This morning, over a relaxing weekend breakfast of scrambled eggs and tea with his mother and I, my 10-year-old was explaining to us that fourth grade is unlike third grade because now “everyone in fourth grade cusses.” He then added that, “they use all the cuss words like sh– and a– but the most common word is the F-word.” After a round of talking about what his own options are in such instances, he naturally then asked, “so what does the F-word mean anyway?” Without missing a beat, I quipped back, “it means sex.”
Right then, I had one of those movie-like moments feeling like I choked up and gulped in slow-motion because I quickly realized that I had just signed myself up to explain why sex –a word we have worked hard to de-mystify and firmly establish as wholesome in our household– is a good thing while F- is clearly bad? And so, as if finely choreographed and without missing a beat himself, my son indeed asks, “so why is sex good and F- bad if they mean the same thing?” … and then iced the cake by requesting a newly relevant update on, “so what is sex anyway?”
Deep slow breath.
Even though this is my third round (third child) with these conversations, I now felt that an obligatory prerequisite to my fully answering his questions is a dissertational exegesis of the historical roots of Western concepts of sexuality along with modern-day rape-culture and how all of that is neither natural nor compatible with my own Islamic faith’s treatment of the topic –oh, and sprinkle on a new layer of parental guilt from flashbacks to similar conversations with my older two sons where I’m now re-thinking that I could have done better as a parent!
Another deep slow breath.
By now, my heart was pounding in terror with dramatic music playing inside my head as my mind leaped from building-top to another as in an action-thriller’s final chase scene… and then while attempting to re-focus on my son’s innocent face under the pressure of my imaginary movie set, I somehow uttered this admittedly strange reply:
“You see son, sex is like bubblegum.”
“Don’t you agree” –I explained to the sponge before me, “that bubblegum is good because it tastes good, is fun to chew, and even has some benefits? Clearly, we all like bubblegum. But notice that if we chew bubblegum loudly with our mouth open making slurpy sounds while talking to people –then bubblegum becomes bad. Also, if I offered you chewed bubble gum from my mouth, you would reject it and say, “eww gross!” Similarly, sex is also fun and liked by everyone, but only as long as it is in private and between husband and wife –then sex remains a good thing. Otherwise sex becomes bad. The F-word simply describes sex when people make it bad through their bad choices –just like bubblegum. It’s really not fair to sex that people take something that is an enjoyable, clean, natural gift from God and turn it in to a cuss word. But it is also entirely a personal choice.”
With barely enough time to catch my breath after clearing that hurdle, my son swoops back with, “Ok, so what exactly is sex?” Since this is not a taboo discussion topic in our house, I could only assume that he’s asking for an upgraded answer since our last discussion –yikes!!! Starting with where I recall leaving off the last conversation on sex I explained that it’s a very special way that a husband and wife touch each other.
“You know how your mom and I hold hands outside the house but inside our house, you also see mom and me hug and kiss? People outside the house see us holding hands but never see us kissing. Just the same, people who see us hugging and kissing inside the house don’t see what we do when we go inside our bedroom and shut the door. When a husband and wife are alone and in private, they use the gift from God of touching each other in special ways. That type of touching is never done in front of anyone else or with anyone else.”
“So just like bubblegum, sex is a fun, enjoyable, and special gift. The gift is good as long as it is enjoyed the right way, at the right place, and with the right person — otherwise it’s simply wrong.”
“Now finish your breakfast and go change out of your pajamas!”
As a boy, Yaman never knew exactly what he wanted to “be” other than a father. He migrated to the US as an infant with his parents and is the second eldest of 7 siblings –growing up in Utah, Indiana, and New Jersey before settling in Southern California with his wife and three boys. Career and college degrees pale in comparison to the accomplishments, joy, and education from life with three boys.