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c Thatonversation

It’s a milestone most parents dread, but, Paranoid Parent wonders who’s really teaching whom?


y son has got his fingers in his ears and he’s singing VERY loudly. He won’t stop unless I change the subject

immediately. The subject is SEX and it’s got nothing to do with me whatsoever. In fact, like every generation since 1963 – he’s pretty sure his gang invented it. Oh dear – The Facts of Life – well, my children have known about the mechanics since they were tiny, but what about the DANGERS, the pitfalls: emotional and physical? Should I mention genital warts? When I told my daughter what to expect I did it in quite a scientific, biological way ending up with: “…and if the egg isn’t fertilised which of course I very much hope it WON’T be for a VERY long time – then it comes away along with the lining of the womb and you experience some bleeding.” This method minimised embarrassment on both sides, but I don’t think she was any the wiser at the end of it. Throughout her teenage years, I intermittently cautioned her against loveless blow jobs – “such a shocking thing – apparently all the girls at St Trinian’s give the boys blow jobs” – “not all of them, surely?” was her dry and sensible reply. I warned her about unwanted pregnancy, chlamydia, herpes and heartbreak. I just stopped short of copying one friend, who stuffed her daughters’ Christmas stockings with chlamydia-testing kits from Boots. I told my own stories of being a needy girlfriend, insecure and far too easily impressed by swaggering bad boys, forgetting in a mist of hysteria, that she IS NOT me, is indeed quite different and not needy at all. She blithely

negotiated the stormy seas of teenage romance with considerable grace, never needing or wanting the doomy advice based on my own tormented youth and scare stories in The Daily Mail. So, what do I need to tell my youngest boy?

His generation is already comprehensively primed to deal with child molesters thanks to Esther Rantzen and co. and the Childline adverts festooning the notice boards in every school. What knowledge does he lack? He’s seen every single film Ben Stiller stars in, not to mention, Borat and South

term VD, by the way? While I’m about it, I should assure him about my broad-mindedness in case he turns out to prefer his own sex. “It’s fine to be gay,” I announce one day, out of the blue, only for his older brother to say, “It’s not fine with me.” When I asked him if any of his friends at school had come out yet he said, “No, but there’s a boy in my year who really should get on with it. If he doesn’t do it soon we’ll have no choice but to stage an intervention.” It’s difficult – they seem a great deal worldlier than I am now, let alone than I was at their age. I’ve already blundered by asking him what the red marks on his neck are, quite forgetting about the role of the love bite in teenage romance and confirming him, in his view, that I know absolutely nothing and certainly nothing useful. I decide it’s important to separate advice from prurience and resolve to accept that, above all, the teenager needs to conduct his sex life privately. With this high- minded approach I try once

more to broach the embarrassing topic: So I asked him: “What does

‘get with’ mean, exactly?” No, no, no – I’m supposed to be giving him wise counsel, not extracting info on the mysteries of teenagerish – and now he’s got his fingers in his ears again. I’ll wait until we’re alone in the car – with my eyes on the road, the risk of eavesdroppers eliminated and

Park. When he brings a girl home, should I put her in a different room? As his room is barely big enough for his single bed, this question is easily answered but he needs to know about contraception – not to assume the girl has taken charge and he, too, should be warned about STIs – as they’re called these days. Whatever happened to that darker, scarier

the victim, I mean my son, trapped in the passenger seat, the car is perfectly designed for the purpose. The truth is dawning on me – I am the one in need of education, not him. He’s finding his way with the help of his friends and if he drops me a kind word now and again, to set me straight – I’ll settle for that.

Paranoid Parent returns in the next First Eleven. Autumn 2011 FirstEleven 65


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