As rules of some kind, the following things stand out in my memory from my youth:
- I was never to ride on a motorcycle.
- If I ever ended up in handcuffs, I’d be spending at least one night in a cell before help arrived.
- Sex outside of marriage is wrong.
I never thought of those “rules” as linked in any way, but they were obviously intended to influence my behavior and decision-making. #1 protected me from physical harm, #2 was a deterrent to making a poor decision that might have significant secondary consequences, and #3 was likely intended as protection and deterrent. Now that I’m all growed up, #1 and #2 really have no bearing on my life, but #3 deals with moral virtue and thus is no less valid today than it was 25 years ago, or will be in 2,500 years.
Curiously, I can recall family conversations about #1 and #2, but any discussion about sex is a lost memory, and I have countless memories of even insignificant moments from my childhood. I think my parents probably believe that I got “the talk,” but I don’t have any recollection of it. I do remember a set of Dr. Dobson audiocassettes that existed and I think they might have been “the talk,” but I’m fairly certain I only heard one or two of the cassettes while on a car trip and I definitely couldn’t tell you what they were about. I also recall getting some information in health class during fifth grade and again a couple times in junior high and high school, but I remember much of it being confusing and awkward, and it most certainly wasn’t the message that I needed to hear.
My parents gifted me with the basic knowledge that God intends sex for married couples, but what I lacked for years was the awareness of the Church’s teachings about human sexuality, most specifically chastity. By the grace of God, I met and married the woman intended to be my wife and together we have come to better understand the beautiful gift of our sexual nature and the true wisdom behind what many just consider to be arbitrary or prohibitive sexual rules of the Church.
It is now time for my wife and me to initiate “the talk” with another child, a son, which causes us some pause because we know it’s a time when there is a certain loss of some childhood innocence. As beautiful as that innocence is I recognize that it cannot be permanent and I remind myself that we must try to replace that loss with strength enabled by wisdom. However, in order to share that wisdom I know that a talk will not suffice, much the same way that a single geometry class will not ensure my child knows anything about geometry. I must have an ongoing conversation with my son. It doesn’t need to be every day, but it needs to be enough that his confusion is righted and the contrary messages he’ll get from our secular and misguided culture are extinguished. Wisdom is gained over time, and “the talk” is not just a download of biological data, but a beautiful mystery to be communicated with the fullness and awe it deserves.
I think this is a relief to many dads. It’s not just a “one and done” moment that comes and, thankfully, goes. Rather, it’s a privileged place of grace. Given today’s confusion, we cannot ignore it.
I’ll probably never look forward to discussing any sexual issue with my children and I’m sure that I’ve missed meaningful opportunities to broach pertinent points, but I have found that these conversations become more natural and comfortable, for all of us, the more they occur. l sometimes kid myself that this particular parenting responsibility is not a big deal so that I just do it, rather than find reasons to avoid it, but it is a huge deal. I owe it to my children to share the beautiful wisdom that our Church has shared with me.