by Colleen Lord
Contributing to The CFLE blog has been great fun for me. If you’ve read any of my blog posts, then you have probably learned a few things about me and my family. It’s become a running joke that I can’t write a post without incorporating myself or my family in some way. I have to face it, though, my family provides good material.
My mother wasn’t always pro-choice. My first trip to Washington D.C. wasn’t to visit the Smithsonian or the monuments. I went to an anti-choice rally. I was ten and didn’t know that much about the “pro-life cause”, but I knew that we were “saving babies”. I am now 34 and I still can’t get the horrific images on the placards I saw out of my head.
I didn’t learn about where babies come from until later that year. My theory at the time was similar to the Immaculate Conception--that it just “happened”. I prayed often that God wouldn’t make me have a baby. My sister had two children, and I was pretty sure babies weren’t for me.
I was appalled that the people at the rally would want to force someone to have a baby. Even after I got the facts from a friend, which made the thought of having babies even more icky to my 10 year old self, the idea stuck with me that a woman should be able to choose what happens to her body.
What happened to my mother that day is much more profound. Her entire world view began to turn on its head. Here was a woman who lived through eight pregnancies; seven of which were cesarean births. Today, many doctors are concerned about women from having multiple c-sections due to an increased risk of hysterectomy. A gynecologist told her later in life said she was amazed my mother didn’t suffer any major consequences from the surgeries she had.
We weren’t people of means, but we had enough. After one of my brothers was born, my father’s job went on strike. They had five kids, so Mom decided she better get on birth control to make sure they could continue to provide for their children. My brother died at the tender age of 2 months from what we now know to be sudden infant death syndrome. When she went to her spiritual advisor for comfort, my mother was told the loss she suffered was because she sought birth control.
The unyielding protesters my mother encountered on the day of the rally made her realize the underlying message she had received all her life. “Women are a vessel and their sole purpose is to bring children into the world at any cost. It doesn’t matter what a woman endures or what she aspires to be. She is only worth the sum of their parts”.
And it really pissed her off.
She had five daughters, damn it, and she knew we women had much more to offer the world than our uteruses. She knew of women who were in dire situations and how easy it could be to go from a life of “getting by” to not knowing how to provide for a family when the next child came. She didn’t want that for us, she knew the world owed us better.
So, here began the journey of my mother and me, to becoming pro-choice. My mother’s story inspires me to fight for reproductive rights each and every day. Sometimes life experiences can be the greatest teacher.
If it came down to it, I don’t know that my mother would have ever chosen abortion if she personally had to make that very intimate choice. “I knew that you were going to be a unique child the moment I found out I was pregnant,” was a phrase I heard often. But I know she would have held the hand of any woman who had to make that choice for herself. Women choose abortion for many reasons and the decision is often difficult. But, we should trust women to make the decision that is right for them, and only them.
Sep 15, 2010
- Gather grassroots support to celebrate PREP sex ed funding and show support to end abstinence-only funding;
- Educate youth and families during the week with the information they need around comprehensive sex education;
- Help families communicate with their teens using comprehensive sex education models.
- If the Governor of your state accepted PREP funding, host a letter writing party thanking your Governor.
- If your Governor accepted PREP funding, gather a group to make thank you calls.
- Send hand written letters to your members of Congress asking them to co-sponsor Senator Lautenberg and Representative Lee’s new bill to reject abstinence-only programs (bill has not been named as of today).
- Crowd canvass a high traffic area collecting postcard/signatures asking your legislator to cosponsor Senator Lautenberg and Representative Lee’s new reject ab-only bill.
- Find a parent, teacher, school official, or clergy member to submit an OP-ED expressing support for comprehensive sex education in your community.
- Have a college campus table and collect post cards asking your congressperson for their co-sponsorship of Senator Lautenberg and Representative Lee’s new reject ab-only bill.
- Hold a parent/teen communication workshop.
- Hold a movie viewing event, using a movie like “The Education of Shelby Knox”.
- Conduct a pub crawl in your area, bringing along literature about the importance of comprehensive sex education and condoms to give away.
