I don’t know why, I think I’ve always had a strong paternal instinct and want to be able to raise a child in a loving environment, trying to teach it right from wrong and how to be a good person.
Having worked in schools for several years I am fully aware that raising children is like being pecked to death by a chicken. I fear the tantrums, the illnesses, the inevitable teenage drama and yes, the fact that one day, they will discover boys or girls.
I am fully aware that I will find it immeasurably tricky to deal with talking to my potential future child about sex. The knowledge alone that they will have it makes me want to exercise some form of police state in a bid to keep them safe.
How do I discuss it with them? How can I, as a gay man with HIV, give my child the facts about sex?
My instinct is to leave it to the school, but to what effect?
This is where the root of my concerns lie and I suppose the whole purpose of this particular blog.
In recent years there has been a staggering increase in STI’s and a growing knowledge gap demonstrating in my opinion the woeful inadequacy of sex education in schools and so to be honest I’m scared of leaving my child’s sex education to the schools.
My experience of sex education involved putting condoms on cucumbers. Seriously, cucumbers.
Aside from anything else the fact the average cock is smaller than a decent cucumber led to a feeling of overwhelming disappointment when presented with the real thing, a reaction from which I don’t think my first boyfriend ever really recovered.
There was little talk of risks, or STIs, instead there was a strong focus on pregnancy and procreation which, to be fair has never been a principle consideration for me. My knowledge of the risks was self taught.
There was also a lack of discussion around HIV – we watched a video from the 80’s I think narrated by John Hurt… It featured the word AIDS on a massive tombstone. This video was used, not because science and medicine hadn’t moved forward since the video was made, but because there wasn’t a replacement.
Within four years of leaving school I had contracted HIV. I was 19 when I picked it up in March 2006 and 20 when diagnosed in the August.
My reaction to the poor sex education was to do something about it, having worked in schools for a bit I decided that I had skills I could use and so contacted the local schools and went in to their sex education classes to talk with the kids and assist in educating them about HIV. If I thought my initial diagnosis was scary it soon proved to be as nothing compared with the horror of walking in to a classroom full of teenagers to talk about living with HIV. Surprisingly, they responded brilliantly and were much more understanding than I expected.
My message was simple; ‘Prevention is better than cure, particularly when there is no cure.’
I have often wondered if I would be able to impart this knowledge to a child of my own.
The hardest part of bringing up a child is letting go. I have often wondered about the probability that, if I am blessed with a child, I would be the sort of parent who says “yes, you can go clubbing, but I’m coming too” and I will sit there at the bar waiting for the minute my precious offspring starts talking to a boy or that girl who I don’t think is good enough for them whereupon I will swoop in and tell the offending mortal embarrassing tales of my kid’s childhood to scare them off before threatening outright violence.
Perhaps all we can do is try to train our kids the best way we can and to make sure they know that they are so loved and so beautiful and so valued that they would never need to see their value by how many boys or girls are interested in them, or to ever feel a need for validation or to link their worth with whether they are in a relationship or not. To let them know that they, just as they are, are perfect in your eyes and hope to God they find someone who loves them for exactly what they are.
To let them know that any boy, or girl who makes them look in the mirror and wonder if they’re good enough, is not worth their tears, and that no matter what, if they come to me in need of money, an alibi or legal counsel I will love them.
With that in mind, letting them go seems much easier, because they will always have my love.
I guess with that in mind, I have to accept the inescapable truth that every parent comes to realise at some point; that our children must make their own decisions -tread their own path and eventually, let go of the guiding hand.
Stephen (@SteveoftheMarch on twitter)