I. Am. The. Dad.
Let’s get a few things straight. No doctor or nurse is going to get my child in an exam room and talk to them privately, until they are old enough to confidently take care of themselves. Seriously, my one year old has a pretty limited vocabulary confined to things like being hungry or wanting to read a book. He has no idea how to talk to a medical professional, or anyone for that matter, in complete sentences. Once he’s older I hope he will be able to talk for himself and understand what personal boundaries are enough to let me know if any have been crossed. This is a public service announcement made necessary by an overprotective parent in Michigan who doesn’t trust her daughter.
I recently read an article by Christy Duffy over at Where I Am that has gotten some traction online. In the post (and its follow up) she complains about a new Michigan law that allows doctors to privately speak with children 12-17 years old. This law (according to her post) also allows for said children to block specific medical records from parents upon request. She goes on complaining and lays out a motherly warning:
Make sure this is crystal clear: what they want to do is talk to your child about sex and drugs (maybe rock and roll – who knows?) without your input. Is it really such a stretch to imagine that a doctor who does not value abstinence before marriage would encourage your daughters – as young as 12! – to receive birth control? Is it really such a stretch to imagine a nurse telling a young boy – because a 12 year old boy is a BOY – that she will give him condoms so he can be “safe”? Is this what you want told to your children without the ability to filter the info through your world view?
God forbid her kid should be taught about safe sex! There is nothing wrong with letting a kid be taught about abstinence, but it should be offered as only one option, not the only option. Safe sex education could literally save her from becoming a grandparent too soon. Teen pregnancies, after all, are highest in states with abstinence-only education policies. Know what happens when a child is not allowed to access condoms and birth control? Babies. Babies happen. They don’t just magically not have sex because you don’t want them to really hard. Teens who learn about safe sex not only learn about what they need to do to protect themselves from getting pregnant but also from getting STDs.
The backwards thinking that parents like Christy express throughout their lives causes much more harm than good. Teens will have sex. Not all, but many. A large majority of the US population (9 out of 10) has sex before marriage. Believing that your kid will be part of that 10% who wait until marriage is just burying your head in the sand. Ignoring those stats is seriously gambling with your son or daughter’s life! Having a baby makes everything more complicated at any age. I’d rather he use that time to prepare for his life ahead and enjoy the present. Not stress out about the whirlwind of responsibilities that comes with parenthood. That’s not to mention the large range of STDs out there.
I can understand the fear of being kept out of a conversation your child might be having of such a personal nature. If your kid trusts you then he/she will tell you about those conversations. There is a time to let go and let a child grow up. It seems more than past time for Christy to allow her 17 year old daughter to make her own choices. The conversations her child has with the doctor can also be had with a parent if the parent is accepting and not judgmental. A parent’s “worldview” can be a filter for his/her children when they are young, but the time comes when a child has to take hold of their own view on the world.
My son is just over 1 year old now. I know I am years away from these sorts of conversations with him, but I see no reason to hide information about safe sex practices from him once he nears puberty. Odds are he will have sex before he gets married and I want him to be prepared for it. I’ll obviously encourage him to wait until he’s at least 18 (or 25), but I can’t force him to follow that suggestion.
I’m sure it might be awkward to talk openly about sex with Wesley. He might not even want to talk to me at all and that’s okay. I’d like to know that he has someone else to talk to if he’s uncomfortable with me. And I’d much rather that that person be a medical profession than his buddies at school or the internet.
I am the dad, but it is his life and his choice. It is his partner’s life and choice too. Not his mother’s. Not mine.