up a small bag of pot and says, “What’s this?” And the girl is caught. The point of the commercial is that if the mother had never caught the girl or confronted her then she would have gone out to do the bad things like smoke pot and kiss boys. The commercial compels me to ask my parents a question I’ve always wondered about. I break the silence with it.
“How come you guys never talked to me about sex or drugs?”
My parents laughed. “We didn’t realize we had to,” my father said, haughtily, as though I had asked, How come you guys never told me how to blink?
“Yeah, seriously,” my mother agreed. “You mean you didn’t know that sex and drugs were wrong?”
I was really shocked, and appalled. “Well, I mean,” I stuttered, not really knowing what to say.
I realized then that there was nothing to say. My father was reading his tax papers, my mother, the newspaper. Neither of them would ever realize their mistake, nor admit it. It was at that moment that I came to the sad realization that every daughter or son must come to at some point in their lives: parents aren’t perfect.
Now I’m twenty-five and I’m not married, nor do I have any children. But I want every mother and father out there to know the following: No matter how intelligent or bright or well-rounded or ugly or fat (and I say this last part because to be honest, I think a large part of the reason behind why my parents never talked to me about sex was because I was always very fat and no boys liked me so I think they just figured well she’ll probably never get laid) – you must ALWAYS talk to your children about sex AND drugs. There is no exception. If you start to, and they say, “Geez Mom, I already know this stuff,” do it anyway. If they call you out of touch or an old fart, do it anyway.
If you have an overweight daughter, never tell her that she’ll never find a boyfriend unless she’s skinny. And especially don’t do this when she’s right smack in the middle of puberty, hormones raging. This will do NOTHING to help her lose weight, but instead, it will do EVERYTHING toward making her try that much harder to get boys to like her. It will give her low self-esteem and make her feel ugly. It will make her promiscuous, and it will make her settle, for whatever she can get. If you’re lucky, she will grow up and become wiser and smarter, like I did. If you’re lucky, she will go on to graduate high school, and college, with honors, and go on to grad school. Like I did. But not every parent is lucky.
When I confessed to my parents that I was bisexual, and that I might soon be dating a female, they laughed at me. They laughed, hysterically, right in my face. I’ve forgiven them for it, but I’ve never forgotten it. To me, this was worse than those parents who become infuriated and kick their children out of the house, and disown them forever. To me, this was the most insulting and devastating reaction I could have received. “Oh great,” my mother said, sarcastically. “Just something else to add to the list.” Please, parents, I beg of you, let your kids be who they are. Educate them, help them if they’re confused, heal them if they’re sick, but always let them be who they are. Don’t make fun of them, EVER. The kids at school will do that, no doubt, because kids are cruel. Let home be their safe haven, where they never have to worry that they’ll be laughed at, simply for being themselves.
If you don’t know how to talk to your kids about sex and drugs then find someone who does. Go to a parenting counselor or a family therapist who can tell you how to discuss it and at what age. I may not be a parent but I am a daughter, and I love my parents with all my heart, but they did make mistakes, dangerous ones. And I hope my story will help other parents not to make them as well.