Sex Books

What's Going on Down There?: Answers to Questions Boys Find Hard to Ask

Mom-ita came in guns firing. She hit Amazon’s book section and found pages of books on puberty for boys. Within 36 hours three were on our doorstep.

“We’ve got books on sex coming your way,” I told M-ito.

He nodded.

“No, really. Your mom and I bought a few books on sex and puberty that can help answer questions for you about puberty and what’s going on with your body.”

“Okay,” he said.

I read through quickly, skimmed is the appropriate word ,all three and chose the one I thought would be the best fit: What’s Going on Down There? by Karen Gravelle with Nick and Chava Castro (an 11 and 13-year old boy). The other two books were written by women only. The boys’ perspectives were what swayed me. That and the illustrations. Oh and two chapters in particular: 1) one on what’s happening to girl’s bodies so the boys know what they’re going through, and 2) one on sexual orientation that talks about being gay, straight, and bisexual in simple, clear, affirming language. I showed M-ito a cartoon of five different versions of a naked male, boy to man (small with no hair to hung and hairy). This made him laugh. Another cartoon of a boy on a skateboard looking down into his own pants made him laugh harder. Three hours later he came up for air, having finished the book.

Two questions came up. “What’s an orgasm?” and “What’s an abortion? ”  “They use the words but don’t explain them.” He asked me these questions. Bingo. How I answered is not important (something about sensitive areas creating an electrical ball of lightning or ejaculation – I might have said something about the holy grail but I’m not sure – and then stopping a pregnancy early). Of course I over-answered on abortion as I couldn’t help explaining my political position on the issue. I spoke most of that part to his up-raised hand signaling me to stop.

And so, for now I think our job is done. M-ito is back to reading Inheritance by Paolini – an island before the next stretch of open sea.

Pea-nus

There are some words that lead to others. Some move us forward in life and some move us back.

Penis and vagina are two words we’ve used in this house since M-ito was small. They are part of our family vocabulary.

Peanus is, in this case, a warning that it’s time to talk to my son about the details of puberty. We’ve tried here and there. “Do you know how babies are made? Do you want to know what sex is? Did you know that Blazing Saddles is an R rated movie?”

Usually M-ito says, “I know, I know.” Or, “That’s enough. I know the rest,” resulting in short conversations. But the truth is, he does not know the rest. He’s just saying that because the conversation is uncomfortable. He may have heard what sex is. He may have heard a description (by us, by his friends – oh that’s not something you want to hear) but he doesn’t know what things look like. He needs pictures of some sort so he can make sense of the mystery.

I learned about women’s bodies from a kid who lived near our apartment complex who brought a ripped up copy of his father’s Playboy Magazine to share with us one summer day at the bleachers when I was seven or eight. It didn’t show me what sex was but it did show me things I had no idea were in existence other than boys lunchroom mythology.

I want M-ito to learn differently.

Which brings me back to the peanus. I can only say it has to do with a spelling error, History, a little sleuthing, and M-ito needing to tell me the truth. The rest I can neither confirm nor deny but I will say that I have since learned how to use the parental controls on all handheld electronic devices.

Pernicious Sarcophagus Suspect Tarantula

We play this game in the car a lot. One of M-itos friends taught it to us on vacation last year.

One person says a word, any word, and the next person has to come up with a word that begins with the last letter of the word that was said.

Is there a way to win? No. Not the way we play. So what’s the point? Well… it’s fun. Also we’ve come up with the following to add some spice to long car trips:

  1. try to use the biggest and most obscure words you can. Why say “end” when you can say ecstatic, or essential, or effervescent?
  2. try to stick the person who goes after you with the same letter each time. M-ito likes to end words with “y” or “k”. Hah. Even ending words in “e” can get challenging after a while.
  3. ask people to define a word if you think they don’t know what it means. For example, I recently used the word pernicious. Everyone knows it’s the sound that ‘nicious cats make.
  4. try to do this game only using the names of geographic places (cities, states, countries, mountains, rivers, anything that would appear on a map). Not as easy as it sounds, unless you have a map handy.

It used to be we’d play Who am I or I spy. I love that my son finds using words to be fun. I’m also just happy to have found another thing to do during downtime that doesn’t include the sound of electronic texting or app-tapping.

Difficult conversations, part 1 – Stranger Danger

So… I didn’t make up the stranger danger line, M-ito’s fourth grade teacher did and I just copied it. It has a certain zing though.

Anyway. This is the conversation we all need to have with our kids about adult strangers, private parts, and how the two should never meet. Of course Mom-ita and I realized we hadn’t had this conversation with M-ito about camp just about one hour into the trip… to camp. I know. I know. I’m a bad Dad-dito. Mom-ita and I realized this just about the same time (not that I’m a bad Dad-dito, but that we hadn’t had the stranger danger talk – work with me here). So we attempted to have this conversation as our son was just about holding on to his nerves knowing that he was going away for two weeks on his own to camp where he’d never been before.

