Education Parenting Sexuality

Lessons From 6th Grade Health Class

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The other day Monkey came home wanting to know how old I was when I learned about HIV/AIDS.  (He’s learning a lot in his 6th grade Health class.)

I told him I learned about HIV/AIDS at the end of high school, that I vividly remembered the Surgeon General at the time, the white-bearded C. Everett Koop, coming on television in 1985 to talk to the American people and explain how scientists believed the disease was being transmitted.

“It was a scary time,” I said. “People were getting AIDS from blood transfusions and worrying you could get if from kissing.”

Monkey started schooling me about how HIV/AIDS was a virus that attacked the immune system, that it was not passed via “kiss-spit,” but by blood and urine and other bodily fluids, like sperm. Frankly, I was pretty impressed by what he had learned in school.

“You know,” I said, “HIV/AIDS is still a huge problem in Africa and in other communities. It hasn’t been cured.”

But Monkey didn’t want to talk about the world’s AIDS crisis. He had other designs. Squinting at me from the opposite side of our kitchen island, he turned on me.

Monkey: So when you met daddy you both knew about AIDS?

Me: Yeah, it was pretty big news back then.

Monkey: And you met in what year?

Me: We met in 1990 and started dating in 1993.

Monkey: And when did you get married?

Me: In 1997.

Monkey? So you were together for 4 years before you got married?

Me: Yup.

I could feel his wheels turning. He was going to ask me something big. I held onto to kitchen counter trying to steady myself. Was I going to have to confess that his father and I lived together in New Orleans, that we shared an apartment before we married? And where would that take us? Would he assume we had separate bedrooms? The questioning continued.

Monkey: Did you get AIDS tested?

Me: Can we talk about this when daddy gets home?

Monkey: Answer zee kveschun!

(Actually, he didn’t say it like that. It only felt like I was being interrogated by the Gestapo.)

Me: Yes, we both got tested.

Monkey: Before you got married.

This came out of his mouth as a statement, not as a question, so I didn’t feel the need to tell him that his father and I were AIDS tested about 3 months after we started dating –  waaaaay back in 1993.

But Monkey was satisfied and announced we had acted responsibly and added he planned to wait to have sex until he’d married, too.

I smiled at my 11 year-old son who had grabbed a plum and wandered off to do his science homework. Here, I thought he was about to grill me about safe sex practices and demand to know if his father and I had remained chaste until our wedding night.

I am not ready for that talk.

That same night, I saw an episode of Glee where the father, Burt Hummel talks to his gay son, Kurt, about sex. His monologue was short and sweet and brilliant.

Frankly, I think all parents should be required to memorize this speech before leaving the hospital on the day their child is born so they can use it later.

Here is what Burt Hummel said to his son (with a few gender changes):

For many people, sex is a thing we want to do because it’s fun and it feels good, but we’re not thinking about how it feels on the inside or how the other person feels about it. But it’s more than just the physical. When you’re intimate with someone in that way, you gotta know that you’re exposing yourself … You gotta know that it means something. It’s doing something to you, to your heart, to your self-esteem, even though it feels like you’re just having fun.

When you’re ready, I want you to be able to do everything. But when you’re ready, I want you to use it as a way to connect to another person. Don’t throw yourself around like you don’t matter, because you matter.

Here’s a link to the whole video, if you care to see it.

Watch: Kurt and His Dad Have a Gay Sex Talk on ‘Glee’ Video.

At some point, probably sooner than I think, Monkey might ask me to clarify the status of my virginity prior to marriage. Lord knows, that boy can ask me answer any question that might be roiling around in his brain.

I think I just bought myself a little time.

And next time, we are definitely waiting until his father gets home.

21 thoughts on “Lessons From 6th Grade Health Class

  1. I think you can look to further questions (especially re: your husband and you) without trepidation. I think Monkey is smart enough to know what questions to ask and what questions not to ask. Monkey seems to understand that child production requires intimacy but that intimacy is the property of his parents. If Monkey does not understand this I would have no problem with putting it in exactly in those terms.

    1. Are you kidding? This child asks everything! We had the “birds and the bees” talk at around age 4, and then he went around informing all his friends that, “No the pupie does not go in the pee pee!” and “No, the boy does not pee inside the girl. It’s called sperm!” Trust me, a storm’s a comin’.

