Here's how to banish parental embarrassment and end forever the feeling of awkwardness when explaining the role of father and mother in reproduction.
It is a marvelous experience to become parents. But it is quite another matter to teach the children you gendered how you became their father and mother! Why should the miracle of life be so awkward — for parents — to explain? It is, after all, not your children who are embarrassed. They are inquisitive and curious. There is an answer to this needless dilemma. A special approach for the father and mother who recognize the need but have been embarrassed when attempting to explain the divine significance of love and sex In marriage and childbirth.
The foundation of knowledge
We accept the Bible as the foundation of all knowledge, so let's use it as the starting point for sex education in the home. Let God speak for you to your child — right out of the Bible. Let whatever embarrassment you feel in explaining your parental role in reproduction become His. After all, you are only quoting Him when you read the Bible to the child you occasioned to bring into the world. Take your favorite modern translation. (Let us suppose that it is the Revised Standard Version.) You turn to Genesis 1, verse 11, and you let God say, "Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth." That turns out to be a direct quote from the lips. of the Creator God. No occasion to be embarrassed here. But you want to comment on the divine utterance. Then let Moses help you with his inspired comment: "The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good" (verse 12). You have now been able to explain to your child that what he sees in the garden — plants and trees reproducing seed for the next generation — is good. Reproduction in plant life in which the flowers are sexual organs producing male pollen for the female ovary at the base of the flower is good — because God created it to be that way.
A special natural blessing
Now you let God speak again in verse 20: "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens." Here are creatures having various levels of conscious awareness unlike plants and trees. God now gives to them a special blessing. "God blessed them, saying, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth'" (verse 22). "And God saw that it was good," comments Moses in verse 21. Did you catch the significance of this? It is a natural blessing for fish and sea mammals and birds to be able to sexually mate and reproduce. God blessed them with sexual reproductive experiences, which include, you might explain to a curious child, nudging of the female fish by the male, touching the external sexual organs of the female bird by the male and complete copulation among sea mammals and certain fish and waterfowl. God similarly blessed with reproductive capacity a host of insects and land mammals who consciously and instinctively share their bodies in reproduction. By this time your emotional fears should be fast disappearing when explaining reproduction of plants and pets to the children you brought into the world.
What about human beings?
"But what about us human beings?" your child might query., Again we pick up the answer in Genesis 1. "God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion... over all the earth'" (verse 26). God made us to be in a special way like Him. The human capacity to think and to develop character lifts man as far above the animal realm as the animal world is above the plant realm. Moses tells us how God designed the human being. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (verse 27). Fathers are male; mothers are female. "And God blessed them, and God said to them" — We will stop here to note an important distinction. God made plant life to reproduce. God blessed a host of creatures in the animal world with the capacity to share their bodies with the opposite sex in reproduction. But here we find God not only creating human beings male and female, but blessing them and talking to them about that special blessing. "And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it'" (verse28). Because man is in God's image, God can enter into conversation with man. And the first matter He discussed with them both together involved sexual reproduction — "be fruitful and multiply." When finished with the physical creation on earth God pronounced it all "very good" (verse 31).
Origin of the family
Animals and birds and sea creatures mate and on occasion may pair for a season or for life. But they do not marry and share family life. Only man is endowed with this special relationship. This is easily explained by reading to children the account in Genesis 2. "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'" (verse 18). So God formed woman "and brought her to the man. Then the man said, 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; and she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man'" (verses 22-23). God brought the woman to the man as a father brings his daughter as a bride to the groom in marriage. Then God says (compare Gen. 2:24 with Matt. 19:4-5) as part of the first marriage ceremony, "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." These words of God should have been written as a direct quote, you can explain to your children. They reveal that a man and wife are meant to become father and mother and have children. The man is to cleave to his wife — to share his emotional and mental and spiritual life with her. By now you are prepared to explain to your children the rest of this Genesis account. Together husband and wife are also to share their physical life — to "become one flesh" — join their separate bodies together through romantic love in sexual union. God designed male and female anatomy, you can explain, so husband and wife can join their bodies together as one flesh. That is what God was instructing the first man and wife as he performed the first marriage. God was not embarrassed. Neither should you be when reading these verses to your children. Furthermore, God inspired Moses to add the helpful comment (so you would not have to fumble around for words) found in verse 25, "And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed." It was their honeymoon and no other human beings were around to disturb them. Later, of course, after sin entered, and with it the corrupting sense of guilt and shame and embarrassment, "the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them" (Gen. 3:21).
