Someone once told me that whatever you were interested in when you were a seven-year-old reveals your true passion and gives you a clue to what profession you should pursue as an adult. At first, I laughed 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 realized that there might actually be some truth to this.
When I was a seven-year-old, I attended OLMC – Our Lady Of Mt. Carmel Catholic Grade School. While I don’t want to date myself too much, let’s just say that when I was there nuns made up more than 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 there, ever smiled. Not once. She was as old as the hills and terrified most of the kids in my class – especially when we were just tiny little first graders.
Before I began elementary school, my mom had started to get a little tense about my proclivity to want to play doctor with anyone, at anytime. I think she was genuinely worried I might end up a harlot! But that wasn’t it at all… I was just super curious about how the whole sex and babies thing worked!
Mom was more than a little bit anxious the day she enrolled me in first grade at OLMC. I remember receiving more than one lecture about school not being the place to play doctor, and to keep my hands and ideas to myself. I understood what she was saying and had made it at least halfway into the school year without incident. That is, until the day the other kids on the playground started talking about sex. Well, maybe not sex per se, but they were definitely talking about the body parts involved in sex. And as I sat still and listened to them using made-up and incorrect words to describe those body parts – I snapped.
“None of you know what you’re talking about! You don’t have a wee-wee,” I announced to Kevin, “you have a penis! And you!” I pointed to Wendy, “It’s not called a “down-there” it’s called a vagina!” Seeing that I had their full attention, I wasn’t about to stop my “Sex Ed Class – Al Fresco!” now. And so I began to tell the eight or nine 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 unmistakeable. I was not supposed to be teaching kids on the playground how to make babies. This particular transgression might be the biggest “Catholic Grade School No-No” of them all! For sure, I’d have to offer this up in confession later and it would take saying two “Our Fathers” and at least three “Hail Marys” to receive absolution.
To my mom’s credit, when she got the phone call later that evening and after listening for what seemed like an eternity, she didn’t freak out at all. She only responded by saying, “Well, at least she was correct!” I don’t even remember being reprimanded for what happened – I just remember receiving one more very, very long lecture about how I wasn’t supposed to be teaching other children how sex worked. That job belonged to their parents, not me.
Flash forward and maybe you’ve already guessed what what I do for a living… I teach Childbirth Education classes and have for the past 20+ years. It is my calling, so I guess there might be some truth to this whole idea 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 have been known to stay up late and skip dessert in order to watch “The Miracle Of Life.”
When my two older children received sex ed classes at school, I found it interesting that each of them talked about how unintimidated they were and how they actually raised their hands to add to the discussion. My then 12-year old daughter said that following a birth film 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 birth control at this young age, but it warmed my heart to hear that she’d responded with, “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 out – I might encourage them to think back to what filled them with wonder and curiosity when they were seven years old. It might just give them some ideas…