“Are there any cute girls in your classes?”
He flushes deep pink and scrunches up his nose and mouth at me. He is 11. Sixth grade began two days ago.
“What?” I say. “I just asked if you’d seen any cute girls at school.”
He’s been fiddling with something plastic and yellow. He raises it as if to throw it at me. A desperate half-guffaw escapes his scrunched face. He’s smiling, blushing, revealing multitudes.
“Dude. Put that down,” I say. “You know you’re not gonna throw anything at me.”
He releases the other half of his embarrassed little laugh as he lowers his throwing arm.
“Well?” I say.
I am smiling, trying not to make it tougher on him than I know it is. I was a sixth-grade boy and I remember how tough it could be, vividly. I remember everything.
I’m not teasing him. Not about this. I want him to know that. I don’t want to push, but it’s clear to his mother and me that he has enjoyed his first two days of middle school. We know this, because he has eagerly answered in great detail when we’ve asked him to tell us about his days.
And, hey, I’m doing this thing for AMAZE.org about “THE TALK.” Like any opportunistic journalist, I take advantage of his openness by asking him about the girls in his class.
I’m pretty sure I’m doing this wrong.
“HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW? I JUST STARTED SCHOOL! WHY DO YOU WANT TO KNOW? I DON’T KNOW! I DON’T KNOW! I DON’T KNOW!”
He laughs again, but I know he’s serious.
“OK,” I say. “I mean, you didn’t notice ANY of the girls?”
His left arm cocks in the throwing position again, and he laughs — the full bellow this time. He sprints around the coffee table and attacks, laughing all the way, masking his precious, preteen mortification with a rough-and-tumble moment with his dad.
I let it go.
But then I say …
“You know, we’re going to have to talk about this stuff one day. We’ll need to have ‘the talk.'”
His face goes blank.
“I know,” he says. “But can it wait?”
This is about childhood. He loves just being a kid. He knows, without me or his mother having to tell him, that once we have “the talk,” he will have leveled up. I love that he is so incredibly intuitive.
One day, I’ll tell him that’s his superpower.
Right now, though, on his second day of sixth grade, as he eases into this new middle school life as an intuitive, ridiculously smart and kind kid … I’ll just tell him that of course it can wait.
I’m pretty sure he already knows a lot, anyway. Probably enough to make ME flush deep pink.
“We’ll know when we’re ready,” I say, and he sprints away to the family room and Minecraft, away from any more potential parental potholes.
Will we know when he and his brother are ready for the sex talk?
We’re fortunate that both of our sons are strong communicators. When we must have heavy conversations with them, there is no need to resort to restricted vocabulary.
They’re good with words. So am I, and so is their mother.
But I’m not sure if I have the words for this.
I want to tell them that sex is not just physical — ever. I’ll tell them that yeah, it’s great, and it’s how Mom and I made them. It’s fun. It’s one of the great joys of life, or can be when done right.
The easy part, I think, will be the biology of it.
What I want to convey, when it’s time, when they’re ready, is that great sex begins with self-knowledge. It’s about trust. It’s about intimacy — physical, sure, but more importantly, emotional intimacy.
I want them to know that, and I want to be able to leave no doubt that we are here to help them understand anything they might need help understanding.
This is where AMAZE.org will be of tremendous assistance in the next few years. The organization produces short videos about sexuality that are made to speak to kids 10-14 (and their parents).
I like their message a lot:
- Sexuality is a natural, healthy part of being human. AMAZE is all about more info, less weird!
- AMAZE wants to help empower parents to be the primary sexuality educators of their kids —the goal of the videos is to inform and spark a conversation.
Are you stuck on the words, like I am? Amaze has a video I’ll reference when my kids do ask, “Where do babies come from?”
And here’s something I’m still not sure how to handle: How will my wife and I talk to our sons about masturbation?
I think this one on self-discovery and puberty will be particularly useful:
This one will help, too, for when we need re-assurance that our older son’s coming mood swings are not evidence that he’s been transformed into a werewolf:
If you’re a parent who, like me, needs a bit of guidance for the important conversations with our kids about sex and sexuality, check out Amaze on Facebook and Twitter. And give their videos a look on YouTube.
Be sure to look for the hashtag, #MoreInfoLessWeird, which represents Amaze’s philosophy of straightforward talk about sex and sexuality.
I partnered with Amaze to help raise awareness about their cool and useful videos on sex. All opinions are mine alone.