SEXUAL INSTRUCTION FOR THE YOUNG
[continued from yesterday]
...It has been frequently said that the mother should teach the girls and the father the boys. This rule becomes more appropriate as the children grow older. Girls between the ages of thirteen and seventeen would more naturally turn to their mother, whilst boys of the same age would more naturally turn to their father. Parents may take this as a healthy instinct and use their judgment accordingly to direct it.
But questions begin to arise in the child mind long before the age of thirteen. As the mother is occupied almost entirely with the children during their earlier years, it is her duty rather than the father's to watch for the signs of awakening intelligence. Knowledge should never be thrust into the child's mind before it is asked for. The state of innocence or ignorance, whichever we like to call it, is better kept untouched as long as possible.
If a boy or girl can be kept in a state of innocence, without fear of being smirched by other and more precocious children, say up to the age of thirteen or fourteen, he will be all the better for it both in health of mind and health of body. To put sexual images into a child's mind before due time is to start a tendency towards precocity and moral depravity. The arrival of a new baby is best explained by saying that it is a present from God, and has come in God's good way.
Together with this protection from the unripe fruit of knowledge there should be a corresponding observance of sex hygiene. Irritation due to uncleanliness, or to tight and hot clothing, may easily cause undue sexual development and so become the source of moral difficulty in the future.
If any signs of abnormal sexual development appear a doctor should be consulted. Under no circumstances whatever should children be allowed the taste of alcohol. It leads both to drunkenness and impurity.
There comes at length a time when explicit knowledge is in order and must be given. The dawn of a more intelligent interest begins to glimmer. It comes so innocently, so naively, that it is just as likely to express itself in the presence of the mother as in the presence of other and older children. That is the mother's opportunity.
Then, and not until then, may she give the information. If, as is frequently done, she silences the question by saying that it is one that ought not to be asked, or if she ignores it by talking of something else, then she has missed the opportunity given to her by God through nature. The child's interest has not been crushed, but has even been accentuated and probably directed into a dangerous channel. He will ask the question again, and perhaps when he does get an answer it will be adorned with the attractions of vice. The impression will come to him that somehow the facts of sex are very wicked, but at the same time very alluring.
No! When the right moment hag arrived, when the mother judges that if she does not speak some one else will, then she must say the word solemnly and plainly. The fact of sex is something holy and mysterious. If the child wants, to know anything about it, it must ask mother and not other people. Children grow in the mother's body and when the time comes they are born...
From Marriage and Parenthood, The Catholic Ideal
By the Rev. Thomas J. Gerrard
Author of "Cords of Adam," "The Wayfarer's Vision," ETC.
Copyright, 1911, by Joseph F. Wagner, New York.