Everyone has things that are uncomfortable to have a conversation about. Sex, politics, and religion seem to be big ticket items that we shouldn't discuss in polite company, right?
Perhaps we haven't properly met. I don't do taboos. Don't get me wrong, I don't air all my laundry everywhere. But I do think everything can be talked about, and most of it probably should be discussed in polite company. After all, if you can't talk about your opinions and values nicely, you probably don't need to be talking about them at all. I know, I know...people are often passionate about these topics, and that's fine. But you can be passionate and respectful. They're not mutually exclusive.
So, really...what don't you talk about? Is your list longer? Shorter? Can you talk to your mother-in-law about when you were raped as a teenager?* Can you discuss incest with a survivor? Have you shared your opinion on spanking with your boyfriend? Do your kids know the mistakes you made?
I'm definitely not suggesting we be best buds with our children. Or that we out our gay friend with our suspicions. But I do think the more we talk about taboos the less taboo those things are. And I think that's a good thing.
If you read my post from a few days ago, you know I have a few things to decide when I'm going to share them with my kids. You'll notice I said "when." They'll know. In fact, Gracie already asked me (randomly), "Mama, have you even been in a police station?" Here's how that went...
Gracie: "Really? (hushed to her brother) Mama's been in a police station!"
Jace: "Mama! What were you arrested for?"
Me: "I wasn't arrested. That's not what Gracie asked."
Jace: "Oh. Why were you in a police station then?"
Me: "Because someone hurt me and I needed to tell the police about it."
Gracie: "What happened?"
Me: "That's a story for another time."
Jace: (Eyes rolling - I heard them from the front seat.) "Let me guess, we're not old enough."
Me: "That's right. It's a bigger kid kind of story."
Look at that? I'm not saying I'm perfect. In fact, I've said more than once that's I'm definitely not. But what I do work hard at, among other things, is creating an atmosphere where I can be talked to and where I can talk. No one needs to know everything. Kids definitely don't need to know a lot of things right now. But that doesn't mean that they need to be shut down when they ask a random question, especially a hard one.
Here's some great advice for talking to your kids about sex - it's not a one time conversation that happens when they're 16. It's an ongoing conversation that begins when they're babies and toddlers and you're teaching them body parts, teach them all their body parts. It continues when you're 4-year-old asks how the baby is getting out of your tummy and you tell him. No need for diagrams and if your kids are like mine they'll grab onto the word "tunnel" and "vagina" will be forgotten. But it continues regardless...talking about our bodies, what sex is and isn't. It's my strategy. For everything - sex, politics, and religion.
So, start talking...open that space for conversations to happen. Or...start a blog!
*After a recent conversation with one of my mothers-in-law, I started thinking about this subject. I frequently get surprised emails where people can't believe I put something out there on the world wide web. But I think it all deserves to be there. And I hope it all speaks to someone.