The answers are plain
It is a surprise to many, who have never closely examined these first three chapters of Genesis, how much God helps us to find answers to questions children — and adults, too — ask about sex and marriage and family. We are not left wondering how to respond. The answers are plain when read. Of course, God expects that we add to this spiritual revelation additional knowledge as our children's minds mature. Thus, when a child first asks the meaning of Genesis 4:1 — "Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain" you can turn to the same verse in another translation that clarifies it — The New English Bible (NEB). Knew in this sense has a technical meaning pertaining to sex, you can explain. It is translated freely in the NEB: "The man lay with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain." For the young child this translation would be answer enough. For the child in early primary years you will probably have to explain the meaning of "conceive" in simple terms. And for this you ought to acquaint yourself in advance with the primary book on this subject published by the Worldwide Church of God. Herbert W. Armstrong wrote it. It's titled The Missing Dimension in Sex.
Add to your knowledge
The Bible is the foundation of knowledge. Indeed many more chapters relate fundamental knowledge on homosexuality (Gen. 19), on premarital sex (II Sam. 13), on sexual responsibility before marriage (Gen. 39), on sexual love in marriage (Song of Songs by Solomon). But these are only the broad principles. Mr. Armstrong saw 30 years ago the need for a special book incorporating an additional fund of knowledge on sex, marriage and the family. That is why The Missing Dimension in Sex was written. In an introductory statement the hope was expressed "that parents will recognize the urgency of placing this volume in the hands of their own adolescent children." The need is as urgent today as it was 15 years ago when first written (1964). No other book more clearly expounds the sacred meaning of sex, its divine purposes and its God-ordained uses. Its five dignified graphics of sex anatomy provide a clear introduction to the written text. Every husband- and wife-to-be should read it. And every father- and mother-to-be. And every young person approaching teenage should read and reread it. Material in it can be expounded by parents to young children, always bearing in mind that each year new material from the book becomes relevant to children as they mature. Keep one step ahead of your children at all times by having the answer before they have the question!
And natural childbirth, too
For half a century the teaching of the Church of God has been that natural childbirth is the normal way God ordained we bring children into the world (barring some accident, of course). And that women. were designed to nurse children at their breasts. For three decades ours was nearly the only voice crying out this way of life. Happily, within the last two decades many responsible men and women, professional and nonprofessional, have come to the same understanding. A number have written books on the subject. Some of the great photographers of this generation have contributed their skills to expanding our understanding of natural childbirth and breastfeeding. In the remainder of this article, I will introduce those volumes that I have found graphically most helpful in explaining conception and birth. Some are designed for early years; some for teenagers. If even some of these books were in your personal library, you would find as a father and a mother your emotional and intellectual tasks in sex education in the home greatly aided. I will describe these books in the order God presented the material in Genesis 1. With the creation of the animal world first, then man. Four wonderful books for young children are available explicitly depicting the birth of a calf, the birth of foals and the birth of twin lambs. These books enable the parent to expound the subject of birth without the emotional stress that comes with identifying our roles in human reproduction and birth. The author's name appears first, then title and other pertinent facts.
Cole, Joanna: A Calf Is Born, William Morrow & Co., Inc., 105 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y., 10016, $4.95. Isenbart, Hans-Heinrich and Anders, Hanns-Jorg: A Foal Is Born, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y., 10016, $5.95. (In Canada it is published by Longman Canada, Ltd., Toronto, Ont. It is also available in German under the title: Ein Fohlen kommt zur Welt, published by Reich Verlag.) Miller, Jane: Birth of a Foal, J.B. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia, Pa., $6.95. Miller, Jane: Lambing Time, Methuen Inc., 777 Third Ave., New York, N.Y., 10017, $6.95.
For the maturer child, there is a beautiful volume, in full color with more elaborate text, expounding instinct, hibernation, breeding behavior, maternal care. Sexual reproduction in animals is presented tastefully as one part of the whole web of life. (Only at the beginning is there a minor reference to evolution.)
