I’ve heard it said that teaching children takes more effort than teaching adults, because you need to make complicated ideas comprehendible and that’s a skill that takes a lot of work. That’s why when I saw that Patricia Weerakoon had written books for parents to read with children, I couldn’t help but be curious about what they would be like. Well, these books delighted me in some ways, and made me squirm in others – but the squirming is possibly my own discomfort with the conversations these books are meant prompt. I’d love to recommend these books to all Christians, not just Christian parents – because they bring clarity to complex conversations, they begin conversations that have probably already begun without parents knowing, and because they remind us again and again of the gospel.
Conversations around who we are, and how we work, are becoming increasingly complicated. Having spent a lot of last year reading books and academic articles about gender, I’ve dipped my toe into – but barely explored – the rabbit hole that is gender conversations. One child in a infants SRE class recently told me that there’s a transgender girl at school, and he doesn’t like her because she’s weird. I had to think hard about a response. It matters how we have these conversations but we cannot make the mistake of only leaving them in academic terms – there are real people involved in these ideas. When we speak about sexuality, gender, and porn especially, we need to have some sort of grounding. Weerakoon has done a brilliant job of grounding these conversations in clear, simple language without dumbing anything down. If you want to begin to engage, but the whole idea seems too hard, pick up these books and you’ll find yourself with a good foundation to begin to speak and think about the birds and the bees in this complex world.
The reality that somehow shocks me constantly is that the conversations these books engage in have already begun among children. The average age that a child looks at porn is getting younger and younger, and when an infant student can articulate a knowledge of, and a hurtful disdain for, a transgender student, it feels like we’re a little behind. Children have already waded into this water and we’ve got to wade into it with them, even if it’s a little cold for our taste. I’m not a parent. I’m a children’s minister. It is not my task to open these books with children, especially considering the sensitive nature of some of the content. But for parents, education of both yourself and your children matters. These are written for between ages 7-10, but obviously, it’s up to your own wisdom about when you would open them up. Let’s not hide our heads in the sand and pretend that children aren’t thinking through these issues or experiencing them themselves.
Finally, Weerakoon constantly brings us back to the Bible. We’re reminded again and again of the gospel, of who God is and how He feels about us, and how Jesus died to save us from our sins. There is a page in ‘Thinking about Gender’ in which she encourages readers to love others, even when they’re different to us – to love them like Jesus loves them – and in a climate where truth can mix too easily with exclusion and cruelty, that message matters. It matters that children know that their bodies – even the private parts – are good because God made the, but that He wants us to use them appropriately. The beauty of the gospel is that it speaks hope and truth into places of confusion and hurt, and gives us hope in Christ, and Weerakoon brings us back to the gospel, which is where we should always land.
My one caution about this book is that if your children, or even you, are not comfortable with frank language and detail about body parts, about sex, and various other things, then you’ll find this an awkward read. Read these books alone first and make sure the conversations you’re about to engage in by reading them with your children are ones you’re ready for, as well as your children, and perhaps begin with looking at our brains and how they work, and move onto the more confronting books as you go along. It’s a small caution, and it doesn’t change my recommendation – but please, be wise about these moments! I remember my first conversation about the birds & the bees, and the memory is not a good one. Do your best to have this moment be a prayerful, considered one.
Pick up these books if you want to understand more about the birds & the bees, from both a biblical and a scientific approach either as a parent or as a Christian. You won’t regret it, I promise.
(If you want to grab a copy, duck over to the CEP Store and get one there!)