- Schedule a meeting with your school board or decision makers at your school to talk about the importance of comprehensive sex ed as part of the curriculum.
Posted by The CFLE on Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Sep 8, 2010
I recently ran into a CNN article about teen use of text talk. It was a pretty scary article, one that would make me afraid of what my teens were doing if I wasn’t fairly savvy about social media and texting. It’s the kind of article that my 77-year-old mother will forward to me eventually, warning me of the dangers that her grandchildren face.
Here’s the thing. I have 2.9 teens (my third is less than half a year away from turning 13, but she’s been acting like a teen for several years already – the natural result of having two bigger siblings, I guess.) We have open and honest communication going in our house. I talk to them about ideas like sex and healthy relationships and “the big bad world and what could go wrong out there” and they talk to me about their lives, the trouble that they see peers getting into, and come to me for help for themselves and their peers when needed. Together, we’ve called social worker friends to find out how to best help a teen friend who was cutting, we’ve discussed what to expect when one came home from a sleepover where the hostess got drunk and wasn’t legal to drink, and we’ve talked about when it’s reasonable to date, what to do when a date pushes too hard, and that mom is always available to come pick them up when they find themselves in a situation that doesn’t feel safe.
As a parent, I’ve been asked to say no to events to which they were invited, but they weren’t sure it would be safe. I’ve been asked to trust them, and I do. I have spent long nights on the living room sofa, waiting for errant teens to get home, and we’ve had long discussions about what it means to be trusted and how to gain trust, and how to regain trust after it’s been broken. All in all, my teens are reasonably emotionally healthy, and they choose to have friendships with other teens who also behave in what I would call healthy ways. That would include relationships, friendly and romantic, built on solid communication, choices that don’t involve much risky behavior, and rejection of behaviors in friends and partners that feel abusive or not trustworthy.
Mostly, I wonder how I have managed to raise such healthy and trustworthy teens so far. They aren’t angels by any stretch of the imagination … there are days when I want to tear out my hair from the constant bickering and merciless teasing that goes on in my house. Other days, I am so relieved to escape to work and avoid the chaos of daily life revolving around the self-absorbed intensity of teenagers. But overall, I am lucky to have such solid teens. Sometimes, I wonder if I am just enjoying some good karma. Mostly, I think maybe it’s the honesty of our communication. I’m not afraid to talk to them about everything, and they aren’t afraid to talk to me about anything. Even when accompanied by rolling eyes and protests of “Eeeewwwww” and “MoOOMMmm!!”, we listen to each other, we try to understand each others’ points of view, and we work really hard on trust and honesty. My payback is teens who mostly stay out of trouble.
What I’m planning to do this year is to try to meet teens where they’re at. I’d like to use technology to teach, and will be talking about websites like www.athinline.org/ and www.thatsnotcool.com/ and www.thinkb4youspeak.com/ with teens at school and at home. I will work with them to help them understand what healthy relationships are, both romantically and friendly, using resources from manuals like The CFLE’s Unequal Partners. I will talk to them about contraceptive coercion using articles like this LA Times report. And I will hope that open and honest and thorough, comprehensive discussions about risks will empower the teens in my life to make healthy decisions that will keep them safe, without the need to live in a restrictive policed environment sans trust.
How are you planning to teach the teens and young adults in your life, as a parent and as an educator?
Posted by The CFLE on Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Sep 2, 2010
This month, The CFLE will be concentrating on posts with a theme of "Back To School". We're starting off with this wonderful post by Dr. Marty Klein, reprinted with permission from his blog at sexualintelligence.wordpress.com.
As we launch children into the world, whether as educators sending our students on to their next school or next endeavor, or as parents sending our children into a new world of school or work, we always hope that we have provided them with the tools to succeed. Dr. Klein's wonderful story below speaks to our efforts.
"Catching" Your Kid Playing Doctor
by Dr. Marty Klein
An ongoing patient comes in yesterday and wants my advice: she says she caught her 5-year-old playing doctor with her pal Jenny. Mom’s arrival apparently broke up whatever they were doing, but mom wants to know what to do now.
