My son innocently asked the other day why his sister had a day off school.
‘Is it because her school is going to be a pole dancing club?’
‘No’, I corrected him. ‘It’s going to be a polling station.’
Now there were many emotions that surged through me when this dialogue occurred.
First was intense mirth, then a worried feeling in the pit of my stomach as to how and why he even knows that pole dancing clubs exist. And maybe he knows something about the local junior school that I don’t.
Just days later from this amusing incident he returned from school bemoaning the fact that they had to study reproduction in science lessons.
‘Yuk, it’s disgusting,’ he proclaimed. ‘We had to look at all these pictures of bits and then label a diagram of a man’s willy. Urghhh. And anyway, I don’t need to know all about reproduction because I know how to do it already.’
He then launched into an in-depth description of how babies are made which included phrases such as ‘then the egg hatches’ and ‘the baby plops out all slimy and disgusting’. I can assure you it was a long journey home that day.
I am sure that when I was his age (a couple of years shy of my teenage years) I wouldn’t have had a clue as to what a pole dancing club was (although in fairness they may not have been invented in provincial Hertfordshire at that time). I probably knew a fair amount about the mechanics of sex, not thanks to any liberal and open discussion at my all girls’ grammar school, but mainly thanks to a late night phone-in show on the radio.
Every Monday night at 10 I’d hide under the duvet with my radio tuned into LBC, the local radio station where I grew up. That weekly programme taught me more about bits and bobs and the consequences of waving them around than any embarrassing school lesson or frank discussion with my parents ever did. Not that the latter ever actually happened, of course.
I also learnt more about contraception through a series of bad jokes told to me by a friend of mine than the 20 minute talk we had at school by a woman, aged about 103, involving a cucumber and a condom. My daughter apparently had a similar discussion, but came home with a plastic sperm key ring.
But these days, in the absence of informative and slightly voyeuristic (or whatever the aural alternative is) radio phone-ins, our children have to rely on steamily inappropriate music videos, walking past ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ on the school run, and watching Dr Who do an actual kiss before the watershed on a Saturday evening. What an education that is!
Will our children grow up thinking that they have to gyrate in hot pants in order to gain a partner? Or travel through time and space and then snog someone who looks several years their senior?
What happened to good old fashioned playground hearsay and looking up anatomical words in the dictionary? It never did me any harm and, possibly thanks to the cucumber and condom lesson, I’ve now got three children and a vegetable garden.