What not to do:

  • Don’t bring this up on the car trip up to your son’s first sleep away camp. Otherwise… your son will drop his jaw and get a deer caught in the headlights expression on his face, followed by anger that’s expressed as, “You’re bringing this up NOW?”
  • See bullet one above. That’s really the only thing not to do.
  • Don’t bring up in detail the whole Penn State thing. It’s too complex. Don’t ask me how I know. I’ve done enough damage for one afternoon.

What to do:

  • Bring it up any time before the day of the trip to camp. A few days is probably better as a cushion.
  • Do tell him it’s not okay for anyone else to touch his private parts and make sure he knows (he’ll tell you, I know what you mean) what you mean.
  • Do tell him to get help from another adult at the camp immediately, if he can.
  • Do tell him to make noise and get away if he can.
  • Try not to make it seem like anything will be his fault.
  • Have these conversations with your child when he’s much younger so by the time he gets to the age of 10 and is going away to camp and rolls his eyes at you for bringing this up you know it’s okay because he’s been stranger danger talked to enough already. Then you can sleep well at night.
  • Prevention is protection.

A side note. When I brought this up with M-ito yesterday we talked about it a little more and it was okay. As long as I didn’t go on for more than 30 seconds, like I usually do. I actually stopped before my son said, “Dad-dito, that’s enough.”

Friggin’ Zombie Apocalypse

M-ito is home.

Ahhh. The dogs are happy. Mom-ita and I are happy. There is a giant sigh of relief in Jackson Heights.

After listening to a host of stories on the 3-hour (shopping at outlet mall, lunch at pizza place, Carvel at rest stop) drive home here are  Zendad-dito’s top three things my son has learned from his two weeks away at camp. This list is of course, totally subjective.

  1. Friggin’ may not be in the dictionary, nor is it a 4-letter word, but it can be useful when around other 10-11 year old boys for two weeks straight. My son had a lot of practice using it – so he sheepishly says. This made me smile. Experimenting with the English language is a good thing.
  2. “I learned that I can make a lot of decisions by myself.” M-ito said this with an authentic look of honesty and pride – a look that said, “I made a lot of decisions, some good, some bad, but I learned from them how to do better for myself.” This really made me proud.
  3.  Zombies are scary (especially as played by camp counselors) and can scare the crap out of you, but also make for highly entertaining and engaging large-scale roleplays – at the Zombie Apocalypse day at camp. “They had us barricaded in the rec room and said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t touch the doors!'” Zombies never lose their cool.

And finally… at the rest stop (see picture below) M-ito doing what he likes the most, eating Carvel ice cream and reading a book.

Dodgeball and Songs about God

And the answers to yesterdays quiz are 1 and 4:

1. made to play dodgeball for 2 hours
2. force-marched for five miles up mount Baldy and back without food or water
3. tortured with roasting marshmallows without chocolate or graham crackers for an hour before bed
4. made to sing songs about God
5. made to eat cocoa pebbles until their stomachs were ready to burst
6. made to watch Yellow Submarine three times in a row because of heavy rain in “the big house” which is like a prison

 We received another letter late yesterday. M-ito is doing better but still misses us. He received lots of our letters and has been overwhelmed by them. I can’t tell what that means in 10-year old speak. I’ll have to ask him tomorrow. Ah. We miss him too. What an amazing two weeks it has been. I just finished watching the last two seasons of Entourage – excellent. Mom-ita and I are going to dinner this evening after we clean the apartment. Dust bunnies are scampering.
Tomorrow morning we go pick up our son. Our home will be full again.
Oh yeah.

Trust the Process and other Such Jabber-Wockey

We’re picking up M-ito on Saturday, two days and counting.

The apartment has been strangely silent. Mom-ita and I have adjusted. We’ve had some wonderful time to ourselves while missing our son, sometimes alternately and sometimes at the same time. How strange that is – parental guilt laced with joy.

We’ve seen pictures of him since day five almost every day. He is smiling but then they wouldn’t take pictures of a disheartened and unhappy child, would they? Still, we have been trusting the process developed by the camp over its 125 years of service in helping children to be away from home for the first time.

We received a letter from M-ito on day nine of his adventure. It is the only letter we’ve received so far. He wrote the letter on his first full day of camp and let’s just say… he was not happy. According to his letter they were (you guess and I’ll tell you the answers tomorrow) on his first full day at camp:
1. made to play dodgeball for 2 hours
2. force-marched for five miles up mount Baldy and back without food or water
3. tortured with roasting marshmallows without chocolate or graham crackers for an hour before bed
4. made to sing songs about God
5. made to eat cocoa pebbles until their stomachs were ready to burst
6. made to watch Yellow Submarine three times in a row because of heavy rain in “the big house” which is like a prison

Seriously. If you read his letter it would break your heart. He actually said, “I miss you very much.”

Ouch.

I’m glad we didn’t get this until day nine. At the same time if we had known how upset he was on day one would we have gone up and taken him home? Did he expect that? Have we failed as parents and will he feel like we abandoned him? Do I foresee skyrocketing therapy costs in our future? Did we do the right things by trusting the process and the pictures and the words of his counselor? These are the things that keep Mom-ita and me up at night staring at the ceiling.

It’s almost 9pm Thursday evening.

Less than 2-days to go.