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For Your Marriage

Josh and Stacey Noem have been married for almost 20 years and have three children in middle school and high school. They blog about parenting and their adventures as a family.

“The Talk”

I really have no idea what men talk about with their barbers. But I am pretty confident that Joshua was a little surprised when I told him that I started the sex conversation with Oscar while cutting his hair recently.

See, I had been wondering if we were getting close to an age when it would be time to talk candidly with Oscar, our 11-year-old, about sex. Then, not long ago, we hosted some dear friends overnight at our house. Over the course of their visit, we learned that they had just had “the talk” with their eldest who is close to Oscar’s age.

After they left, Joshua and I spoke about it briefly and agreed that it was probably time to broach the subject with Oscar.

I get the sense that more often than not it is the parent of the same gender who has this type of talk with their child. While I don’t think that Joshua assumed it would be his responsibility, I do think he was a bit surprised when I told him that I had gone ahead and gotten the ball rolling.

In my house growing up, sex and human sexuality was a pretty open topic. So much so that while I don’t remember ever having “the talk,” I also don’t remember a time I didn’t have a pretty full understanding of how our bodies work, male/female attraction, and what the Church has to say about it. I also don’t recall any specific moments of awkwardness for myself or for my parents around sex and sexuality in my formative years.

Coming from that background I didn’t really feel any qualms about broaching the topic with Oscar myself. In fact it was a high value for me that the conversation be a natural experience for him. Not contrived or overblown. For that to be the case, I figured that Oscar would need to be in the right space for the conversation.

It would have to be a day that was going smoothly for him — a happy but low-key day. Timing-wise it would best happen in the middle of the day when he wasn’t tired and there was time and space to give him room to absorb everything. Additionally, avoiding speaking too late in the day would help keep his mind from spinning too close to bedtime. And, of course, it should be a private situation.

With those thoughts loosely in mind, it occurred to me that I might just test the waters when he came outside for his most recent haircut.

It was more or less the ideal circumstance for the conversation and the haircut set up was a bonus for ease of speaking. I figured Oscar would feel more comfortable if we just kind of talked as I worked rather than sitting in a super focused way facing each other.

I hadn’t really thought ahead or even thought through what I was going to say. I just had the feeling that this was the right timing and acted on that feeling. I think I may have whispered a prayer before starting out.

Then I just said pretty much, “So Oscar, what do you know about sex?”

Hee hee. I think that caught him a little off guard, but he is sort of used to that kind of thing from me and it was such a matter-of-fact statement, that he jumped right in and responded matter-of-factly.

It turns out it was a very helpful way to start the conversation – again, inspired by the Holy Spirit and not the least bit premeditated on my part – because our “sex talk” ended up being very mutual and not so terribly one-sided and overwhelming.

I would ask Oscar what he knew about X and he would respond. This served the multiple purposes of my getting to know exactly what level of understanding he was at, meeting him there and keeping it highly conversational.

One interesting element of our conversation for me, was that after we had been talking for a little bit, I realized that I hadn’t explicitly mentioned any aspects of what our faith has to say about sex and human sexuality. I thought we were more or less nearing the end of our conversation and I suddenly realized we hadn’t even gotten to the most important part.

So I explained to Oscar that while, over the course of his life, he may see a number of different messages about sex in popular culture and the media, we as Catholics believe that sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage. That it is the most precious gift we can give another person and for that reason it is a gift that we give in a life-long committed relationship.

It was quite a moment of satisfaction when sweet Oscar responded simply, “Well, of course.”