I remember the day as if it were yesterday. My son, who was 11 years old at the time, excitedly walked into my room in the middle of the afternoon.
“Mommy, I’m a man now!”
I choked on my water, literally.
I sat there with my mouth wide open and really didn’t know what to say. Then I asked the first thing that came to my mind: “Well, where did you put it? I hope you didn’t touch the doorknob.” Needless to say, he informed me that he hadn’t and had already washed his hands.
I always knew the day would come when puberty would strike and he would have questions. Sure, there was a health-education class in school, but that would never be a substitute for a good sit-down with a parent.
As a single mother raising a son, I thought that the logical thing to do was to get my son’s father on the phone. We called his number but were not surprised when it went straight to voice mail, since it was during the workday. We left a message, but my son was still hell-bent on talking about what had occurred. I was never one to discourage my son from being open and honest with me, but I still felt unprepared.
When I was growing up, there really wasn’t any sort of open communication in my household, especially about the ways a body changes during puberty or sex. Everything I learned came either from health class, Judy Blume books or a trashy romance novel. Even though my mother was around, I still didn’t feel comfortable discussing sex with her. And she never brought it up. I guess she figured that if we needed to know something, we would eventually ask.
I appreciated the fact that my son felt comfortable enough to come to me and discuss what had happened that day. After I took a few deep breaths, we had the “talk”—the birds, the bees and everything in between. I told him that bodily functions, especially ones dealing with arousal, weren’t anything to be ashamed of.
For me as a woman raising a son, and co-parenting long-distance, it was one moment (of a few in my son’s life) when I questioned whether I was equipped to properly help a boy become a man. Throughout the conversation, I was second-guessing myself. I even went so far as to “phone a friend.” I needed a man’s advice, and thankfully there were a few around to give it to me.
I’ll never proclaim to be the best advice giver, but once we were done with our conversation, my son gave me a hug and thanked me.