Do you remember the angst of being a teenager? It was a sensory overload kind of experience that is all too easy to forget. There was just too much going on to remember it clearly.

You had a mind newly capable of higher reasoning but you had very little knowledge to apply it to. If you’re a male, hormones controlled most of your day (in one way or another), negating the benefits of your newfound capacity for rational thought. If you’re a female, I honestly don’t know what you thought about but I do know that it was confused, harried, and filled with unnecessarily stressing emotions.

Adults seemed not so much stupid as clueless, detached from your sense of reality. Peers influenced your actions more than anybody else. As you would hang out with your friends there was always something in the air, that sense that–somehow, someway–sex was nearby.

My lovely bride and I were discussing teenage sex recently. Not in a sicko pervert way, mind you, but in a holy-crap-our-kids-will-be-teenagers-in-a-few-years kind of way.

You see, when we were teens, our parents and our churches and even some of our friends taught us that teen sex was bad, was evil. It was bad because God said so. You could even sorta, kinda find Bible verses that obliquely talked about premarital sex being bad, though the Good Book was awkwardly vague about it.

The point is, when we were young, we were steeped in a culture that frowned heavily on teen sex, or really any kind of premarital sex. Now, though, we’ve discarded the inconsistent and infuriatingly ham-handed faith of our youth and its attendant moral proscriptions. We are in a place that leaves us only our reason and our judgment to ascertain what is right and wrong.

This is a liberating place to be, but it’s also a bit confusing at times. Contrary to what many of the religious claim, no longer pretending to know what we don’t know–that is, no longer having faith–does not leave us in a world of “anything goes.” But we do have to rethink everything, and how to properly parent our children through puberty and beyond is one of them.

We cannot fall back on some authority like the Bible or God. We have to be proactive. We have to think. So we did. Here is a random sampling of our conversation:

  • Is it ok for teens to have sex? More generally, when is it ok to have sex? At marriage? After high school?
  • What if your son is 14 and he says he’s considering having sex with his girlfriend? Do you forbid it? Do you applaud his unheard-of openness with you? Do you take him to the store and make him buy his own condoms (the theory being that if he’s man enough to bonk he’s man enough to buy condoms out there in the open at Walgreen’s)?
  • Say your daughter is 19 and you’re sitting down at a coffee shop on her college campus and she mentions a new boy she’s been seeing. Then she tells you about the great sex they’re having. Is it a good thing that they’re having sex? Is this a conversation you’d ever want to have with your daughter? Why or why not?

These are difficult questions requiring much actual deliberation. But here’s the great part: We didn’t have to look up the relevant Bible verses. We didn’t have to consider God’s will, that bane of the Christian’s decision-making mind. All we had to do was think.

And we figured it out. No god required. What a joyous thing!

(But, no, we’re not going to tell you. You can do your own thinking.)