telephones, puberty and penis facts

Our offical
Blogging for LGBT Families Day
post is penned by our
new-found friend Sara Whitman. She is the married lesbian mother
of three boys. Sara does laundry, goes to the drycleaner and often
is spotted at the Whole Foods Store in Newton, Massachusetts
searching for something healthy her children will actually eat. Her
short stories and essays have appeared in several, insignificant
but very beautifully published, high-quality literary journals and
magazines. Currently she is working on a book of photography and
essays reflecting life as a lesbian mom. She posts daily in her own
which features photos, insane rants and comical revelations about
everyday life.

My son has become completely obsessed with the telephone. He calls
people all the time. Mom, can I use your cell phone? Ben, the
regular phone is right over there. Yeah, but a cell phone is so…

He just hung up leaving a message for his girlfriend. At the end,
he left a kiss.

What was that? I asked.



Mom, it’s nothing, I just did… and he made a kissing sound

That sounds like a kiss. Should I discuss this with (the girl’s)


Have you kissed her?


Do you want to?

OH MY GOD MOM, don’t write that in your blog!

(I am talking and typing at the same time. They’ve read the blogs
– no, not all of them, but some. He knows I write everything they


I haven’t kissed her.

Do you want to?

I’m not answering you…

And then from the other room, he says,


Okay. Puberty. He’s turning eleven in October. I am completely
unprepared for this. When he was about six years old, I remember he
kept tugging at his pants, at the crotch of his pants, or just
plain ol’ digging straight into his underwear.

Ben! You can play with you penis in the privacy of your own room.
Not in the grocery store.

Ben! It’s not going to fall off, I promise. You don’t have to
hold on. Please get your hand out of your pants.

Ben! At least go wash that hand before you eat those French

And finally, Walter said to me, are you sure it’s not his
underwear? Does he wear boxers or briefs?

Briefs. Cute ones, with Batman on them. Why?

Get him some boxers. Maybe they are too tight.

Uh… okay.

Boxers tried. Still incessant tugging, pulling. Back to Walter,
who, at that point, became my penis advisor. Hey, I don’t have
one, what the hell do I know about penis care?

Maybe he needs to pick a side.

Pick a side? What are you talking about?

You know, it kind of hangs down and you need to pick a side or else
it gets rubbed or stuck in the middle. That hurts.

Pick a side… who knew? Okay. So the next time Ben was grabbing at
himself, I found myself, lesbian mother with no penis experience,
saying, calmly, Ben, you need to pick a side for your penis. It
will be more comfortable.


Now I have to get on the phone with Walter because how does one
pick a side?

Here, I hand Ben the phone, ask Walter.

Since then, we’ve been through the hole in the underwear issue-
I’m advising my boys to carefully pull their penis through the
little pocket to pee, with their zipper unzipped. Okay, call me a
fool, but it seems that’s what all the extra fabric is for and
the opening. I thought it was one more functional aspect of men’s
clothing that confirms the fashion industry’s hate of women.

No, Walter tells me. You just unbutton the top button and tug down
your pants a little bit and pull it out over the top. You don’t
use that tiny flap. My god, you’d strangle it!

Now I don’t feel so bad about the horrible design of bras.

I wish I could say I’m done learning interesting penis facts. I
am not. Each of the younger boys has their own takes on all things
penis related. And I have to get ready for the onslaught of puberty
questions. I don’t mind talking about sex – we have to some
degree since they were very little. I think it’s important to
give age appropriate information along the line. When Zachary came
home from kindergarten and asked me what sex was, I told him.

Okay, I copped out and gave him a very limited heterosexual model –
it can be when a man puts his penis into a woman’s vagina. Sex is
how a baby can be made; you know the egg and the sperm? We’ve
talked about that. There are many other variations, but why do you
want to know? (There can’t be any absolutes in our family. Have
to leave the door open for the sperm bank, and their own parent’s
version of love.)

One of my friend’s told me it’s when two people kiss each
other’s butts, Zachary explained what I clearly did not

My, I thought. What is going on in his house?

I told him I wanted him to always come and ask me these kinds of
questions. Rarely, I said, would his friends have the right

That was relatively easy and I choked a little on it. Now I’m
listening to my BABY make kissing sounds on the phone with his –
gulp – girlfriend? What’s next? The condom demonstration on the
banana? Will her parents ever let him come over again if they read

And how do I start dealing with sleepovers? From my own experience,
I know I have to watch Ben with a girl as much as I have to watch
Ben with a boy. Boys more often have sexual contact with another
boy first, even if they are straight, than with a girl. If I say
that to a straight parent, are they going to flip out on me? And am
I suppose to smile and say, boys will be boys? I can’t. I know
there are power dynamics involved that lead to abusive situations –
no one makes thoughtful decisions about sex at eleven, twelve –
sometimes not even at forty. How do I equip Ben with the right
information, acknowledge his growing body, keep him safe and give
him freedom to become a young man?

For now, I’m going to ask him when he makes kissing sounds on the
phone. I tease him, gently, and hand over my cell phone for him to
make another call. To another girl.

How to handle two women at once? Let Walter try and answer that
one. That’s where having a lesbian mom will come in very handy.