So, we are sitting at the dinner table, just starting the main meal. It’s a roast (lamb!) with roasted spuds, real gravy and a green salad. Geek boy has been on camp all weekend – laser skirmish with the scouts – hence the roast. It’s a ‘real meal’ after what’s usually a weekend of little sleep and skipped meals because boys of 12 and laser skirmish take precedence over remembering mum’s instructions to eat, stay dry and change your jocks and socks.
And, just before dinner, the other ritual that follows camp – a long bath followed by ‘mum can you check me for ticks, please‘. The checking for tick ritual always yields at least one tick – as it did again this time – and always involves a goodly mother look at all intricate bits of anatomy. Those little buggers hide in secret damp bits of 12-year-old boys – hence mum’s instructions of ‘eat, stay dry and change your jocks and socks.’
This time, when said mothering look was taking place, something else was visible to the mothering eye. Something I wasn’t quite ready for. First fuzzies, to be a little graphic. Not just under the arms, to add detail. My little boy is growing up.
Trying to remain nonchalant about said fuzzies, I make some lame comment about hair and powder and washing growing up and flee to the tending of my sheep. In the oven.
There is my first heart attack of the day. I was not ready for that. I need some time to think. I tell myself, this is expected, your baby is growing up, time marches forward, blah blah and etc. Deep breath, mental note to self about personal hygiene discussions ahead.
Back to the story at hand, we are sitting at the dinner table, just starting the lamb (remember that?) and just as I am about to ask the usual ‘how was camp, tell me all about it?‘ type questions, geek boy drops clanger number 2.
“So, I meant to tell you mum, on Friday, we had that lady from Fawlty Towers come to school and have that talk with us”
“What lady? What talk?” Penny drops. “WHAT talk?”
“You know, the lady who sits in the office all day on the phone and says BAS-il“. Her“
“SHE came? You sure it was her? What talk?
(Prunella Scales visited my son’s school to give the puberty talk? This I must look into. It would have been on the note. Should I have received a note. Was there a note? I do not recall a note.)
“Was there a note about this?”
“Yeah I gave it to you… Didn’t I?”
“Ummmmmno. No note. Tell me about the talk“
“Oh yeah. Oh well, it was just, you know, growing up and what happens to your body and why it changes and stuff. She was funny but good at it. I kept waiting for her to say BAS-il.”
“Oh. Hmm. How long did it go for? The talk I mean. “
“Oh, all day. Except for the afternoon went we did PE. The girls and the boys went together for the first half and the boys had to go and play soccer while she talked to the girls and then the girls had to go and play handball while the boys had their turn and then we had some time all together again”.
“Oh. Right. That’s long time. And what did you talk about?“
“Oh, just pimples and skin and bodies and stuff. Then the girls had their turn and I don’t know what they talked about. She wouldn’t tell us. Probably babies and stuff. Then we had lunch and it was our turn. And she talked about bodies and hair and changes and stuff.”
“Oh, and wet dreams.”
I seem to have a piece of lamb stuck in my throat. I chew the lettuce leaf earnestly and clear my esophagus.
“Uh huh. It sounds interesting.” (Here, I launch into parental spiel and questions about bodies and changes and so forth but wondering what else was covered at school).
“We talked about other stuff too. The boys had to say what they thought would be the hardest thing about being a girl was. Some kids said it would be hard having boobs, having to have babies, giving birth, feeding babies with your boobs, that type of stuff. Oh – and having to buy so many shoes and needing all so much money to buy so many handbags and stuff”.
“Oh, OK. Anything you would like to talk about, from all that?”
I have given up on my dead sheep. It can graze in the salad.
“Yes?” I have on my most open face, radiating encouragement for tricky questions and confident of I-am-an-educated-teacher-and-can-deal-with-your-questions type responses. From somewhere.
“Can I tell you something, now?”
“Of course, you can tell us anything. Go on…”
“Can I tell you about laser skirmish camp now? See, there was this kid and….” and the rest of the conversation about lasers and guns and being dead and shot and targets and mud and leeches and snipers in the trees and so on carried on. I know I punctuated it with various umms, and wows and cools.
I just don’t remember.
The skipper did take part in this discussion, I just can’t recall a thing he said, for the life of me. And, you know, although we have not had the talk before, and we have always been very open and honest about bodies and sexuality and stuff. If the question arises, it’s answered. The level of depth of the question determines the level of depth of the answer. I was as surprised by my response and reaction to the dinner table discussion as I was to the discussion itself.
Tomorrow, I am off to look up Sybil and see what advice she has to give me.