November 1, 2012

Where can I draw the line?

I grew up in the late 80s and early 90s. Those were the days when talking to boys wasn't a trouble after all. Yet, there was this certain sect of kids in the class who would go and cling to the wall like lizards at the sight of a female creature.  A crush meant a liking for a boy who either wrote good poetry, was good at art, spoke well on the stage or be a champion in sports. Having said all of the above, we still were girls and boys growing into adolescents.

Difference in the parts of our bodies and the definition of sex was unidentified till we reached the 9th Std. It was not until our biology sir advised the girls and boys to attend a separate class, to teach us the chapter of Life Process - II, enlightening our dumbfounded brains with the information relating to Penis and Vagina.. Am I sounding absurd? No, believe me, that's how we were educated and enlightened.

Its been almost two decades since the topic on reproductive system has been taught. Now, that I am a woman, wife and mother of two kids, I wonder when and how do I talk to my kids? We are living in a developed country where everything and anything is discussed openly. It be could be the number of centimeters a pregnant woman is dilated to the cancer treatment a family member is under going. Nothing is so private any more.

But when everything is so open, where do we draw the line to define a topic to be spoken in front of kids and how much do we expose them to? And do we have control on who they are friends with, what they talk at school, play dates? Did our parents monitor the same way that we Gen X parents are striving to do?
Wondering what drove me to come up with this brazen post?

It happened that we were watching a boring movie at a friend's place. And the kids slipped inside to play their own games. As we kept switching to different channels and chit chatting, the oldest kid suddenly brings the laptop and shows us the history of what both of our boys had been browsing. It gave both the parents the shock of our lives.

We walked home silently to confront our kids individually. He is a 9 yr old. The kid obviously blames it on his counterpart.Our version goes like this; we don't switch on the TV, the passwords for all the laptops are locked, he asks us permission to play any games on the laptop, hardly goes to any play dates. As parents, we think we are doing the right thing. Are we really? How do we have control on what the kid learns in the world outside the home?

The other parents' version goes like this: Not that he is our son, but we can tell you that he knows nothing. After multiple threatening the kid just says, it's your kid who told him to do all this. Taking into consideration all the houses he goes to play, the mom gave a very clear clarification that there is no scope where they can touch a laptop.

I knew that would be the answer from any mom. Every woman feels like a mother hen when it comes to her own kids. Not wanting to spoil the friendship and relationship between both the families, we come to an understanding to separate the kids for few months assuming they will set right after a while.

After analyzing the whole episode, I don't think it's the kids' fault either. When they are watching a video on you tube, an ad to reduce tummy fat or slim body appears at the side and that could trigger a thought in them. My son told me, one kid wore a t shirt which said, "I'm Hot" and the kid started wiggling his body saying, I'm Hotttt!!! They were about to play a Wii game and before the game starts, two figures keep jumping and dancing and another kid giggles, "see how big her boobs are?" ughhh!!!! Ultimately, what triggers this curiosity in them is not in your hands.

The above incident is a warning call to us. We kind of scared him with some sort of threatening, but I felt he feels more inquisitive if it is forbidden. So, whenever I get a chance I try to make some sense to him saying, once you are an adult and out of college, you'll understand everything. My dear parents out there, please throw in your valuable suggestions :) I'm jealous of the parents whose kids are out of this phase.. ;)

44 comments:

  1. I am really in n envious position, having passed that time long back, though i wouldnt call myself very good in all that..but in todays onslaught of all sort of info everywhere, it must be really tough to bring up the children.

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    1. Then, you are one lucky woman Renu :) Yes, it is. That's what his class teacher also told me. It is challenging to bring up kids these days.

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  2. Ok. I do not have kids but I have gone through this. I sometimes wonder whether I should make a post out of it?
    My parents tried their best to make sure that I do not see or listen to things I was not supposed to. But, there are so many hormonal changes happening in you at that point of time that you really cannot kill the curiosity.
    I have done all that - going to websites, watching movies, reading books etc etc. Everything which my parents tried to take away from me.
    What works in the end is to befriend them. Treat them as equals. Talk freely to them, even about these topics. Make sure that they understand that all this is normal, a part of their growing up but also make them understand the limits - what is an acceptable scenario in your family.

