Sunday, April 23, 2006

Why I can never be an actual parent

THE CONTEXT: Working with high school students at an independent teen-written newspaper it goes without saying that the First Amendment is of paramount importance to me. As a student many years ago, I felt as though my ideas and opinions weren't taken seriously because of my age (or lack thereof), so I highly value and understand my role in making sure that my students' opinions are treated with respect and given a platform. One area in particular that, I think, teens need to be heard and much better informed is sex education, especially with our curent leadership in Washington, which likes to think that by not talking about S-E-? it will go away until people are ready to start nuclear families.

In a joking way, as the only adult male on the staff, I have taken a "paternal" role at the newspaper. I tell the students (guys and gals) that they're not allowed to date until I'm dead or at least mentally incapacitated. I make sure that those who are dating are seeing people who "treat them right." In fact, my "grilling" is so intense that I "sound worse than my dad," according to one of my longtime students. Though I tell them that they shouldn't even be thinking about the opposite or same sex, I don't honestly feel that way, of course. And it's my sincerest hope that no matter what they face, they do so filled with as much reliable, scientific and medically sound data as possible.

Toward the end of our last staff meeting we went around the room and asked students to tell us about their new story ideas or for an update about stories they're currently working on. We got around to one student, a 16-year-old girl who attends and all-girls Catholic school, but she was a little too embarrassed to say her idea aloud. (She wants to write about masturbation and whether it's in fact a sin and about how the definition is taught in sex education. When she pitched the story idea, she couldn't tell her editor, because she was too embarrassed. Instead, she wrote it on a piece of paper and handed it to her editor.) After our the meeting ended, sheasked for an update on her story. She mentioned that she had sent a draft last week but hadn't received her edits yet. I told her to bug her editor and harass her for the next set of revisions.

She said OK and then hung around for a few minutes waiting for her ride. She started talking to two other students and they started comparing story ideas. When student 1, who attends the Catholic school, revealed her idea the two other students, who are sisters, had a positive response. I was very proud that they recognized the value of a story about masturbation and sex education. However, since I enjoy being "the dad" I also had to pick on them a little bit.

"You can't talk about that. It's a sin. You'll end up in hell," I interrupted.

"Oh stop it, Mike," said one of the sisters. Student 1 got sufficiently embarrassed that she blushed a wee bit and seemed silenced. ;)

"Yeah, it's a good story idea. It's natural," said sister 2.

"No you can't talk about that stuff. You're too young. We don't want you to get corrupted," I continued my "fatherly" speechifying.

After some laughing at my playing the "dad."

"Mike, you probably do it every day--"


"... Um, I'm not gonna answer that."

I'm never having kids.

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