Middle school brings menstruation, body hair, first kisses and school dances. Parents who eat regular dinners with their kids hear about issues sooner rather than later, and it’s a good idea to practice NOT looking horrified. Preteens are more likely to share if no one has a stroke.
My sons had questions about nocturnal emissions. I stressed the importance of putting hard, cakey towels or sheets on top of the dryer rather than in the hamper for mommy to find “accidentally.”
Zachary came home one day with another concern.
“Mommy, Tyrone took off his clothes in PE today. I didn’t stare. But I was just wondering – we’re vegetarian and Tyrone eats meat. Do meat-eaters have bigger…you know…?”
“Babe,” I said with a smile, “if that were true, there’d be no male vegetarians on the planet. Your penis size has nothing to do with what you eat. You’re Irish and Jewish, so best not to compare yourself with Italian friends – or anyone named Tyrone.”
Those three years also brought discussions around how no means no, more detailed sex talk that included respect for women, birth control, safety, and disease-prevention. We covered intimacy, emotional maturity, and privacy when it comes to matters of the heart and body.
We also discussed porn.
“It’s normal to be curious about how it all works. Back in the good old days you could sneak a peek at your uncle’s Penthouse or Playboy magazines and no one got hurt,” I said.
“Can we look online?” Jacob asked.
“See, that’s the problem,” I said. “Those websites could have a virus attached to their pictures and when you download something, it’ll ruin our computers. At worst, you could think you’re downloading a grown woman, but ten minutes later federal authorities are at our door because she’s underage. Next thing you know, your only options are community college and a part-time job at McDonald’s.”
I thought for a moment and came up with a solution.
“Ask Daddy for advice on this one,” I said. “You’re lucky to have parents you can talk to about these things and he’s pretty smart about technology. I believe he has all the safe websites bookmarked.”
Stories in the news about kids swapping naked pictures on their phones, and getting charged with adult crimes, were shared in the hopes my boys would learn from others’ mistakes.
High school brought a whole new set of topics. We forbid slut-shaming, but asked them to avoid girls who use promiscuity as a method for getting attention. Their spring play was Cabaret, where the lead character gets an abortion, so we talked about effective ways to prevent pregnancies.
Cabaret. Really? Whatever happened to Oklahoma!?
Zachary came home and asked the following question, “What if a girl says she’s on birth control, we have sex, and then she gets pregnant? What if she wants to keep it? Does that mean I have to pay…”
“For the rest of your life,” I said. “That’s exactly what that means.”
“Seriously?” Jacob chimed in, as always. “A boy has no options?”
“Oh you have lots of options,” I said, “before you put your penis inside someone. Afterwards, that is her body and her decision. As a longtime champion of reproductive freedom, I’d fight any law that says otherwise. So think about those options, boys. And choose wisely.”
Any grown woman knows that is easier said than done. I’ve explained to my sons that when I was a women’s health counselor in college, most women facing unwanted pregnancies listed condoms as their method of birth control. The safest thing to do, besides not having sex in the first place, is to use a condom to prevent STDs and still pull out before ejaculating.
Condoms are available in our home. We don’t want our boys to be at the point of no return when they have to exercise self-control or a successful dismount for the first time. Like we told them in Little League: practice makes perfect.
If your kids are entering their teenage years, keep in mind that while they remember the updated sex-talk from elementary school when you explained fallopian tubes and why mommy and daddy sometimes need privacy in the laundry room, they’re about to kick it up a notch.
Especially if you have one of those ridiculous “ask me anything” households.
Here are some gems my kids hit me with their freshman year.
“If a girl is wearing an I Eat Dick bracelet on the first day of school, can I still ask her out?” I got to use my favorite saying: Tell me who you go with, and I’ll tell you who you are. Either they practice good decision-making, and get to continue making their own decisions, or I sign them up for extra AP classes so they don’t have time to date. It’s their call.
“What’s auto-erotic asphyxiation?” I try to always be honest and make eye contact. After answering the question, I explained that orgasms feel good enough without a near-death experience thrown in for good measure. “Please jerk off in the shower like normal teenagers.” Those were my exact words.
“Why do girls lie about rape?” That’s been all over the news lately. I explained that, statistically speaking, this is very rare. But as the mother of teenage boys, I won’t pretend I’m not scared. I told them to trust their instincts. If they see a red flag, they should exercise caution. Most girls are good people, just like most boys. But getting naked with someone is a big deal. It involves a host of complex emotions that even adults have trouble navigating, never mind someone with a partially-formed frontal lobe. Our growing children must pick their friends and romantic partners very carefully.
Store consent videos on the cloud.
And still pull out.
Again, those were my exact words.