      1. Oh Lord. I get it. As we are in Miami my granddaughter knew all the vocab and whatsitz of the dope scene at 6 years old. Not easy these days. On the other hand was it ever?

  2. Good conversation. And I like the Glee talk at the end.
    I don’t think you need worry about him from that conversation.
    I tend to have them just as turning off the bedroom light, when he says: “Oh can I ask you…” And then it’s nuclear physics, personal history, goodness knows what next.

  3. So, am I correct to infer that I should be happy my six year olds asks me questions like, “What does regurgitation mean?” followed (after 20 minutes) by, “So flies never have to go grocery shopping?”

    You handled it with class, my friend. I’m calling you when I get questions like that.


  4. Just one thing – as a professional HIV Prevention Educator…HIV can not be passed through urine, just blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breastmilk.

    Otherwise sounds like 6th grade health class is an excellent springboard for conversation – and you are handling it the way I wish all parents could – openly, honestly, with integrity and moving beyond fear to ensure kids have the right information! or or our website,, all have lots of great information about HIV, STDs, etc.


    1. Shannon:

      I’m going to guess that my son’s health teacher relayed the information properly and that Monkey just messed up on that. Secretly, I’m okay with it. I don’t need him peeing on anyone. 😉 They all need to keep their “junk” in their pants.

      And thank you for the links to the websites. I am not quite ready to talk about condoms and dental dams, but soon. Soon. (*weeping into my hands*)

  5. The best part of that Glee episode was that talk between Kurt and his dad. Second best part was the honesty between Rachel and Quinn mapping out their intentions regarding Finn. Third best part was the “Loser” original song at the end.

  6. Brilliant, Renee. What a brilliant boy, a brilliant way to handle a sticky conversation, a brilliant inclusion of that speech from Glee.

    Love this.

    Will be taking notes for this conversation when my 13 and 11 year olds get brilliant enough (or curious enough) to ask about WHEN I started having sex.

    Right now? They’re still more interested in what’s for dinner.

    (or they don’t want to know the real answer….either one.)

    1. Julie:

      Your 13 year old hasn’t asked yet? Can we trade children for a while? Currently, I would like him to go back to Lincoln Logs, preferably the kind he has to whittle out of real trees. That’d keep him busy for a while.

      LEGOs would work, too.

      Also, ignorance is excellent. That works for me.

      Unless he asks. And then it’s full court press honesty.

      “Yes, honey, your momma was a pole dancer.” 😉

  7. Wow! Excellent conversation from a t.v. show.

    Your talk with your son reminded me of mine with my son just a few days ago. We were reading a Judy Blume “Fudge” book, in which Peter & Fudge’s mom is pregnant. Fudge wants all the details, and once he learns them, begins teaching his classmates and everyone else who will listen just exactly how a baby gets made.

    So my 9-year-old son says to me, “How ARE babies made?” I said, “It takes a little bit from the mom and a little bit from the dad.” He said, “But HOW?” I asked him, “How much do you want to know? Because when I told your sister, she said, ‘EWWWWW!'” He pondered a moment and then said, “I don’t want to know that much. You don’t need to tell me.”

    Talk about relief! For some reason, having this talk with my daughter was much, much easier!!

    1. My son has know all the details and names of the pieces-parts since he was quite young. We are a “medical family,” so no flinching about the real names and functions of things. In fact, dinner time this generally when we discuss these matters.

      Based on what I know can happen on school buses these days, I felt my son needed to be armed with as much information as possible so he could distinguish between “good touches” and “bad touches” from an early age and try to get help if he needed it. Luckily, he never needed it.

      That said, now that he is in middle school and just starting to show a vague interest in the opposite sex (read: he actually knows a few girls by name), I’m really glad he knows about thins because the girls are turning out to be pretty aggressive. 😉

      Send your son over here, Kathy. My dude will tell him everything he needs to know – and then they can build with K’Nex for an hour or two. 😉

  8. I found your blog via Mompetition. I thought the same thing when I watched Glee. I am going to copy it and save it for when it comes time to talk to my kids about sex.

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