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Where Tween Sex Ed Includes a Dick in a Box

I've written in the past about the value of having friends who have children the same age as your own. Equally valuable are friends who have blazed the trail ahead of you, who can give you a little heads-up, if you will, for what's to come.

Being a parent is confusing enough, but when you are an expat, the learning curve is that much steeper. You can't rely on your own experience to know what to expect for your kids.

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This is especially true when you have children in school. We live in the Netherlands, and my son started preschool this year. It really pulled the expat blinds wide open, exposing me as the immigrant mom I am.

Some school-related differences are very minor, but I anticipate them constantly. It really helps to know someone who's been through it.

I have an expat friend with two children who first entered the Dutch school system in 2007. From her, I was prepared for my son to do gym class in his underwear, because that's just how it's done here. Kids start school the day after they turn 4, any time in the year, and if you want them to miss school outside of scheduled vacations, you have to apply for permission. Mostly little differences.

The penis box is a box with a fake penis in it. Each child is tasked with reaching into the back of the box and blindly putting a condom on the penis while the others observe.

Sex education is also handled a little differently here. It begins as early as Kindergarten and focuses a lot on open communication—not learning to always say no, but how to say yes, how to convey what you want.

My friend recently chaperoned a field trip that her 11-year-old son's class took to a local hospital. They attended an informational presentation on the subject of HIV. It was organized by a group of volunteers with great intentions: they want children to understand how HIV can be contracted, how it can be prevented and how unpleasant the medicines are that you have to take to manage it.

All good stuff. But then something happened that raised my friend's eyebrows.

They call it a "piemeldoos"—literally, a penis box—and, from what I can gather, it is a cross between a sex toy and a game of pin the tail on the donkey.

The penis box is a box with a fake penis in it. Each child is tasked with reaching into the back of the box and blindly putting a condom on the penis while the others observe.

First, students were instructed to check the expiration date—which, yes, is important.

My friend was a little horrified.

We discussed it: it's good information, better received too soon than too late—and, unfortunately, it's not unheard of for 11-year-olds to be having sex. All in all, we decided, the HIV presentation was a good thing.

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And then we'd come back to the piemeldoos and wonder if it was really necessary.

But, thankfully, I have another seven years to decide if it's smartly funny or inappropriate—a good thing, because in parenting and safe sex, it's always good to be prepared.

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Image via NBC Universal

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