Fourth grade surely is going to be the death of me.
No, it’s not because of Common Core math, which is bat crazy. Fortunately, though, between You Tube tutoring videos and the fact all three of my girls seem to have acquired my husband’s analytical skills, we seem to be surviving.
No, it’s not the stress of pre-pubescent issues, such as periods or sex or words like “ejaculation” or “masturbation” or “menstruation.” These words make me cringe, but I am so prepared that I am like a sex education ninja.
It’s not even the fact that I hear a fleeting word about a boy or a mean comment by a girl in class or the endless range of emotions that my daughters seem to experience on any given day. These I can manage. It’s parenting 101.
What I cannot seem to handle is on a random Saturday as I pleasantly sip my coffee while my three girls slop up their morning cereal, the following words slip out of a little mouth:
“Hey Mom, who is Monica Lewinsky?”
It was a good thing I was drinking and not eating because I am quite certain I would have choked and died since none of my kids know the Heimlich yet. Those words could have killed me.
Apparently my twins will be writing speeches about various presidents and first ladies later this month, and someone in their fourth grade class said if you get Bill Clinton, you have to include information on Monica.
Sure, this may seem like a simple question now, and you probably have a great answer; but, when you get hit out of nowhere before you have even finished your first cup of joe…well, let’s just say a few more gray hairs appeared on my head that day.
Because I could only hear the heart beating in my ears, I can’t recall my exact answer. I did not remember any mention of Lewinsky in any of the books I read about how to discuss sex with your child. I didn’t think I had ever read a blog about it, and no one warned me at pick up line that my kids would ask this question. How is that even possible?
After taking a very long swig of scalding coffee to kill time, I believe it went something like this: “Well, she worked for President Clinton and some people think they were involved in some illegal activity and didn’t like it so they tried to make him not president anymore but it didn’t work so she quit and I’m thinking we should go see a movie later does anyone want more cereal I’ll get it!?”
Not my finest moment, but we did move on to a fierce debate about whether to see Paddington or Into the Woods for our movie that day.
I certainly believe that I could have — should have — provided an answer that included a better explanation, but I panicked. I did not want to discuss presidential sexual relations with my daughters at the breakfast table any more than Bill Clinton wanted to discuss the with Congress. I did not want to explain the meaning of Zippergate or extramarital affairs or a BJ. At least not when my kids are in fourth grade and should be more interested in dressing their Barbies than berets and blue dresses.
Fourth grade is tough. Intellectually my kids — like most at this age — are advancing rapidly, but even though we’ve had “the talk,” I just don’t know how to discuss Monica Lewinsky with a nine-year old. Sure, I had a myriad of inappropriate jokes and innuendo at my disposal, but none seemed entirely appropriate at the time. But neither did the truth.
Not talking about it is an even larger problem. As a parent you do not want to lie to your kid about any question. It can harm your relationship or embarrass your child if they discuss your white lies with their friends. You want to answer the question enough that they feel satisfied with the answer, but not with too much information that they want to find out more on the Internet.
And there is a wide breadth of maturity in the fourth grade. Some sleep with their cell phones, others with their teddy bears. Some are responsible enough to baby sit, others don’t know how to make their own lunch. Some are starting to be interested in the opposite sex, and others barely notice a difference if it wasn’t for anatomy.Information that may be appropriate for one child could blow another one’s mind.
Fourth grade is perhaps the year our kids grow the fastest — physically, emotionally and socially — and each parent determines what their child can handle. Movie content, Internet access, and social networking are items that are restricted in my house, but in others, a child may have unfettered access. It doesn’t mean either is right or wrong, but it does mean once one parent lets their kid go down the rabbit hole, we all really take the ride in some way or other.
Like when I almost ran off the road when one of my twins asked if I didn’t let her watch Pitch Perfect because a boy and a girl shower together. Or what did a “Lady Jam” mean? Or the one question I could totally handle the last few weeks: “Why do boys say that they just got hit in the balls?” While it caused me to giggle, I totally nailed that answer.
One day, I’ll talk to my girls about Monica Lewinsky. I’ll tell them about a young girl who romanticized a situation and put herself at risk. I’ll tell them about men who become drunk on power and take advantage of those who serve beneath them (no pun intended.) We’ll discuss sexual harassment and appropriate workplace behavior and the importance of understanding who you can really trust. But not today. And maybe not even in fourth grade.
I am sure I will survive this year relatively unscathed, and hopefully my kids won’t be too messed up either. But if anyone has the chapter on how to explain Monica Lewinsky to a fourth grader, can you send it to me? My parenting handbook was missing that one.
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