Thursday, March 02, 2006

Love the enemy?

I'm just returning from Concord, MA, where I led two sessions for parents on talking to their children and teenagers about sexuality, based on my books, "From Diapers to Dating" and "Beyond the Big Talk." More than 150 parents attended and based on book sales and conversations after the talks, the talks were very well received.

I generally talk for about 45 minutes and then answer questions for 45 minutes. Most of the questions are parents presenting real life situations and seeking advice and counsel. But some times people have other agendas. Last night, one older woman asked my opinion of gay/straight alliances at schools, saying that she thought they lured kids into being gay who might otherwise not be.

This morning, another woman said, "So, you think kindergarteners should be taught about condoms in school?" I answered, "No, perhaps you misunderstood when I said that if a small child picks up a condom in your bedroom and says what's this, you should just answer simply, "it's a condom". But, what small children can understand is that every child should be loved and wanted and that people can decide the number of children they want to have." "Oh," she replied, "you want us to talk to five year olds about condoms." I quietly asked the group if that's what they heard me say...they responded it was not. And then I quietly told her I wouldn't let her put words in my mouth, and that there was a difference between a parent answering a child's question and the school curriculum.

So, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to see a letter to the editor in the Concord Journal taking on the parent coalition for bringing me to Concord. The letter said, among other things, "advocates for child sexual perversion have no place in our community."

The sex education advocate part of me responds with fury and hurt. How dare they label my work this way? And the minister part of me responds, "love thine enemy, love thine enemy, love thine enemy." I take a deep breath and wonder at how these women had their sexuality so broken that they couldn't hear my message that every parent needs to give their children THEIR values about sexuality and that parents must step up to their responsibility to educate their own children about these issues. LOVE THEM...but also make sure that the real story of my message to the parents of Concord is told.

1 comment:

JRC said...

Last week I had the opportunity to attend both Debra Haffner’s talks on “Raising Sexually Healthy Children”. I was impressed by her ability to address such a value laden topic so objectively. I want to share with the community her 3 part process for addressing challenging topics with your child:

1. Praise your child for asking the question
2. Ask your child what they already know about the topic
3. Give your child more information and share your family’s values about it.

In 1996 as part of the Welfare Reform Act, the Federal government developed a program to fund abstinence-only sex education curricula in the public schools. So, if you live in a district that accepts Federal funding for your sex education program, your child isn’t hearing anything about contraception, condoms or safe-sex, not to mention the topics that people really have trouble addressing like oral sex, homo-sexualtiy and masturbation.

Parents who want their children to have a broader understanding of sexuality must take on the role of sex education teacher in their homes. Haffner’s program inspired me to look for those “teachable moments” and share my beliefs about sexuality with my children. Leaving sex education to the schools, kids on the playground or worse the media is just not enough. We must be deliberate about our beliefs and take every opportunity that we have to pass on our values and that includes what we believe about sex.

Thank you Debra Haffner and thank you the Center for Parents and Teachers for offering this inspiration. I will look for the teachable moments and share my beliefs with my children. I may not be able to change the tide of national conservatism but I will hold on to my right to teach my children what I believe and sing the praises of those who bring out of the closet and into the light, truth and beauty.