My son is hitting the age where he is becoming more and more aware of the differences between boys and girls.
Honestly, this is hard, because with his development he can be so intellectual, and yet often behind even Julia in his awareness of such things - and I enjoy that innocence. For example, it was only about 4 weeks ago that he became aware that Julia had no boy parts. He was trying to be a helper as we were teaching both kids to shower by themselves, and he stood outside the shower calling to her each part of the body she should wash next. When he got to that, he seemed shocked when I explained that she didn't have the same parts he has. "Well then what DOES she have?" he asked in disbelief. "How does she go to the potty?" ( All this in spite of the fact that neither of them have ever been very private around each other. )
I gave some answer. I think it was adequate, but all the times I told myself to figure out what to say before the moment came were now useless, as the moment was here before I was ready.
Tonight was another moment like that.
He seemed fascinated with that other part of women that he now notices is different. So here's how the conversation went tonight:
Eli- "Mom, what do you call those?"
Me - (Thinking..... Dying. Did he really just ask me that? I'm in the middle of reading a book to him. That is SO like a boy! Why doesn't he ask Jason this stuff? Wait. I am the mom. It's okay. This is a normal question. Set the stage Heather, set the stage ... today is the day that determines how openly he will communicate with you for the rest of your life. When he is a teenager, this is the moment he will look back on and know whether it is safe or not to talk to his mom about anything. Long pause. Think, Think Think. Do I entrust accurate words with maturity to a boy who struggles sometimes with social interaction? Or is that too much for him right now? Think. Think. Think. Other words I could give him?? Oh wait, that's worse. No way. Ok. Got it.)
Me- "Eli, what do you think they are called?"
Eli - "Mom, I know what it is, but I don't want to say it, because it's a bad word."
Me - (Thinking... What bad word could he have learned? WHO IS TEACHING HIM BAD WORDS? I AM SETTING UP A CAMP ON THE PLAYGROUND AND SO HELP ME ANYONE OUT THERE WHO IS GOING TO BE TEACHING MY SON BAD WORDS IS GONNA... Oh wait. ...still in the moment Heather...Eli's still here. You're still setting the stage for all future communication - get in the game girl...."
Me - "It's okay Eli, just tell me what you've heard."
Eli - "Mom, I really don't want to ... it's bad and you know it. And I don't want to say it."
Me - "Eli, I promise you I won't be mad at you. Just tell me the truth and I promise you that you can always know I will do the same. "
Eli - "You know. It starts with an 'F'".
Me - (Not hiding the shocked and confused look on my face.) ( Have they come up with new 'bad'words that I am not aware of? Am I behind the times already in first grade? Wait! How can it be that I am failing miserably already!?!)
Eli - ( Picking up quickly on my obvious ignorance....) 'Okay, I will give you the next letter mom. 'F', 'A'....."
Me - ( My mind is racing, and anxiety is building. What? WHAT? WHAT IS IT? What do they call it now? )
Me - "Eli, I don't know what it is, I'm sorry. Please just tell me. "
Eli - (Rolling his eyes.) "Okay, mom, but I know it's a bad word, ( Now looking at me with great trepidation...) and I'll just give you the last letter, so don't be mad. It's a 'T'.
Me - (Thinking... okay, now what were the letters?...Oh... sweet air, as I take a deep breath in, smile lovingly (yet not so as to embarrass him), and rejoice that the bad word is "Fat". I was tempted to rationalize that as being a correct scientific term in some circles, but decided that wouldn't serve him long term, especially when he gets married.)
So, we had a calm, truthful, and insightful discussion after that, cut short by Eli's diverted attention to a poster on his wall.