(my futile attempts at sex education)
Like many parents of pre-adolescents, I faced this new stage with trepidation. Could googling parenting sites along with intensive Starbucks group therapy equip me to confidently provide sensitive, informative answers for those discomforting questions about you know what – the birds, the bees and things that go bump in the night? Do all these tiresome efforts at enlightenment guarantee (your tween returned minus shipping and handling) the hapless parent will receive an anointing from on high to discuss awkward, embarrassing material without letting on, before God and the astute eleven and twelve something crowd that you truly are awkward and embarrassed?
So, there I stood, armed with petals of parenting wisdom committed to memory. I eagerly devoured sacred words gleaned from the holy books of the numerous mommy war gurus available on Amazon.com. In full-fledged denial, I underestimated the difficulty of this aspect of child rearing. Of course, I would not stammer and sputter like my parents did. I imagined the comfortable adult to thinks he’s adult talk we would have.
I broached the subject with my husband. “I think it is about time you and Matthew had a man to man talk about things he needs to know,” I suggested.
“Why?” he countered, never looking up from his laptop. There’s nothing I can tell him. Matthew already knows everything.”
“He just thinks he does,” I argued. There was no response. Perhaps it would be better to talk about this some other time.
Matthew, my almost twelve-year-old rummaged through the refrigerator frowning. “Mom, what’s Viagra?” Excuse me self-help deities, but that one isn’t in the books. What answer doth drip from your honorary Ph.D. sanctified lips on that one? So, abandoned to my own devices, I did what any sensitive, caring, intelligent, honest, open-minded, modern parent would do.
“Go ask your Dad,” I replied. I opened the dishwasher and began to stack the dinner plates on the lower shelf. Matthew trudged down the hallway to his dad’s office/den/pigpen.
“Mom,” I heard loudly, less than thirty seconds later. “Daddy told me to ask you. He can’t talk to me right now. He says he is really busy. He says he has important work he has to finish up right now,” my son informed. “Then Daddy shut the door and locked it.”
I carefully lifted the delicate-stemmed wine glasses, the five I still had left of the set of six, and set them down on a dish towel placed on the counter. “ So, what’s your Dad doing now?” I probed.
My gangly boy tattled gleefully, “He’s watching TV and playing air golf.” Matthew licked his peanut-butter covered fingers.
Ok, so dear hubby slammed the ball back into my court, or at least it was now on my side of the net. “It’s something you’re too young to understand.” I proffered. He volleyed back an eye-roll. A collective curse on whoever decides to air these “sensitive” medical ads prime time. Next, I employed the Corrie Ten Boom tactic. If you’ve read the well-known book, “The Hiding Place,” you may remember a part where young Corrie asks her father what “sexsin” means. He tells her that just as her suitcases are too heavy for a young girl to carry onto the train, some things are too heavy for her to carry and he would carry them for a little while longer for her.
My almost 12-year-old wasn’t going to let me off so easy. He assured me his own newly-muscled arms were (duh) capable of carrying any heavy burden, as long as it wasn’t the household garbage. I took a deep breath and tried to approach it from the medical angle. “When people get older,” I was winging it here, “they sometimes have problems when they…”
“When they what, Mom?”
“When they want to be close and…”
“Why, old people don’t want to have a baby, do they?”
“After a certain age, women can’t have a baby,” I instructed. Matthew still thought Mom and Dad only “did it” twice, once for each child.
“I know. You wouldn’t have another baby, would you? Joshua would sure hate that,” he said.
“It’s not likely,” I mused.
“Yeah, you’re too old,” he added.
“Thanks,” I replied.
“I didn’t mean you were really old, Mom. I just meant you were sort of old,” Matthew explained. “Know what I mean?”
I knew exactly what he meant.
“So, Mom, you know, really old people…you mean like Grandma and Grampa…you mean they still do that? Like when you hear all that noise? Like the mattresses?”
“That’s correct.” I told him. I blew my nose so I wouldn’t burst out laughing. We have a relatively new and rather expensive mattress that passes the “no squeak” test, despite occasional vigorous usage. But that time at the motel sleeping on a not-quite the same quality mattress, and we thought the kids were asleep and, well you know…
“I know, people don’t just do it to have babies, they do it…” he trailed off.
“Because they love each other and want to be close,” I finished.
Matthew made exaggerated smooching sounds as he hugged himself, “Because they want to be close,” he mimicked me.
“Does something happen to their (children’s common word for private areas) when you get older?”
Matthew’s pre-teen mind already had some idea what this medication was supposed to accomplish. Somehow, he had arrived at the conclusion that when a person got older, their uh…necessary equipment shrank and Viagra effected a return to normal size. He really wasn’t too far off the mark. I fumbled in my attempts to clarify the matter, taking comfort that at least he didn’t decide to discuss this with grandma.
Employing every bit of acquired wit and wisdom to get through this conversation with my oldest, memories of another time, another place and a similar conversation sprang into my conscious awareness. I cringed at the replay of my mother’s stuttering attempts at sex education, and my triumphant teenage skill in driving her to utter humiliation, never to bring up the subject again. You see, long, long ago (nearly 30 years) and far, far away (the opposite coast) a conversation went something like this:
Mother: you know …down there. (shamefully)
Me: Down where? (innocently)
Mother: You know what I mean. (flustered)
Me: No I don’t. What do you mean? (triumphant)
With this in mind, I realized that whatever was dished back at me, I deserved. Still, I plowed on. He had this puzzled, yet determined look on his face that told me the drive was spinning and files were being accessed. “So, what you’re saying, if you’re old, you need to take Viagra to get a rerection?”
“That’s called an erection, not a rerection.” I corrected.
“I understand now,” Matthew added, satisfied. I turned to go back to whatever I was doing. “When I get older, am I going to have hair down there (pointing to the appropriate area) like Daddy does?” he added.
“Yes,” I answered.
“That’s disgusting,” he curled his lip like he does when broccoli and cauliflower are served.
“I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do about that.” I smirked and turned to rinse out the sink.
“Mom, can I ask you something else?”
“Sure dear,” I groaned.
“Mom, what’s a yeast infection?”