There’s been lots of talk about sex around the Glamore house this week, mainly by me. I’ve been reading Strong Mothers, Strong Sons, which says that boys approaching adolescence should be told everything their parents know about puberty. I thought I did a fabulous job of giving Finn a technically descriptive, exhaustive sex talk a while back. As I read the book, however, I realized that I had completely failed to mention wet dreams. What kind of mother advises her son so thoroughly on the care and feeding of a menstruating woman (back rubs and chocolate) and neglects to inform him about nocturnal emissions?
I called Bill at work and got his voice mail.
“Honey, I forgot to tell Finn about wet dreams when I gave him the sex talk, and I’m afraid he’s going to start having them soon. Do you think you could go over that with him tonight while y’all are driving from baseball practice to drums? You should have twelve minutes to cover it if there are no wrecks and you drive five miles over the speed limit. Love you!”
Bill wasted no time responding. His parents had not discussed the subject with him, and he would not be talking to Finn about it between drums and baseball. Frankly, given the way he’d comported himself during the sex talk, this was what I had expected.
Nevertheless, I called him back and complained that I was ill-equipped to discuss nocturnal emissions, having never experienced one myself. Bill was not swayed, so I resorted to rummaging through the depths of Finn’s closet until I located It’s So Amazing!. I marked the page about wet dreams with a sticky tab, and inserted a note:
Dear Finn: I wanted to make sure you knew about the stuff described in the first paragraph because I forgot to mention it in our talk. If you have any questions you can try asking Daddy, but honestly, he might die of embarrassment. I don’t mind if you just come to me. Love, Mama
I tucked the book under his pillow where he’d be sure to find it when he went to bed.
The next day I looked in his room and the book had been returned to its hiding place in his closet. I worried that he hadn’t seen the blue sticky tab, so I retrieved the book and put it on top of his pillow and pulled up his bedspread until the book was covered except for the very corner where the tab stuck out.
That afternoon the boys came home from school and the twins ran straight outside to squirt fire ants with the hose. I decided I’d had enough of stealthily circling the subject. I’m more of a straight shooter.
“Finn,” I said, “did you see the part I marked in your book about sex?”
“Oh yeah,” he said nonchalantly, pouring a glass of milk. “I already knew about those.”
“Great. And you know how below that it talked about what to do if your penis gets hard like a stick in class? I think you don’t need to worry about that because you wear really baggy shorts and no one’s going to notice it if you have an erection unless you start wearing tight leather pants to school.”
Finn gasped and spit milk onto the counter. “Mom, no way I’m wearing anything leather to school. And when I pop a boner in class, I just sit there a minute and it goes away. It’s no big deal.” He ate a tremendous slice of chocolate chip pound cake in two bites. “Anything else we need to talk about?”
It was my turn to freak.
“No,” I whispered. I was having a hard time standing up. “Pop a boner…pop a boner…pop a boner” reverberated in my head. Did my first-born, my eldest, just say that, so casually?
“Cool,” he said. “Is it okay if I go ride bikes with Henry? I’ll be back by five.”
What I said was,”Sure.” What I was thinking was “Pop a boner…pop a boner…pop a boner.”
Finn grabbed a bottled of water and headed for the door as I steadied myself on the counter. Before he walked out he turned around.
“You know what, Mom? It’s really cool that you can talk about things like sex and popping boners without going all nuts. Henry’s parents haven’t even said anything to him about sex. He has to ask his brother when he has a question, and he’s got tons of acne. No way he’s come close to a girl. I’m glad I can just ask you, and it doesn’t embarrass you, like, at all.”
I nodded and smiled, trying to maintain my reputation for not going bonkers. Finn yelled “See ya!” as he slammed the door.
I walked back to his bedroom and got the book from his pillow. I lay back on his bed and thought about how it seems like yesterday that I was reading Forever and learning about the mysterious penis.
Now I’ve married the owner of one and birthed three more. The mystery is gone: the penis is the master of the man and the boss of the boy. It’s my job to make sure the penises under my control are clean and well-behaved. It’s a challenging project, to be sure.