I realized there are parts of the talk that can’t be conveyed in words. In her book, “Girls and Sex,” writer Peggy Orenstein finds that young women are focusing on their partner’s pleasure, not their own. This is something I’m going to talk about with my girls when they’re older, but for now, I look for ways to help them identify what gives them pleasure and to practice articulating that.
“Rub my back,” my daughter says when I tuck her in. And I say, “OK, how do you want me to rub your back?”
“I don’t know,” she says. So I pause, waiting for her directions. Finally she says, “OK, up and to the right, like you’re tickling me.” I run my fingertips up her spine. “What else?” I ask “Over to the left, a little harder now.” We need to teach our children how to articulate their sensations so they’re familiar with them. I look for ways to play games with my girls at home to do this. I scratch my fingernails on my daughter’s arm and say, “Give me one word to describe this.”
“Violent,” she says.
I embrace her, hold her tight, “Protected,” she tells me. I find opportunities to tell them how I’m feeling, what I’m experiencing, so we have common language. Like right now, this tingling in my scalp down my spine means I’m nervous and I’m excited. You are likely experiencing sensations in response to me. The language I’m using, the ideas I’m sharing.
And our tendency is to judge these reactions and sort them into a hierarchy: better or worse, and then seek or avoid them. And that’s because we live in this binary culture and we’re taught from a very young age to sort the world into good and bad. “Did you like that book?” “Did you have a good day?” How about, “What did you notice about that story?” “Tell me a moment about your day. What did you learn?” Let’s teach our children to stay open and curious about their experiences, like a traveler in a foreign land. And that way they can stay with sensation without checking out — even the heightened and challenging ones — the way I did, the way so many of us have.
This sense education, this is education I want for my daughters. Sense education is what I needed as girl. It’s what I hope for all of our children. This awareness of sensation, it’s where we began as children. It’s what we can learn from our children and it’s what we can in turn remind our children as they come of age.