Hormones, hormones, hormones

I naively thought boys didn’t really suffer because of their hormones. Wow, how wrong can you be?

Our foster son is 14, just. I read somewhere recently that at, or around the age of 14, boys experience an 800% surge in testosterone. I think the whole 800% has happened this week.

We’ve had tears before school, tears on the way to school, tears after school, tears at dinner and bed time. And punctuating the tearful epsiodes are the arguments and the shouting. Arguments about absolutely nothing – ‘She’s always staring at me!’ ‘Nobody cares about me!’

‘I wanted to sit on that seat and she knew that!’ ‘He made a weird face at me.’ The list goes on.

There’s no point in trying to reason with him, or intervene, even when he starts hitting himself with toy guns and hairbrushes. He has to be left to rant and shout and work it out of himself. Then of course I get, ‘You didn’t stop me hitting myself…..you don’t care!’

I tell him that I do care but I didn’t want to get hurt and I felt he needed space.

‘Well next time, I don’t want you to give me space, I just want you to stop me hurting myself, OK?’

I suggest other ways he could take out his anger and frustration, we discuss hormones and the way they can take control of you and make you act – I feel so deeply for him, as a hostage to hormones myself once a month.

My husband and I have our own linguistic system to warn each other of the lie of the land, regarding our foster son and his mood. My husband comes in from work, raises his eyebrows at me in ‘Well, what’s happened today’ manner.

If I reply, ‘Low tide,’ he knows all is well. If I answer, ‘High tide and plenty of flotsam,’ he knows that the dinner table will be an unwinnable battleground of perceived slights, barbed comments and hard stares.

It’s not all bad, there are the quite times after the storms. Following one of his outbursts, or explosions, our foster son is left feeling perplexed by his own actions and the strength of his emotions. He comes to find me, once he is calm, and gives me huge hugs, telling me he has been an idiot, he is so sorry, he will never do it again.

I just hold him tight and tell him we love him, and silently hope for low tides tomorrow.

 

 

Advertisements
Hormones, hormones, hormones

Sex in Class

Channel 4 screened a programme last night about the parlous state of sex ed in UK schools, and the mission of  Belgian sexologist Goedele Liekens to change the situation.

It really gave me pause for thought. I like to consider myself as very open when it comes to talking about sex with my child. Any questions – I’m happy to answer them. I don’t really get embarrassed about the subject. So, there’s me patting myself on the back and thinking I’m doing  a great job, but ‘Sex in Class’ made me feel a bit inadequate.

Goedele was so up front, calm and matter of fact about every subject and area of sex, that she made me feel like a dried up old prude. Yes, I answer questions, but I don’t ever elaborate on subjects such as masturbation, orgasms or pornography. I’m actually just doing the bare minimum when it comes to imparting information about sex.

Goedele demonstrated the appalling lack of knowledge that girls, in particular, in the UK, have about their bodies. I know I was the same at the age of 14/15, but the girls in the class Goedele was working with couldn’t draw a diagram of their sexual organs. She tried to hide her shock at this as she handed the girls their homework. They were each given a hand mirror, which they were asked to take home and use to look at their genitals. One of the girls was so upset by the homework that her parent had to phone Goedele and make his concerns felt. She looked pretty depressed after the phone call.

I found the boys very interesting too. They were genuinely keen, in a respectful way, to engage with learning about sex from a girl’s viewpoint. They each made works of art showing the clitoris, vagina and labia, and ended the programme with far more knowledge, confidence and empathy for the girls in their peer group.

This is surely what we need in all schools. To see how empowered the girls in the class were by the end of the programme was quite amazing. They were telling the boys what was OK and what wasn’t, without embarrassment or apology. To see how much more sensible and thoughtful the boys were was also pretty mind blowing.

By the end of the programme I felt empowered too. Watching and listening to Goedele had given me an answer to my thorny issue – how do you teach sex education to children who have been sexually abused?

The answer has always got to be openness. It’s going to be tough for me. The children I am fostering have been abused from a very young age and their sexualised behaviour is hard wired into them. My reaction has been to shut the lid firmly on everything sexual, suggestive or adult. I’ve wanted them to regain their innocence and to forget what has happened, but it’s never going to happen.

I need to get real. The next time I am asked where babies come from, I am going to have sit down and have that conversation, calmly and sensibly, without censorship. At some point I have to trust in the children’s ability to relearn about sex in a healthy way. I have to dig deep and find my inner Goedele Liekins. She’s in there, somewhere……

Sex in Class