So, there I was, minding my own business, just a mom driving her kids around to after school activities, when from the backseat comes the question, “is anal sex what I think it is?”
Oh boy. My pulse races a little faster. I start to sweat. I take a deep breath and say, “Yep.”
“Ew, gross!” “Well, you think it is gross, now, but you might not always feel that way. Different people get pleasure from different things.” And then the conversation really takes off.
I have only myself (and my darling husband) to blame. We made a promise to our boys when they were very young—you can ask us anything and we will always answer. We might have to look for more information, we might decide you aren’t ready for the whole answer, but we will always answer every question about your body, or relationships, or sex.
This is how we are fighting back against the “boys will be boys” mindset, by saying our boys will be heard, our boys will be informed, our boys will be challenged.
Our boys will be heard. Kids tattle. It is just part of growing up; kids see behavior they don’t agree with and they tell. We encourage our kids to work things out and only take their conflicts to a grownup when someone is hurt. But asking them to resolve the situation is not the same as brushing off their concerns and they need to know this. They need to know that we hear their concerns because sometimes tattling is about something more.
Our boys will be informed. One of the reasons we have a “no question is off limits” policy is thanks to a pamphlet I picked up from Planned Parenthood when my boys were toddlers. It is basically a guide to talking about sex with kids at every age. All of the information is available on line now, but I keep that pamphlet and glance at it occasionally to remind me to check in with my boys and their knowledge and attitudes. Of course, they have other sources of information about sex and relationships. They hear stuff from their friends. They learn about sex in school. They talk about personal boundaries in youth group at church. I answer questions, but I also ask them. “What did you talk about in health today?” “I heard you were talking about dangerous people online—how did that go?” And, the most important one of all, “do you have any questions for me?”
Our boys will be challenged. When I overhear conversations between our sons and their friends that include body-shaming or gay-bashing, I call them on it. “Okay, guys, knock it off. That kind of language is not okay. You are talking about another person who has feelings.” When I find out that my kids have watched something or heard something that I don’t think is appropriate, I call them on that too. “I’m a girl. How do you think those lyrics make me feel?” or “I know you think it is funny, but that character in that movie is not real. Real women are more than boob jokes.”
I know, sometimes boys will be boys. There is a reason that middle school gym teachers start calling the equipment bouncing spheroid objects (he said balls, heh, heh, heh.) I will have to endure belching contests and fart jokes and foul language. My boys will do and say dumb things through their teenage years. But, with luck, they will be more than just boys. They will be respectful and responsible and eventually, they will be men.