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Innocence Glossed

I apologize in advance if my column ends abruptly today; chances are good I’ll be hauled off to jail before I finish saying what I’m about to say.

You see, I did an unforgivable thing. Some might even call it abusive.

I allowed my fourth-grader to wander into the room while I was watching Boston Legal, during which two lawyers ravaged each other in office chairs, elevators and (heaven forgive them) a judge’s chamber.

My son now has a twisted understanding of what it means to take the law into ones’ own hands.

But it doesn’t end there.

A few weeks ago, the boy saw his father and me making out in the kitchen while he was trying to eat his breakfast.

I didn’t think much of his premature exposure to the tawdry under-belt of life until I heard that a Wisconsin mother was recently arrested — just want to make sure you read that right: a-r-r-e-s-t-e-d — for having a factual but explicit discussion about sex with her kids. Amy Smalley, 36, allegedly told her 11- and 15-year-old sons about some of her sexual experiences, described oral sex and showed them a vibrator.

Now, I’m not saying I want the woman baby-sitting my kids. Clearly there’s a line between “educating” and “seriously grossing out,” and she appears to have crossed it. The younger boy, not surprisingly, told a school counselor the discussion made him uncomfortable.

But felony? Really?!

Opponents of school-sponsored sex education are always saying the subject should be addressed at home, not in the classroom. But when a parent opens her mouth on the subject — as well as the, um, drawer on her night stand — she faces more than three years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

All of which reminds me of a call I got recently from a parent at my son’s school. It seems my 9-year-old had found a Playboy magazine sitting in plain view at the not-especially-kid-friendly home of a relative. Unbeknownst to me, he had perused the periodical (the “College Girls” issue, oy) and chosen to share his insights with his classmates the next day.

My husband and I talked with our son about age-appropriate reading material, and the downside of discussing girlie mags on the playground. But it didn’t surprise me that he peeked at its pages; it’s natural to be curious about anatomy and, well, dorm life.

No, what surprised me most was a comment this other parent made. “I’m sure you understand,” he said, and he was very nice about the whole thing, but … “We like to keep our kids innocent as long as we can.”

We do?

The facts are these: Sex is as integral a part of human life as food, and sleep. And like rainwater rushing down a mountain, dodging rocks and circumnavigating trees to get to sea level, kids will learn about sex one way or another.

That’s why I’ve always valued information over innocence, preparation over protection. So did Ms. Smalley, who, in the end, proved to be a protective mother after all. Still maintaining she did nothing wrong, she pled guilty and accepted a year of probation so her kids wouldn’t have to stand trial against her — a far more traumatic experience than hearing about mom’s adult-oriented romps.

She’ll have to think twice now before answering her teens’ questions about adulthood, which is sad. Until they come for me, I’m going to keep watching my sordid sitcoms and kissing my spouse willy-nilly. No pent-up lawmaker’s going to tell me how to …

You’ll have to excuse me. Someone’s pounding on my door.

Published inColumnsParenting

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