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Moving so often with the military has touched our lives in some unexpected ways. Ten-year-old Tommy, for example, is in the midst of what the public schools here refer to as Family Life Education, while Jimmy has yet to experience any such classes at the ripe old age of 13.

This has resulted in quite a bit of bragging on Tommy’s part.

When I asked Jimmy how he managed to make it to seventh grade without having to sit through any embarrassing health classes, he said, “Every time I was due to learn about it the next year in school, we moved!”

You’ve probably figured out what “it” he was referring to. In the 1970s, classes that discussed “it” were called Sex Education and were usually taught in junior or senior high schools.

For me, the only thing close to Sex Education class before ninth grade was an unexpected assembly for girls that took place when I was 10.

We were shown a film that was at least 20 years old and discussed menstruation. We joked about the funny hairstyles of the women in the movie on our way back to class.

The embarrassing part was facing the knowing looks and giggles of our male classmates. While we were sitting through that outdated film, they had been playing basketball.

“Lucky boys! It just wasn’t fair,” I told myself in 1977.

Almost 30 years later, I glanced at the forms my two older sons had brought home from school last fall and realized I was about to go through “Sex Education” all over again, but this time, as a parent.

I attended a Family Life Education preview held for fifth-grade parents at the school one evening.

It became obvious after the first few minutes that the classes were much more somber than what I experienced in 1981. The reason can be summed up in one sad, powerful word: AIDS.

Tommy came home one afternoon talking about not sharing needles and blood transfusions. I sat down and listened to him before trying to explain some of the reasons why Family Life Education had become so scary and serious since I was his age.

My 10-year-old and his classmates were taught that sexual intercourse can lead to death. It must be, as we said in the ’70s, pretty “heavy” stuff for them to take in at the same time they learned about using deodorant and taking a daily shower.

Speaking of which, Tommy’s teacher did an excellent job of teaching personal hygiene. I was talking to a friend on the telephone the afternoon that our boys had taken the personal hygiene class.

Her 10-year-old came home from school and headed straight for the shower. “I have to get off the phone and go find out what they taught them today,” she said.

Tommy also became Mr. Clean that day, taking a shower that night and the next morning before school.

He even used soap, shampoo, shower gel and deodorant, filling the air with so many spicy, clean scents I started to get a headache.

On the last day of Family Life Education class, Tommy came home and said, “Guess what one kid asked when it was over?”

Not giving me a chance to reply, he continued, “He asked if it was OK to giggle now.”

I was relieved, not because the classes were over, but because Tommy and his friends couldn’t help giggling over the subject of sex.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 16 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or find the Zichs online at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.


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