I read somewhere once, or maybe someone told me, that whatever you were interested in when you were seven years old reveals your true passion and gives you the clue as to what profession you should be pursuing as an adult. At first, I scoffed at this idea. When I was seven I wanted to be a million different things when I grew up. But the more I thought back, the more I came to realize that this might actually have some truth to it.
When I was seven years old, I attended OLMC – Our Lady Of Mt. Carmel Elementary School. While I don’t want to date myself too much, let’s just say that I attended when nuns made up half of the teaching staff and they dressed in full black and white habits. Sr. Joan of Arc was the principal at the time and she never, not in all my eight years at that school, ever smiled. Not once. She was as old as the hills and had a presence about her that terrified most of the kids in my class – especially when we were just tiny, little First Graders.
Prior to my entrance into elementary school, my mom had started to get a little tense about my proclivity to want to play doctor with anyone, at any time. I think she thought that maybe I’d end up a harlot (nothing could be farther from the truth, actually!) but I realized that I was just super curious about how the whole sex and babies thing actually worked!
I’m sure it was with more than a little trepidation that she enrolled me in First Grade at OLMC. I’m confident that I received more than one lecture about school not being the place to play doctor, keep my hands and ideas to myself, etc. And I fully understood what she was saying and was at least halfway into the school year without incident. Until the day that the other kids on the playground started talking about sex. Well, maybe not sex, but body parts involved in sex. And as I sat still and listened to them as they used made-up and incorrect words to describe said body parts, I snapped.
“Oh – you guys don’t know anything! You don’t have a wee-wee,” I announced to Kevin Sark, “you have a penis! And you!” I pointed to Wendy Casler, “It’s not called a “down-there” it’s called a vagina!” Seeing that I had their rapt attention, I wasn’t about to stop my sex education class al fresco now. And so I began to tell the 8 or 9 little kids surrounding me in a circle exactly how babies were made. It wasn’t until I was ending with, “And that’s how the baby gets inside the mommy’s belly!” that I realized Sr. Joan Of Arc was standing just above me. The tone in her voice when she called out, “Barbara Buckner!” was unmistakable. I was not supposed to be teaching kids on the playground how to make babies. That might be the biggest Catholic Grade School No-No of them all.
To my mom’s credit, when she got the phone call later that evening, after listening for what seemed like an eternity, she responded with, “Well, at least she was correct!” I don’t even remember being reprimanded for this – just one more very, very long lecture about how I wasn’t supposed to be teaching other children about how sex worked – that this was the job of the kids’ parents.
Flash forward and maybe an obvious confession: Guess what I do for a living? I teach Childbirth Education classes and have for the past 16 years. It is my true calling and passion, so I guess this whole thing might be true after all. And even though my kiddos have not been caught with their pants down playing doctor, all of them as children of a CBE know more than most adults do about body parts, sex, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, the list goes on. We have discussions about these things at the dinner table all the time. We’ve watched birth films together and just recently stayed up late and skipped dessert so that we could watch the updated “Miracle of Life” movie.
Two of my children (14 year old girl and 12 year old boy) are receiving sex ed classes at school this year. How interesting that each of them talked about how unintimidated they were and how they actually raised their hands to add to the discussion. My daughter said that following a birth film that the class had watched, many of the girls were talking about how “gross” it was and how they never wanted to give birth. Now I’m all for educating about birth control at this young age, but how it warmed my heart when I asked my daughter how she’d responded and she said, “It’s not gross! Our bodies are amazing!”
I’m not sure what my daughters and sons will want to be when they grow up. But when they’re older and trying to figure it all out – I might encourage them to think back to what filled them with wonder and curiosity when they were 7 years old. It might just give them some ideas…