It was spring in our New Jersey elementary schools. So, if you had a fourth or fifth grade child, then it was time for, The Puberty Movie, tenderly titled, Always Changing. My husband and I have three children, two boys, in the respective grades. Our daughter, a first grader, would have to wait for this transformative cinematic experience.
On a balmy May evening, I along with many curious parents, ventured to the school auditorium, for a preview. Our children would see the movie in their classrooms the following week
In Always Changing, a variety of head nodding, nurturing authority figures console and educate young adolescents on how bodily changes prepare one for REPRODUCTION. SEX? THAT word is not mentioned. While the film urges deodorant for all, in the boys’ only part, we examine hair growth, size adaptations of various body parts, spontaneous erections, and “nocturnal emissions.”
At the film’s end, I ask myself—are we really there? Our boys as sexual beings? I still give them a “tickle back” before going to sleep. How would we broach the subject of the banana peeking out of the hammock?
On a rainy afternoon following the premiere, I pick up the boys from school. From the third row of the mini van, the fourth grader reports, “How about the kid who got caught doing that humping dance in morning line up?”
Fifth Grader grunts, “yeah, pretty stupid.”
This is the opening I’ve been waiting for and I go for it. “Humping, huh? What’s that? The move Miley Cyrus made famous with the foamy finger?”
They chastise me, “that was ‘twerking’ Mom, not humping.”
For a moment, I consider sequestration and activation of the child safety locks. Instead, I opt for a less threatening approach: “Well, you know my rule. If you’re going to say it…”
“Yeah, yeah,” Fifth Grader interrupts, “use it in a sentence that demonstrates the meaning. And no, I’m not going to do that.”
“Me neither mom,” parrots Fourth Grader.
Short on time before the first grader’s bus arrives, I persist, “So, what is humping then? Nobody wants to use it in a sentence? How about you show me then?”
“That’s it,” declares Fifth Grader, “I’m done.” Unhindered by the rain, he lunges forward, opens the sliding door, and hops out of the van. Fourth grader, on the other hand, hasn’t unbuckled his seat belt.
“Humping,” I blurt out, “is making sexual movements with your body.” Fifth Grader halts. “So, The Puberty Movie’s coming up at school, kids will throw lots of words around, and you should know what they mean.”
“Well, Mom,” from Fifth Grader, “I’ve heard about the Puberty Movie and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t talk about humping. It’s just about wearing deodorant, and you know, the other stuff.”
Fourth Grader questions nervously, “what other stuff?”
Fifth grader puts his hand down near his crotch and arches his fingers upward as if something is poking from his shorts and giggles, “you know, BOI-OI-OING and SPRISHHHHHHH,” making a spraying noise.
“What is that?!” questions Fourth Grader, with an unsteady laugh. “ Peeing in your pants?”
Time for some clarity. “Alright guys, the BOI-OI-OING is your penis when it randomly gets bigger and sticks out in front of you. It’s called an erection. And the SPRISHHHHHHH is fluid coming out of your penis. It’s called ejaculation or a ‘wet dream’ when you’re sleeping. It’s all normal puberty stuff and nothing to worry about.”
“OK. I’m outta here,” announces Fifth Grader, “this is just…so...” shaking his head, trying to unhear his Mom’s words.
I glance in the rear view mirror at the startled Fourth Grader and casually invite, “Did you have another question?”
He dives for the door.
We move swiftly inside, where Fourth Grader purges himself of pent up anxt and somersaults forward, remaining stomach down on the carpet, flopping like a trout on the side of a creek. Fifth Grader perches at the base of the stairs, clutching the banister that will launch him skyward and out of this conversation. But before he bolts, I forge ahead: “Look, all this puberty stuff, is about preparing you for reproduction. When a man’s penis goes inside a woman’s opening in her private area, her vagina, its’ called sexual intercourse. The penis ejects sperm into the woman who supplies the eggs. Sperm and egg meet, reproduction begins.”
Fourth Grader flips onto his back and whisper screams, “WHAT? NO! That is NOT how that happens.”
Fifth Grader stands wide eyed, hands still gripping the railing. Evidently, it is one thing to see the act on Animal Planet, but it’s another to hear your mom describe it in such explicit detail.
For a moment, we three remain still and silent.
“Any more questions?”
“Yeah,” from Fourth Grader, still prone, and staring blankly at the ceiling, “can we get pepperoni on our pizza tonight?”
It was Friday. It was pizza night. And in our new Always Changing world I was more than happy to keep at least one thing constant.
“Yes,” I finally exhale. “Pepperoni would be perfect.”