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    1. You should Amit. Will be waiting for the post :)You are right, as parents they think we get spoiled by all that stuff. Problem is I am ready to talk, but just don't know how to proceed..Thank you for your comment and suggestion.

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  3. oh my god!!! yeahhhhhhh I know its very very challenging to teach the kids of that age!!! Nope I dont have an answer so will have to wait for the readers to comment here ...

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    1. Thank you for reading though, Ramya :) Yeah, if the children are teenagers, that's another challenge. But I feel he's still a kid..mom hai na, always feel like that may be :)

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  4. This is the biggest dilemma that faces us parents. My older son browses the net and reads books. He also plays with older boys and is pretty aware of the lingo. I cannot change the world. But, I encourage him to talk to me. He can discuss things like sex with me without feeling dirty. This is the time when he is just hearing these things, and if I act uncomfortable, he won't come to me. I will give him the freedom to hear everything and talk to me about his feelings. About the net, I don't monitor his history of browsing. But, I know his schedule, and if I find him becoming cagey or secretive all of a sudden, I might investigate. I define the limits in my house. I have also had discussions about talking to strangers on the net or sharing personal information over social media. I think if we trust our kids and talk openly, it helps. More importantly we have to overcome our own biases and old-fashioned thinking. Times change and we must move with them. I hope that helps.

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    1. If you had written a page of comment also, I would still want to read it, Rachna :) I donno what to say. I feel, though I am ready to talk to him, there is some uncomfort somewhere as how and what to discuss. As long as we are there, I know for sure they just watch some Starwars or alien stuff. These kind of incidents don't happen in our presence. Yes, I would also investigate if they become secretive. My son yet doesn't know sharing info and talking to strangers on the net. But I think the day is soon nearer. He keeps saying though, amma I want a facebook too..doesn't completely know it, within few months or by next year, he'll know it..Thank you so much.

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    2. I know what you feel Latha, I really do. I also am apprehensive about how I will handle their teenage years. My son is already on FB and has a gmail account. I have his passwords but don't snoop. I think it is important for them to have their privacy. Children will learn from all sources no matter what you and I try. And there will be curiosity and raging hormones too. With internet, images and objectionable stuff is not too far away. I even remember calling my son and watching one episode of Crime Patrol with me where a young school kid was befriended and kidnapped by two men. He used to see Satyamev Jayate with me too. The issues like child abuse, unwanted touch, kidnapping etc. are more rampant in our society, and it is best we share with them the perils of these including virtual strangers and social media. I feel communication is the only way forward. Let them have freedom and give them the values to use it judiciously. I guess no one has the answers. We all are trying. Thank you for putting up with my loooong preachy comments :). BTW I understand the discomfort or hesitation you feel. Is your hubby closer to him then ask him to initiate the talking.

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    3. And counseling is not a bad idea. BTW my son is 10 too, and there have been times in the past when I sought help through counselors with behavior I found difficult to cope with. We can take this chat offline if you wish.

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    4. My dad had very smartly placed a Readers' Digest Family Guide in our living room when we were kids. You would be surprised how many times we picked it up to read. It had graphic pictures and info about human anatomy. You can try something similar if you find it hard to speak.

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    5. Sure. We will talk more offline :)

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    6. I think I am more close to him than hubby :)That is also another pblm..he won't tell things to his dad scared that he would get into trouble.

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  5. FIF.....Today I am glad that my daughter grew up freely, naturally in the pre-internet age!In retrospect, I am most grateful that those days were free of Internet porn culture.

    If I could wish anything for my own children, it would be that they should discover sex and love at first hand, instead of through the distorting prism of pornography through Internet.

    The best thing we can do is... establishing effective rules through open discussion with our teens. If we remember to encourage them to tell us about things, they will usually comply .... Friendship is good, but it comes after parental bonding!So, before you become a buddy, be a parent! That's what I did...and today we are the best buddies ever!♥
    Wonderful article!

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    1. You are lucky like I said to Renu :P True, I agree..parents first, friends next..that's how my mom and we are. We can share anything with he r now but we are still afraid of some things that she will scold us or not like us doing it.

      He's not even a teen yet..9 yr old :( I think I need to go to counselling on how to handle these issues. Thank you :)

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  6. Well I was in hostel , so I knew a lot of things much in advance , not that I am boasting but it is actually GOOD to talk and tell the kids..