The word “caught” caught my ear.
I start with a few routine questions:
How old is Jenny?
They’ve known each other a while?
Did it seem friendly or coercive?
Friendly. Very friendly.
Were large objects inserted anywhere?
Getting impatient, mom tells me a few things that she thinks are relevant.
The door was closed.
Did you knock?
No. She’s never closed her door before.
Oh. I guess the closed door meant something to her.
They jumped when I walked in.
Well, you interrupted them.
They looked guilty.
Since your attitude was that you “caught” them, I guess they felt “caught.”
Mom senses that I don’t appreciate the gravity of the situation. So, somewhat reluctantly, she spells it out for me.
I think they were, you know, playing with each other.
Yes, you already said they were friends on a play date.
No, playing with each other—you know, with their private parts.
You mean their vulvas?
Dead silence. Mom knows from experience that I won’t rescue her by speaking, so she bravely continues.
OK, whatever. But they were playing with each other.
Yes, I understand. You seem upset.
Well…that isn’t healthy, is it? I mean, they’re 5!
Yes, that’s the age at which playing doctor would make sense.
You don’t think there’s anything wrong with it? They’re too young!
Too young? I don’t think you mean you’d rather she do it when she’s 10, right? I’m being sincere here, not snarky.
At this point I’m accused of being snarky. Worse, mom calls me “one of those liberal sex therapists who probably thinks I’m just a prude.” Well of course I am, and of course I do. But I don’t say so, because that’s beside the point. But I do respond.
Actually, I’m a professional. I’m extremely sympathetic about your distress, and fairly knowledgeable about developmental psychology and sexuality. Let’s definitely talk about your feelings, and when you’re ready I can share some facts about kids’ healthy sexual development.
I’m sorry I brought this up. I should have known better.
I’m glad you brought it up, because this is a turning point in the history of this family—not to mention her development and yours.
Well, let’s just skip all the psychology and just answer me one question. What should I do?
I don’t want to be difficult here, but do about what? Your feelings? Her need for privacy? Her relationship with her body and her sexuality?
Oh God, this is just getting worse. C’mon—should I let them play together anymore? Should I forbid them to close the door? Should I tell Jenny’s mom—oh God, don’t tell me to do that.
No, I won’t tell you to do that. In fact, I won’t tell you to do anything, because it isn’t clear yet what you want to accomplish. I know you want your kid to be healthy and happy and strong, so I know you don’t want to derail her normal sexual development.
Rolling her eyes, mom interrupts:
But she’s so young!
Yes she is. That’s exactly when kids start learning about taking care of their teeth, the importance of good manners, how to deal with conflict, how much easier life is if you put your things away—the skills they’ll need as an adult. That’s when their sexuality starts developing, too. “Young” is right on schedule.
OK, so just answer me: should I stop her from playing doctor?
It depends on what you want to accomplish. If you want to interrupt her from exploring her sexuality in a safe, comfortable environment, stop her. If you want her to hide her sexual questions and exploration from you, stop her.
Now came the hard part.
I understand that you’re uncomfortable being confronted with her sexuality. And I know you adore her and want what’s best for her. I’m afraid this won’t be the last time you feel those two things battling inside you.
Mom seemed thoughtful about this, so I continued.
I know you want to support her in being healthy and happy. I want to support you in that project. I also want to support you through your difficulty here. And just like you want to handle this episode with her to empower her in the future, I want to handle this with you to empower you in the future. Because, as we both know…if she’s healthy, she’s going to become more sexual rather than less, and probably on a faster timetable than you’re comfortable with.
Mom’s face was a mixture of relief, sadness, confusion, longing, and surrender. She looked very, very human.
Can you recommend a book for me?
Well, I enthusiastically recommend this.
I showed her my copy of It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris.
This is a book for kids!
Yes. Buy it for her. Feel free to read it first; then read it with her; and then read it again on your own. You’ll be joining the 1,000,000 happy-sad, nervous-proud, slightly queasy parents who have already read it.
Short Url: http://bit.ly/90JSuF
Posted by The CFLE on Thursday, September 02, 2010