My son is technically 9 years old but tomorrow he’ll be 10. And he’s been at least 10 for years. He’s an old soul. Wise beyond his years. Definitely an only child growing up in an adult household.
That doesn’t, however, mean that I want him to lose his innocence too quickly.
I’m going to be honest – we’ve never had the talk. I don’t discourage it but I don’t encourage it either. He’s heard the word “sex” plenty of times but has never asked what it means. He just knows it’s “grown-up stuff” and when he hears that, he’s more than happy to steer the conversation in another direction.
He told me just the other day that he doesn’t want to turn 10 because he knows it means he’s getting older. What’s wrong with getting older? I asked him. Well, then I have to worry about things like finances, although taxes do sound kind of fun, he said.
I have NO idea where that came from. I’ve never given him ANY indication that taxes are fun. But we do tell him all the time to appreciate being a kid while he can.
We also recognize that his intellectual curiosity is advanced but not always at the same level as his emotional intelligence. That makes sensitive discussion a little bit difficult for us. When he wants to know, he asks. And we tell him but try to keep our answers informative but age-appropriate.
His innocence is probably coming to an end soon, though. I’m sure he hears plenty of things from his friends, many of which are older than he is. And I got the dreaded form home from school saying that the “Family Life” unit would be starting in March.
Luckily, in 4th grade, Family Life refers mainly to puberty and the changes that pre-teens start to experience. I gave him a 30 second review of puberty explaining voice changes, body smells, and lots more hair everywhere. I also watched a preview of the video they’ll show in class which talked about self-esteem and peer acceptance.
I actually studied adolescent psychology years ago and filled him in on how things will probably change socially for him as he gets older. But the actual sex talk? No. Not yet. And don’t even think I’m going to be the one to bring up nocturnal emissions. That’s total dad territory right there.
So why did the abortion topic come up? Why would I address that issue of all things?
Despite what you might be thinking, it was not because of a politically charged discussion about women’s reproductive rights. It was because we turned on a fascinating little documentary about explaining the hidden side of everything through data and empirical analysis.
Freakonomics, based on the book of the same name, takes viewers through a series of fascinating questions, like does your name affect your success in life? and can you bribe a 9th grader to do well in school?, and answers them with data-driven correlations.
We started watching a segment about the decline in crime in the 1990s. Everyone was clamoring to take credit for this decrease basing it on things like innovative police policies, harsher sentences for criminals, and the declining market for crack cocaine.
But when economists looked at it from a different approach, they found that a correlation existed between the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, making abortion legal, and the decrease in crime in the 90s.
To grossly simplify it, women were suddenly able to terminate pregnancies more easily starting in 1973 leading to what some might call a reduction in unwanted children. These children would have grown to prime criminal age in the 90s, right when we saw a significant decline in crime.
Whether or not the theory is true is a whole different discussion but definitely an interesting one if you look into the data.
Regardless of this fact, I knew the segment would make no sense unless my son had some vague understanding of what abortion was. So I asked him. Do you know what abortion is? He responded with a simple no.
I explained as best I could. It’s when a woman becomes pregnant and decides she no longer wants to be pregnant. And the doctors remove the baby.
You mean they kill it? he asked.
Well, I guess so. They can only do it if the baby isn’t very big. Sometimes it’s still very very small, I replied.
But it’s still a baby, he said.
And I left it at that. He doesn’t need to know extenuating circumstances. In fact, he never even asked why a woman might have an abortion. It just touched me that he, indeed, still has a very innocent view of life.