    The reason why we dont talk or keep them safe is one thing they will want to know why..

    So I would jsut have a heart to heart talk simple.. most of the kids already know things, as you say they see it everywhere tv-internet-books-posters-et c etc etc


    on laptops you can set parental things, but again that is waste as that will increase the curiosity more .. SO talking is best
    once they know, it wont be curiosity for them ..

    that is my personal view and i can be totally wrong too :)

    Bikram's

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    1. NO Bikram, you are right. We need to talk. Otherwise their curiosity would increase even more. But how to proceed and what to talk is the main challenge.

      Hope I get the courage and peace of mind to handle it carefully.

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    2. Well thats easy and HARD too.. If it was me I would get straight to the point .. because kids are intelligent and they also know what you going to say :)
      so no use beating around the bush... straighforward talk always help, its when we try to wiggle around that we confuse ourself and others too ..

      so get to the point and first ASK Them what do they Know and what do they Feel .. Then add your view.. and then Ask them again :)

      Bikram's

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    3. Thank you...will surely do. He went on a trip for two days with the school. Told him many times, don't talk all this rubbish with your friends..If you have any questions, come and ask me and I will tell you :)

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  7. I am not in that phase yet but it is a tricky situation to handle. The kids will do whatever they will fell curious enough to explore so having an open atmosphere will be the only thing that will work. I agree with Rachna that if they can come running to you with a question and you handle it and not wrap it, then I think things will be less awkward and kids will be more aware of what is right and what is not.

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    1. Agree Jas. May be I should start telling him, if you have any questions just ask me, don't discuss with your friends or search on the net. Poohh!!! He asks me all sorts of questions, I mean qns relating to all the topics except this I think.

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  8. Hi FIF

    I agree with Rachna and Jas....A little bit open talking is better than all hush-hush...It will only boost their curiosity all the more...

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    1. Yes, Jaish..lucky you..Vidyut is still a baby..:) Sure girl, will take all your inputs into consideration..thank you :)

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  9. I really don't know Latha. When I was growing up, Papa had told me many things without my even realising it. I suppose I will have to do the same.
    To my son i have taught about unwanted touch (which was important living in the ME. And I try to answer all his questions. I don't know till when I will be able to do that though

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    1. :) I keep answering his questions too, but wonder if I am giving him the right amount of info or giving him more info than needed.

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  10. All the things that needed to be said has been! I loved Rachna's tips and it is no secret that I admire her no-nonsense parenting style :)

    Though my children grew up when you did, I used to talk to them about things like periods and stuff because those sanitary napkin ads had started coming on TV and they would ask me about them. Only you have to keep the age of the child to decide how much he can absorb without going to others for extra info.

    He never asked me any questions but I knew his mind was full of them. The L&M belonged to the old school and didn't agree with me :)I had bought a book called 'Sex for teenagers' and gave it to the older one when he was about 12. It dealt with all the questions they might have and gave simple replies. When he left home for college he left the book behind and the younger one inherited it :)

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    1. The other week was a red ribbon week in his school where the campaign was "No drugs". He kept asking me "amma, what are drugs?". We gave him some info but S was signalling not to. I think he was afraid if I will give him to much information.
      Oh yes!! Every boy asks what are they? That was bold of you. Even S belongs to the old school in some matters like these :) Am just hoping it will be much easier dealing this stuff with my daughter :)

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  11. Since you haven't mentioned what they were watching, I'm going to assume it was porn.

    Make a big deal about it and rest assured he"ll make sure he watches it again. And with so much of it out there, available at the click of a mouse, it will not be possible for you to keep track without going bonkers.

    I think he should know the difference between fantasy and reality and that porn is not what happens in real life.That his young mind is too tender to understand it's implications.

    But please don't make him feel ashamed of what he did. It's natural to be curious.

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    1. Yes, Purba. We didn't see the images but the history presented the same. It was girls bodies, hugs, kisses..etc..
      Right now, that's the conclusion we drew when he and me talked alone, that he is too young to think about all that stuff.
      I think he feels bad for what he has done, may be ashamed too. And I feel sorry for making that happen. We did not hit him or scold him, but asked for the truth and threatened quite a bit that the consequence would be bad if he repeats it again.
      Right now, I believe he will be away from this stuff for a while, but you never know what triggers it back in these kids' minds.

