Raising responsible citizens
Our young adults are in charge of their sexual and political futures
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I’m thinking about citizenship right now, specifically, Webster’s 2b definition:
Citizenship, to me, has to do with personal responsibility and how it overlaps and interacts with responsibility to one’s community.
I care deeply about citizenship and hope I got that across to my kids. It’s hard to know. I didn’t model it in a conscious way, like, “I will now teach my children the value of citizenship.” I just tried to live it.
Anyway, two things got me thinking about this:
The release of Gabrielle Blair’s new book, Ejaculate Responsibly.
The midterm election, which is coming right up.
Taking responsibility for one’s sexual- and civic lives are examples of citizenship that are particularly relevant for teens and young adults, so I wanted to talk to you about it.
Embracing sexual responsibility
Sending my kids off to college included frank (but brief) conversations about sexual health. We supplied each with birth control, discussed consent, and reminded them they had access to the campus health department. Beyond that, we let them know we were here if they needed to talk about anything else. Uh, thanks, Mom and Dad, we’ll be in touch.
This book changed how I would’ve approached those conversations.
In Ejaculate Responsibly [Amazon/Bookshop.org], Gabrielle Blair shifts the conversation away from yes-or-no abortion gridlock to something most of us can get behind: preventing unwanted pregnancies. She points out that men1 can drastically reduce (if not eliminate) unwanted pregnancies by taking full responsibility for the whereabouts of their sperm.
If your first thought is now, hold up, two people are involved, of course, that’s true. But only one person is fertile 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
I can’t do the book justice in a summary; you must read it to grasp the elegance of its argument. (It’s a fast, fun read.) Once you follow Gabrielle’s calm, clear-eyed reasoning, you’ll never think about sexual responsibility the same way again.
Ejaculate Responsibly respects readers of all genders no matter where they fall on the political spectrum. I think every young adult should read it (hell, anyone who has sex or wants to should read it).
I’ll drop purchase links + reviews + podcast interviews in the comments. Thanksgiving conversation starter, perhaps?
Embracing civic responsibility
My kids are of voting age. I’ve drilled into them the importance of voting in every election, and they wholeheartedly agree. But when the time comes to actually vote, shit happens to the best of us, right? People get sick, there’s a huge paper due the next day, or they don’t know where to vote.
Your kids might be new to voting, or they might have gone to college in a state where voting works differently than at home. If you’re wondering how (or if) to approach them about voting, here’s my opinion:
1. Encourage them to vote.
How they vote (which candidates they choose, which laws or measures they support) is up to them.
Whether they vote is also up to them, but it’s good to express your values out loud, I think. Voting is an act of civic participation and responsibility. Enough said.
2. If they’re open to it, help them make a voting plan.
If they want your help, you can ask questions like:
Do you know where your voting location is?
Do you know how to get there?
Can you vote early?
Vote.org has state-specific details.
If your kid hasn’t yet registered to vote, they might still have time. Some states offer same-day voter registration. If they’ve missed the voter registration deadline where they live (it happens), encourage them to register anyway so they will be ready for the next election. Vote.org will show them how.
Have I raised good enough citizens?
Finally, I wanted to pass along something Caroline said in last week’s Q&A:
As far as worries, I have a lot of them related to whether or not I've done enough to prepare my kids for their next chapter. I want them to call when they need us, but I also want them to fly.
(Thank you, Caroline.)
I felt this so much! It goes back to what I was musing about at the beginning of this issue: how can I know if I taught them enough?
It’s a trick question because there’s no answer. We “teach” our kids in so many ways: through words, examples, and habits. What they take from our teaching, and how they interpret it…that’s anybody’s guess.
I know this. I know my husband and I are decent people who did our best as parents blah-de-blah, but I still worry we left out some crucial life skill. COVID obliterating “normal” life didn’t help. Part of this stage, for me, is learning to tolerate that worry.
As Tricia said in the comments of Salad For Dinner:
The twenties are a tough decade (he’s 29 now)--not much money, stress about how to “succeed” in life, really shitty apartments, life lessons often learned through hard knocks. I remember my own twenties were that way anyway. And I often wish I could just swish all that hardship away. But, nope, can’t. My task now is to focus on my own life pursuits, support him all I can, and trust he knows his own path. Because he truly does.
Trust, trust, TRUST. Trust them, trust ourselves. BAHHH! Parenting is hard!
Lots to ponder. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
PS. An extra hug for those of you supporting students through their college applications right now.
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Ejaculate Responsibly is written from a cisgender, heterosexual perspective. From Gabby’s note on language: “It’s important to make that clear so that you can manage your expectations before you begin, but also because I want everyone to feel comfortable here. Yes, it’s a cisgender, heterosexual perspective, but perhaps you’ll find descriptions in these pages, about things like power dynamics and responsibilities, that can serve all perspectives.”