Burton, Maurice: How Mammals Live, Elsevier Phaidon, $12.95.
The most impressive photographic story of human reproduction and birth for maturer children is by the great Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson. A thoughtfully written text accompanies superb color and black and white photos. You will see the fetus in the womb and a child being born. The text is especially helpful for fathers to expand the role of the male in reproduction.
Nilsson, Lennart: How Was I Born?, Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence, 1 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, New York, N.Y., 10017, $6.95.
Parents of young children should find the text and photos of the following volume helpful in explaining reproduction and birth. The text is designed to be read to children by parents who sometimes find themselves at a loss for words.
Stein, Sara Bonnett and Pinney, Doris: Making Babies/An Open Family Book for Parents and Children Together, Walker & Co., 720 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y., 10019, $6.95.
Written for the English audience and available in the United States is a small candid volume, done in pastel colors.
Sheffield, Margaret: Where Do Babies Come From?, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, N.Y., $5.95. Originally published in Britain by Jonathan Capt Ltd., London.
Another British work for maturer children is Vol. IV in the series Basic Biology in Color. A dignified but explicitly photographed birth sequence is included.
Krieger, Morris: The Human Reproductive System, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 419 Park Ave. South, New York, N.Y., 10016, $6.
An absolutely beautiful volume, also by Mr. Nilsson, expounds reproduction and natural childbirth in text and color photos for teenagers and the newly married:
Nilsson, Lennart: A Child Is Born, same address as Mr. Nilsson's other volume, $11.95.
A thoroughly helpful volume in beautiful color, especially for the teenage girl and young mother-to-be, is a study in pregnancy and infant care.
Trimmer, Eric, M.B.: Having a Baby, St. Martin's Press, Inc., 175 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y., 10010, $7.95.
A new concept in natural childbirth has been pioneered by the French doctor, Frederick Leboyer. His book is designed to "revolutionize the way we bring our children into the world." It is for all age groups including grandparents!
Leboyer, Frederick: Birth Without Violence, Fletcher & Son Ltd., Norwich, England, paperback $5.95. Also in hardcover. The original work was first published in France under the title Pour une Naissance Sans Violence by Editions du Seuil, Paris.
The subject of contraception will inevitably arise when instructing teenagers. Only one volume has done graphic credit to the subject — though it does not mean we would approve every method recommended. The volume covers the entire spectrum — sexual anatomy, the role of the male in conception and contraception, pregnancy and birth — all in quality artwork.
Demarest, Robert J. and Sciarra, John J.: Conception, Birth and Contraception, McGraw-Hill Book Co., 330 W. 42nd St., New York, N.Y., 10036, $8.95.
The one relatively expensive item I have chosen to include is for those who may have opportunity to teach groups of young people outside the home. It is a spectacular set of 79 35-mm. slides on embryonic and fetal development with text on tape.
Allen, John M.: Biological Aspects of Sexuality/Module 3 — Human Development, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 10 E. 53rd St., New York, N.Y., 10022, $85. There are other modules in the sequence I have not chosen to include here.
I would like to conclude this list of significant works for sex education in the home with a change of pace — a story of two young people who shared high adventure, were morally above reproach, fell in love, married, had their first child by natural childbirth on Santa Catalina Island., Calif., and who are special friends of mine. It is the life story of Robin and Patti Graham. He' is the boy who sailed around the world alone from 1965 to 1970. It is an unforgettable story for younger readers that is a fulfillment of a true "Genesis marriage."
Graham, Robin Lee with Gill, Derek L.T.: The Boy Who Sailed Around the World Alone, Western Publishing Co., Racine, Wis., 54300, $6.95.
This listing is not meant to be definitive. But from a photographic, artistic and textual point of view, this list will prove as helpful as any supportive items to assist young fathers and mothers in presenting their respective roles in the drama of human reproduction and birth.
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" — so admonishes Paul in Ephesians 6:4 (Revised Standard Version). Yet, when it comes to instruction in matters of sex, fathers too often tell their children to ask mother. In early 1950s Herbert W. Armstrong saw the danger in this neglect of responsibility and wrote The Missing Dimension In Sex to fill a vital gap in human knowledge.