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  12. Very interestng write up Latha and very relevant to today's times. It is best to take children into confidence and share whatever they like to know! I agree with what Purba says and also commented on her post too! If you trust them, there will never be a problem you will confront! There is nothing really right or wrong as the basics are clear:)

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    1. Agree with you Rahul. I know talking is important and having confidence in them is equally important. I noticed that, if we ask them multiple times on telling the truth, he says, amma you just don't believe me. I don't want him to feel that I don't believe him. I do want to believe him but not be blind folded.

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  13. I always worry how my kids will guide their kids in today's scenario-it is very difficult to protect them & be open also at the same time,like walking on razor's edge.
    Rachna has said all i would have liked to say.
    This is a very timely post-well discussed.

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  14. I can relate to your situation and can understand what you are going through. My son is 11 yrs old and is studying in a hostel for a year now. Before he went we talked about the good/bad touch but now I guess, we need to move on the next level. And I am preparing myself for this talk. Times have changed completely and we need to change too when dealing with our kids! Its tough but then it has to be done coz that's the need of the hour! :)

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    1. Yes Shilpa. We never know when is the right time until it hits us suddenly. Am glad to hear from many parents and friends as it is giving me support and courage to handle it.

      Welcome here and thank you for all the comments.. you made my day :)

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  15. Well, can't say as I am not a parent yet. I think we have to talk as if left unanswered they will become more inquisitive. Believe me, this is by far the biggest disadvantage of net.

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    1. You are right, Saru. Technology as a boon is becoming a bane now.

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  16. Prudhvi, its the most difficult of being a parent I think. I don't know how our parents handled it, I don't remember any emabarrasing situation.Well I look upto you for some tips in couple of years :).

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    1. We weren't exposed to so much of info, Haritha. Whatever little we knew, we were expected to keep quiet. I don't know what you went through in teen years, but the way I gathered info was either through the middle page stories in Swati or the columns Dr.Samaram wrote :) Sure, if I am experienced by then, will definitely help you out. Btw, you have two girls, I think the task becomes easy.

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  17. Interesting topic and the most relevant in these troubled times. However, I think it is best to tell them what they want to know, for it is good they come to you for knowledge and don't go elsewhere to get it, which might even be harmful. But saying that you will understand once you grow up is not the answer, even I was given the same answer by my very good tuition master, while teaching some subject, i don't remember now, but it never made any sense to me.
    Nice to see you in my blog, and thanks for feeling the same way as I do.
    BTW, I have been writing in blogspot for the last 5 years or so. I had to shift to WP because of the msn. But since i never liked WP, I have only stored some of my blogs there. I would be happy if you could come to my blogspace in blogspot.
    http//:rama-ananth.blogspot.com

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    1. Welcome here and thank you for the comment Rama. Yes, after getting advises from all my friends, that is what I told my son too. Told him to come and ask me for any questions that he has and not to browsing online.
      Coming to your blog address, I will add the new address. I send you an email regarding that :)

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  18. That is always a tricky phase for both the parents and the children, I'm sure that many parents would give you the right answer to this.

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    1. Thank you for reading, Ashwini. Though you are not a parent :)

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  19. I wouldn't be terribly concerned. About 8-9ish is when I started to become interested in stuff like that too... Honestly whether or not you "forbid" your kids to search for erotic stuff online they are going to anyway. Sooner or later they will learn how to delete their internet history too haha. The best thing is probably to sit them down and tell them that porn is to real men and women, as James Bond movies are to real life. They don't have a heck of a lot in common. And that you always need to treat your partner with respect. But sometimes I wonder, my parents told me absolutely nothing about anything, and yet I have a pretty healthy open attitude to sex despite the porn I watch(ed), so I think sometimes it's the person's personality more than anything that matters. And don't blame the internet! I secretly read those terrible Mills & Boons(?) books when I was around that age to feed my curiosity. Sorry for rambling. - BBDLite

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    1. Haha..Thank you for the comment. I think we all grew up that phase of reading Mills & Boons. You are right. Talking is important. After all the comments from my wonderful friends, I got some courage to talk to my son. Now, I told him, if you want to know something or curious about something come and ask me, I will tell you. But pls don't go looking for it on the internet along with your friends. He said yes, let me see how far it works.

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