I don’t normally think to check the browser history, but this particular afternoon when I sat down to the laptop, there was a Google ad that made me curious what the person before me had been reading. And Jeremiah was away on a work trip.
Milo’s internet history 8th April, 2021.
First I laughed—my son has inherited my bad spelling, and apparently he couldn’t figure out how to spell “vagina.” I’m sure that “virginia” was disappointing, and v-gina was probably puzzlingly devoid of the detail he wanted.
Second, I realized that we’ve been launched into puberty, unawares. At 10, Milo is barely taller than his 7 year old sister, but his mind must be where all 10 year olds eventually wander.
Third, I reflected that I needed help. Clearly Milo was curious about sex, and I’m all for supporting curiosity, but I want him to bring those questions to ME, not to Google. He understands the basic mechanics of baby-making; we’ve been watching nature videos since he was a tyke. Last year was the first sex ed unit at school, but his only real comment when queried about the class was to wrinkle his nose in disgust: “You guys had to do that twice!” We just nodded. I didn’t feel ready to explain that in humans, the number one function of sex is not baby-making.
So I did what I always do when I need to decide a course of action. I queried various groups of friends and relatives whose kids are a bit older than mine.
First I emailed my Aunt and Uncle whose two boys are now young adults, and whose Christmas letter of many years ago had included a memorable episode about the oldest boy’s education on the subject of baby-making. They suggested two books both by Robie Harris, the first of which is titled “It’s So Amazing,” followed by “It’s Perfectly Normal.” They are matter-of-fact, colourfully cartoon-illustrated books with cheerful pun-loving characters. Not available at our library, but available through Amazon.
Second, I talked with an American friend who works with Jeremiah, and whose kids I think have “turned out” well. The husband actually said that his wife had handled basically all of those conversations, and that he’d lend us their books. The books that came home with Jeremiah the next day were the Robie Harris ones that I had been looking for, which was quite handy.
I previewed them myself one evening, then presented them to Milo. To my surprise he squirmed in embarrassment. I thought he’d devour the books, but instead he just blushes and goes quiet. Clearly he’s curious, but somehow he thinks he shouldn’t be.
I decided I should normalize talking about body and body changes so I started to be chatty on the subject, inviting questions and comments. Milo hit his balls accidentally while playing in the garden and was writhing around in pain, so I took the opportunity to talk about gonads. It wasn’t much comfort to him to learn that his testicles aren’t even making sperm yet, in contrast to Naomi who has all the eggs she’s ever going to need already tucked away inside, waiting until puberty to finish their development. Naomi, swinging on the ropeswing, was listening intently and piped up “But I’ve already pooped about a thousand times!” “Pooperty” has become our standing family joke.
In the end the only conversation that I was able to elicit was with Naomi. For her part, she has realized that Milo feels squeamish about the subject and has taken it up as ammunition, declaring “I have a uterus!” in a loud voice whenever she feels she needs a one-up on her brother, who then turns red and disappears into his room.
My other Great Source of Knowledge is my Tuesday night craft group ladies. With a simple question I can survey the opinions of half a dozen women, their husbands, children, grandparents, friends, and distant connections. The hostess has two boys, roughly 11 and 12 years old, and she told me about a series of podcasts that they listened to with each boy when they turned 10. The format they used is to buckle father and son in the car, drive an hour south to Ashburton, then turn around and drive back. The podcast series lasts for 2 hours, and the drive is timed to complete them all in one go. It’s a series done by The Parenting Place called Big Weekend.
I love a good podcast, and these ones are really well done. Part one has topics ranging from self esteem to forgiveness, while part two has topics about sex and body changes, each one a discussion between the two cheerful and surprisingly wise hosts that last 5-10 minutes, followed by one question for the adult and one for the kid. I feel like taking notes, they’re that good. Milo and I can sit and draw at the kitchen table while we listen to them, and I can tell he’s listening though he’s not very talkative. The main limiting factor is I don’t have much time with just Milo (not Naomi), so we aren’t all the way through them yet.
So now, we’re officially launched into “pooperty,” a new phase of life for parents and kids alike. Milo has changed our names on the Netflix login to Poo 1- Poo 4, because……well, because poo is so terribly amusing for pre-teens. “Pooperty,” after all, seems a surprisingly accurate name for the phase of life we’re now entering.