Puberty is always theoretical until it happens all at once. In my case, it happened this past weekend. Okay, not for me, but for my 11-year-old Zane.
I got up early this morning for church and right after I put the cinnamon rolls in the oven, I woke the boys up.
Zane said, "Good morning." Overnight his voice had dropped a full octave. As he walked up to the kitchen table, his 9-year-old brother Aidan yelled, "Look what Zane's got!" Underneath Zane’s bright blue footed pajamas was one very upstanding sign that puberty had struck.
I'm the sentimental kind of queen who cries at Hallmark commercials and here was my baby at the dawn of manhood. I admit that I teared up a little, but Aidan has always been the kind of boy to ruin a Kodak moment and so he pointed to the pajamas and said, “That’s disgusting.” Zane frowned and was about a half second away from a crisis.
Some days you just got to be late for church.
My mother, nurse Vivian, had bungled the birds and the bees speech. It was the late sixties, and somehow the sexual revolution had not reached our Irish Catholic block in South Ozone Park in Queens, New York. When seventh grade boys woke up with a little furry down over their lips, their mothers shrugged but never talked about it. In my case, the dawn of my virility was marked by nurse Vivian turning bright red and blurting out in a department store, “I think you’re going to need a jerk stop to wear in gym class.”
That was it. Jerk stop. No recommendations of what to do with it. No explanation of testosterone level. Nothing about respect for women or the need for protection. And I was determined to do better. I cannot quite blame my deviant lifestyle on lack of sufficient instruction, but I did have to get most of my information second hand.
I was determined to get this one right. I did not want Zane to complain to his future wife or therapist that his gay dads had been stinting with the details of heterosexual coupling.
So I poured a cup of coffee and said, “Zane, this is the beginning of a great mystery.”
Zane rolled his eyes, “Dad, you know we have been through this. You and Papa have been talking about sex for ten years. I think I know enough about the mechanics.”
I gave him a thumbs-up and said, “Well then, don’t let your brother tease you. Congratulations. Today, you are a man.”
Zane smiled, and there was one less big boy in the world and one more little man.