boymom

The Sex Talk

My 5th grader came home the other day asking what “sexual assault” was. He’d heard about the Kavanaugh thing on a kid-friendly news station at school. It was sadly reminiscent of when his older brother came home asking a similar question back when he was in fifth grade. But then it was Trump’s “grab her pussy” comment that prompted the question.

What did we do? We sat them down and had the sex talk. It wasn’t the talk we’d imagined having. We had to address their questions, front and center. We had to address the ugliness in the world. We had to talk about why they’re hearing phrases like “sexual assault” and “grab her pussy” in the news. We had to back in to the topic from the most uncomfortable angle.

There’s something heartbreaking about telling your innocent, prepubescent boys that sex could be anything but a beautiful thing between two people who love each other. I know how that sounds. I’m not naive. I know these are things we need to talk about. But we’d barely broached the topic of puberty, no less sex, before we had to apologize for the reality of sexual assault.

And then Trump made that ironic comment: “It’s a scary time for young men.” And Lynzy Lab‘s catchy and clever response keeps replaying in my mind.

And it hit me. Maybe it’s a sign of our times. Maybe the sex talk is supposed to come from that uncomfortable angle.

In my latest book I’m working on in the Forte series, there is sexual assault.

The book is clean — geared for pre-teens. It’s not graphic. There’s no gratuitous violence. The scene doesn’t get to the point where the young girl is raped or beaten or even undressed. But she is clearly violated. There are harsh words. She is pushed and pinned down. The aggressor is someone she knows well — her boyfriend.

A girl doesn’t have to be naked to be assaulted. It doesn’t have to escalate to rape, either. There can be no trace of evidence on her body and it can still be a terrifying, transformative experience. It is still assault.

The scene is sadly realistic, and all too common. And it leads to another harsh truth: the ugly aftermath, with no clear path for girls to make things right.

I try to make it right for my young female character. In a fictional world where magic exists, she is empowered to miraculously reclaim her life. But it’s impossible to erase all the scars, even in a magical world.

It hurts to write about this stuff. I cry when I read scenes of my own creation. Because it’s so hard to write about a young girl battling against sexual assault, I know it’s meaningful. I was so riled up after my writing session recently, I had to write THIS!

My husband and I have a responsibility to raise our three boys well. These three boys will become young men. They will be physically stronger than their female peers. They will have subtle (and not so subtle) advantages over them, too.

Our boys’ understanding of sex has to be more than what’s covered in a science class. Beyond love or reproduction. Forget the birds and the bees. They need to hear from the female perspective. Not only hear it, they need to have the female perspective ingrained so it is top of mind when they become intimate with a girl. It should be the first thing they think about.

As they change and grow into young men, we need to keep talking. The #metoo conversation is far from over in the news and in the world. Who knows what they’ll hear next? And this is a good thing. It’s opening a doorway for communication, which is so important — even if it’s at an uncomfortable angle.

Girl Power

I’m a proud #boymom. My three boys are my world. From clothes to shoes to toys, our house is all BOY. And I wouldn’t change it for anything. Sure, before children, I imagined raising a daughter. One with curly hair. Someone I could share all my hard-learned girl truths with. I defy any woman who denies feeling the same. But now, I couldn’t imagine life without these boys. And they couldn’t either. They wouldn’t know what to do with a sister.

“Our house would be infused with PINK!” once was said — the P word sneering from his mouth.

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And this doesn’t include cleats. There’s a separate bin for that.

When Christmas commercials are in season, we tease about getting My Little Pony and Twinkle Toes and LaLaLoopsy for each other. Even I’m guilty of that.

But pink has always been my favorite color.

Yesterday, our middle asked, “Who are you voting for for President?”

“Hillary Clinton.”

“But we can’t have a GIRL president!”

“Why not?”

“She’ll make us wear girly clothes and play with Barbies!”

“No she wouldn’t. Why would you say that?”

“Because she makes all the rules and all the laws.”

“Well, did President Obama make me wear a suit and tie and play with trucks?”

We all laughed, but my words felt a bit hollow. The reverse isn’t the same. I’m in a boy world. They’ve seen me play with plenty of toy trucks. I may not wear a suit and tie but I assure you I’m not in a dress every day, either. Come to think of it, it’s all a boy’s world. Historically, we girls have had to fight for equal rights and equal pay and equal opportunity. And “pink” isn’t the problem.

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When my husband gets into one of his teasing jags, my standard comeback is: “You needed a little sister growing up to get all this out of your system.”

Growing up with three brothers, my husband has the boy thing down. He’s like the boy whisperer — able to get to the root of a rotten day or hurt feelings or big-world worries. However, judging from how protective he is of me, a little girl may have given him a run for his money.

My brother and I grew up sharing each other’s perspective. Throughout the confusing puberty years, I know we helped each other quite a bit. When a girl didn’t reciprocate his crush, I think I was able to make it a little better. When a boy on the bus stuck his fingers up my nose, it was my brother who explained that he actually liked me. (Not a good strategy, BTW). We’ve always been able to talk about things we’d never discuss with our parents. Maybe this is why he is now keenly sensitive about girl stuff. He can discuss menstrual cramps or bra-fitting issues with the objectivity of a registered nurse. And he actually looks really good in pink. Oh, excuse me — salmon.

I know firsthand sisters can teach brothers stuff moms can’t. Yikes.

My boys need more GIRL in their lives!

I pledge right now to communicate with my boys — about everything. As uncomfortable it may be, I will tell them what boobs are really for, what a thing called a tampon is, and why girls might send cryptic messages through their girlfriends like modern-day carrier pigeons. And goldarnit, they will feel okay with all of it.

If it comes to be, they will feel okay with a woman president.

No, my boys won’t have a sister. It’s a little late in the game to try again.

But I will vote for Hillary.

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