Sadly, we all know about the painful realities of hidden passions and the on-going infidelities that break up families every day. This can happen to anyone, regardless of how much we try to avoid it. In reflecting on these facts, I can’t help but recall my mother telling us that sex is as natural as eating and sleeping. It was the best sex-education I ever received. And here’s why: as young teens, we were taught about sex, but not in the way most children are taught today. And I never forgot my mother’s warnings that had nothing to do with birth control or prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, or even about saving our virginity for the right person. She showed profound compassion and a deep understanding of our human need to connect with another person. She understood that these feelings and emotions are natural ones that move through us all. Her advice and approach to raising 17 children might be helpful to families today.
A few things stand out: first, we weren’t responsible for doing things like changing the diapers of our younger siblings. She felt it might lead to too much sexual curiosity and she’d often say that changing diapers is the parents’ job. Another example was knowing not to have young teens, especially boys, babysit their younger siblings for very long. She felt it might put a young child in an unsafe situation as well as tempt the teenager, especially because teens have such strong hormonal surges and sexual urges. She also believed it was best to undress and bathe children in private, away from curious eyes. We had separate bath times for the girls and the boys. These were the kinds of sex-education lessons I learned as a teen and which kept me aware and responsible when I had children of my own. But Mom’s lessons weren’t about mistrust since Mom was very trusting, but were rather about human nature and sexuality. What she taught us was that sex is both normal and a responsibility, and that we must be aware of temptation every day as sexual beings.
What she also taught us was the tremendous power of sexual attraction, something that any of us might be affected by, for better or for worse. We must ask ourselves where it will lead and the consequences, not only for ourselves but for those around us, and our families. Through the years, I’ve seen miracles behind these questions when they’re asked in the right context, time and place. When handled properly sexual attraction can grow into beautiful ways of touching and reaching one another, provided we control it through mindful and thoughtful behavior and attitudes. When handled properly and with grace, we learn to recognize how such feelings and behavior can benefit everyone around us.
I don’t know how our mom had so much practical common sense, but her wisdom offers a healthy approach we might consider putting into practice today. I believe that in addition to the usual preventative measures, Mom’s approach might help to protect our children. Her practices are worth considering before anything has a chance to go wrong. And it’ll help our sons to know how to behave towards women and to protect our daughters from being mistreated. Mom knew what she was doing when she raised us.