Seat belts, bike helmets & condoms — OH MY!

I’d like to begin saying, I have no interest in engaging in any sort of philosophical debate. I firmly believe that each person is entitled to their opinions, traditions, and beliefs. I can respect you even if I don’t happen to share your opinion, tradition, or belief. I trust that you can do the same.

If you read my essay dressed like a rubber chicken, then you know that I find it useful to create a foundation for the more important topics very early on. I like to share ideas and concepts with my kids before it occurs to them to feel weird about them. I think that part of what makes having a comfortable, age-appropriate conversation about sex next to impossible is that we frequently wait too long to begin that conversation. At some point it may begin to feel like an accusation — which must be defended against — rather than a friendly exchange of information.

So — while we have had all of the requisite discussions about the birds & the bees at different points — it was, I felt, time for another. The SAFE SEX conversation.

While I agree that the safest sex is no sex at all, I am also a realist.

I wanted to throw it out there when it was age-appropriate, and yet BEFORE I thought it was “necessary.” I wanted it out there BEFORE the boyfriend/girlfriend, BEFORE the driver’s license, BEFORE the unsupervised parties, BEFORE, BEFORE, BEFORE.

I wanted to have this conversation at a time when my child knows that I know that he/she is not sexually active. This way, my child knows that she/he doesn’t need to get defensive, or shut me down. I’m not fishing or accusing — I’m passing on information. If I procrastinate, that may not be the case. I believe timing is key when it comes to receptivity.

When I thought the time was right, the conversation (prefaced by a little intro much like the preceding paragraph) went a something like this:

What do you do when you get in the car?
Buckle your seat belt.
Why? You might not be involved in an accident.
You do it because it’s not worth ending up in the hospital or the morgue when you can protect your body with the simple act of buckling your seat belt.

What do you do when you ride your bicycle?
Wear a helmet.
Why? You might not fall off of your bike or get hit by a car. You do it because it’s not worth ending up in the hospital or the morgue when you can protect your body with simple act of wearing a helmet.

What do you do when you have sex?
Use a condom.
Why? You might not wind up with an unplanned pregnancy or an STD.
You do it because it’s not worth ending up in the hospital or the morgue when you can protect your body with the simple act of using a condom.

I want safe sex to sound like as much of a “no-brainer” as possible. I want it to sound like using a condom during sex is as OBVIOUS as things they’ve been doing AUTOMATICALLY for literally AS LONG AS THEY CAN REMEMBER. I don’t have to remind them to buckle up or wear a helmet anymore. They just do it. (Though that doesn’t stop me from reminding anyway).

Don’t ride in a car without buckling up, don’t ride your bike without a helmet, and don’t have sex without a condom.


I observed that since our conversation was not an accusation, or an attempt to extract information there was no pushback. Because we’ve been having casual conversations about body parts & functions, and making age-appropriate information available for a decade or more it didn’t seem totally out of the blue. The response I got was a respectful, “Okay. I get it.”

I occasionally get a little smirk or an eye-roll when we get in the car and I ask, “Are you buckled up?”

I get a little extra “Yes, Mom!” when I say, “Make sure you wear your helmet” on the way out the door.

It’s worth it; because, now every time I say those things, I’m really heard saying “use a condom EVERY TIME you have sex.”

Think about it.
Could you “un-hear” a conversation with your mom where she likened a condom to a seat belt?
I know it’d be seared into my consciousness!

​I can say it in front of friends, family and total strangers. We are the only ones who know that I’m really imprinting a safe sex mantra. CODE: USE A CONDOM.

Will it work? I don’t know.

Maybe in 20 years, I will have the courage to ask if it made a difference in any decision making. I can only hope to tip the scales in the favor of health & safety.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say. ​I believe it’s true for driving, cycling, sex, and parenting.