I lunched the other week with a good friend whose parenting I admire. Her oldest is the same age as Billup, and we started talking aboutand how to discuss body changes with our kids. And I suddenly realized that, while I’ve broached the topic a number of times with Billup, I have never talked about it with our older child, Boof.
Sure, several years ago, I gave Boof a couple of easy picture books on where babies come from and what happens to your body during puberty. I’ve also brought up, with both kids, topics ranging from sexual orientation and gender identity to respect for the opposite sex and the potential emotional ramifications of having sex before you’re ready. But beyond responding to Boof’s occasional excitement over finding a stray armpit hair, we’d never gone in depth about the changes that occur with puberty.
And that’s pretty much the way Boof prefers it. But I fancy myself the open, accessible, non-judgmental parent—which I’m pretty sure is impossible when you carry Asian genes, but still I persist in my fantasy—so after my lunch date, I decided this conversation would take place ASAP. Whether the boy liked it or not. For his sake.
That evening, after Ted and Billup had gone off to basketball practice and Boof and I were washing dishes and making the next day’s lunches in the kitchen, I very casually brought it up.
“Hey, so, I just realized, I’ve never discussed puberty with you or anything.”
“So you don’t have any questions? You know about wet dreams, masturbation, all that stuff?” I rinsed a bowl and placed it in the dish rack.
“Mom, oh my God! Really, it’s OK! I’m good!” Boof began slathering Nutella onto an open Kaiser roll. Then, joking, he added: “Good talk we just finished having, Mom.”
“Oh, we’re not finished,” I responded as he groaned pitifully. “I just—you know, if you rely on health class and your friends for all your information about this stuff, you could be totally misinformed.” It occurred to me that health class and his friends probably knew more about puberty and sex than I did, but these are the small lies one has to tell to be an open, communicative parent. “If you have any questions, I just want you to feel like you can ask me or your dad, OK?”
I continued for several more minutes as I washed more dishes and he continued packing lunches. After I finished talking, there was a slight pause. Finally, Boof said, grinning, “I pretty much tuned you out about five minutes ago, Mom.”
Even so, the way I saw it, The Talk had gone well. The boy hadn’t run away screaming. I had made sure that Boof understood I was available to answer any questions he might have. And the point was mostly to maintain open lines of communication, anyway.
Lines which, another friend of mine joked, Boof has been trying to sever for years. That’s no doubt true. But it’s not going to happen on my watch.