Thursday, November 1, 1990
Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:
Gilda Radner's Roseanne Roseannadanna always ended her long monologues on
Saturday Night Live by concluding, "It just goes to show you, if it's not one
thing it's something else...." In my experience, it's usually something else,
and you never know when that something else is going to happen.
A few weeks ago, I was asked to be part of a panel of "experts" for a program
on teenage sexuality being held by Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation's youth
group. The other two panelists were a local high school psychology teacher and
a nurse from the same high school. I guess I was the Judaism and sexuality
spokesperson. In any event, I went to the program confident that I was
somewhat of an expert, having worked lo these many years with teenagers at camp
(some of whom actually confide in me on these matters), having fathered two
strapling lads myself, and having read a fair amount on what Judiasm has to say
about sex and sexuality.
But one never knows when the teacher is going to be taught by the students, and
that's what happened to me that night. We spoke at length that evening about
the "normal" teenager/sexuality subjects; making good decisions, peer pressure,
sexually transmitted diseases, etc. It was when we began talking about
parent-teenager relationships that it happened. The actual subject of the
moment was, "Why most teenagers feel uncomfortable discussing sex and their own
sexuality with their parents." One of the youth groupers (who I'm proud to say
is also a member of our camp staff) raised her hand and offered one of the most
astute observations about the parent-child relationship. She said,
"Perhaps kids have so much trouble speaking to their parents about sex because
we consider sex an adult topic and children are uncomfortable speaking to
adults about "adult" things."
From my perspective, this also points out that adults are uncomfortable hearing their children speak of things which are perceived to be out of character for kids. Sex is an adult topic. Kids are kids. Therefore, teenagers are uneasy speaking in front of their
parents, just as their parents are uneasy hearing about and talking about sex
with their own children. Yet it seems easier for a teenager to talk to someone
else's parents, and for a parent (like myself) to talk to someone else's
children about sex. Why? Perhaps it's very difficult for us parents to see
our own children grow up and begin dealing with those things which are part of
the "Adult" world. It makes us feel old, and it reminds us that our children
don't need us in the same way they did when they were little. And every parent
cherishes the memories of their chlidren as babies, toddlers, and youngsters.
We parents would like you to grow up much more slowly.
I think that one of the reasons being a camp director is so interesting is that
there is so much to be learned each year. I know that I teach others, and that
makes me feel good. But inevitably, each summer, or at any given program or
meeting or class, I learn from you. Its exciting. You never know when someone
will say something that will blow you away intelectually, and provide you with
food for thought for weeks after. "It just goes to show you..........."