My son has become completely obsessed with the telephone. He calls people all the time. Mom, can I use your cell phone? Ben, the regular phone is right over there. Yeah, but a cell phone is so… cool.
He just hung up leaving a message for his girlfriend. At the end, he left a kiss.
What was that? I asked.
Mom, it’s nothing, I just did… and he made a kissing sound again.
That sounds like a kiss. Should I discuss this with (the girl’s) parents?
Have you kissed her?
Do you want to?
OH MY GOD MOM, don’t write that in your blog!
(I am talking and typing at the same time. They’ve read the blogs- no, not all of them, but some. He knows I write everything they say.)
I haven’t kissed her.
Do you want to?
I’m not answering you…
And then from the other room, he says,
Okay. Puberty. He’s turning twelve in October. I am completely unprepared for this. When he was about six years old, I remember he kept tugging at his pants, at the crotch of his pants, or just plain ol’ digging straight into his underwear.
Ben! You can play with you penis in the privacy of your own room. Not in the grocery store.
Ben! It’s not going to fall off, I promise. You don’t have to hold on. Please get your hand out of your pants.
Ben! At least go wash that hand before you eat those French Fries.
Finally, Walter, who was at the time growing into his role as Dad, not quite there yet that many years ago, said to me, are you sure it’s not his underwear? Does he wear boxers or briefs?
Briefs. Cute ones, with Batman on them. Why?
Get him some boxers. Maybe they are too tight.
Boxers tried. Still incessant tugging, pulling. Back to Walter, who, at that point, became my penis advisor. Hey, I don’t have one, what the hell do I know about penis care?
Maybe he needs to pick a side.
Pick a side? What are you talking about?
You know, it kind of hangs down and you need to pick a side or else it gets rubbed or stuck in the middle. That hurts.
Pick a side… who knew? Okay. So the next time Ben was grabbing at himself, I found myself, lesbian mother with no penis experience, saying, calmly, Ben, you need to pick a side for your penis. It will be more comfortable.
Now I have to get on the phone with Walter because how does one pick a side?
Here, I hand Ben the phone, ask Walter.
Since then, we’ve been through the hole in the underwear issue- I’m advising my boys to carefully pull their penis through the little pocket to pee, with their zipper unzipped. Okay, call me a fool, but it seems that’s what all the extra fabric is for and the opening. I thought it was one more functional aspect of men's clothing that confirms the fashion industry's hate of women.
No, Walter tells me. You just unbutton the top button and tug down your pants a little bit and pull it out over the top. You don’t use that tiny flap. My god, you’d strangle it!
Now I don’t feel so bad about the horrible design of bras.
I wish I could say I’m done learning interesting penis facts. I am not. Each of the younger boys has their own takes on all things penis related. And I have to get ready for the onslaught of puberty questions. I don’t mind talking about sex- we have to some degree since they were very little. I think it’s important to give age appropriate information along the line. When Zachary came home from kindergarten and asked me what sex was, I told him.
Okay, I copped out and gave him a very limited heterosexual model- it can be when a man puts his penis into a woman’s vagina. Sex is how a baby can be made; you know the egg and the sperm? We’ve talked about that. There are many other variations, but why do you want to know? (There can’t be any absolutes in our family. Have to leave the door open for the sperm bank, and their own parent’s version of love.)
One of my friend’s told me it’s when two people kiss each other’s butts, Zachary explained what I clearly did not understand.
My, I thought. What is going on in his house?
I told him I wanted him to always come and ask me these kinds of questions. Rarely, I said, would his friends have the right information.
That was relatively easy and I choked a little on it. Now I’m listening to my BABY make kissing sounds on the phone with his- gulp- girlfriend? What’s next? The condom demonstration on the banana? Will her parents ever let him come over again if they read this?
And how do I start dealing with sleepovers? From my own experience, I know I have to watch Ben with a girl as much as I have to watch Ben with a boy. Boys more often have sexual contact with another boy first, even if they are straight, than with a girl. If I say that to a straight parent, are they going to flip out on me? And am I supposed to smile and say, boys will be boys? I can’t. I know there are power dynamics involved that lead to abusive situations- no one makes thoughtful decisions about sex at eleven, twelve- sometimes not even at forty. How do I equip Ben with the right information, acknowledge his growing body, keep him safe and give him freedom to become a young man?
For now, I’m going to ask him when he makes kissing sounds on the phone. I tease him, gently, and hand over my cell phone for him to make another call. To another girl.
How to handle two women at once? Let Walter try and answer that one. That's where having a lesbian mom will come in very handy.