{Let’s Talk About Sex} How A Single Mom Talks To Her Son About Sex

By MICHELLE BOND

When I close my eyes and think of my man taking me in his arms and passionately kissing me, I imagine us in a movie where the camera pans away to the beautiful star-filled sky and the time lapses and we see the bright early morning sunrise illuminating the earth.  Sounds sweet and cheesy, right?

Yeah, well, it’s all roses and romance until this same magical image involves my 14-year-old son and some girl wanting him to make her feel like a woman.  I gasp and my mind goes blind from the thought.

Teen sex is only mildly cute and humorous when scripted in the movies. At the risk of dating myself, I think back to Cooley High, when a fight breaks out at a “make out party.” Or any 80’s movie where Molly Ringwald somehow becomes the must- have girl and always finds the conviction to save herself until the time is right.  These movies set up us parents—and especially single moms—to fail. Because they delude us into thinking our teenage kids are automatically going to know to say “no,” or something comical is going to happen to stop them from doing the do.

Only in the movies, folks.

The truth is, talking to kids about sex has to happen from the moment they can understand the words coming out of our mouths. When my son was a toddler and began to talk, the foundation for addressing sex was laid. We never used baby names like “Willy” or “Wee-wee” for his sexual organs; he knew from the start that what he has is a penis and nobody was to touch it.  My son was instructed to let me know right away should anyone ever make him feel uncomfortable or touch him where his swim trunks would cover.

Keeping my son safe from child molesters was both easy and difficult. It was easy in the sense that he was open to hearing me, and was able to comprehend my instructions.  Talk about his penis and protecting himself was met with a wide-eyed innocence.  There was no cringing.  No wishing Mom would stop talking. But protecting my son also was very difficult because as a single parent, my son fit the profile that child molesters looks for:  a child with a single parent who works, who has no dad in the home, and is eager for male attention.

To protect my son, I had to keep a tight circle around him. I didn’t allow the local soccer or basketball coaches to spend unsupervised time with him.  The men around my son were limited to his grand-father, my best friend’s husband, and his godfather.

These days were easy.

Life changed when my son turned seven.  He was a “man,” and no longer willing to use the women’s restroom. I recognized pretty quickly that our talks needed to go deeper. My son was armed with a new set of rules to use a public restroom. At the top of that rules list were, “you must use stalls” and “under no circumstances are you to speak to anyone in the restroom.” While he handled his business, I transformed myself into the Mama Bear standing outside the men’s room, glaring at innocent gentlemen just trying to use the john. I was quick to open the men’s room door and call for my son until he answered, too.  Yes, I looked crazy.  Whatever.  Call me looney—call my son safe.

And then it happened.  The moment I prayed would take its time showing up in our home reared its weird, awkward head: Puberty!

I swear, it’s like a psychological parasite invades your home.  It hit and before I knew it, my baby boy was noticing girls and, worse, they were noticing him.  Now, instead of spending 10 minutes in the bathroom pretending he was taking a shower, he was spending 20 minutes in the bathroom pretending to take a shower.

I always thought that when the day came for my son to have “The Talk,” his big Birds & Bees moment would come from a man. I knew it would not be his father. But I had hoped his godfather grandfather would be up for it.  And maybe had I asked them directly they would’ve complied.  All I know is that when it was time, the burden fell directly on my shoulders. And it was… different.

He was still “son” and I was still “Mom,” but a line had been drawn. The dynamics had changed. I didn’t have a man to turn to, but I did have my Maya Angelou books, one in which the celebrated poet and author detailed how she carried herself when her son began to mature. Like her, I made a point to cover myself appropriately when walking around the house.  My son would do the same when it came time for changing clothes or using the restroom. We were no longer just “mom” and “son.” We were now “male” and “female.”

And now when I speak about sex, he cringes.  He looks like he is literally trying to physically transport himself to anywhere in the world where I am not. His “I know Mom” has changed. He “knows” not from our talks, but from the junk disguised as wisdom from his friends.

We still talk, though. We talked a lot when a female much older than my son began to show him attention typically reserved for pay-per-view cable.  She inspired me to discuss STDs. Which by the way, never again will I YouTube STDs. The images of herpes in the eye, which all my life I never knew possible, had my face instantly contorted into something unrecognizable. My son? He did a Looney Toons mad dash down the hall. All that was missing was the body-shaped hole in the wall he ran through.

Still there was no turning back. We discussed:

  • Abstinence:  Wait until married, or at least an adult.
  • Condoms:  If the “abstinence” plea is ignored, then always, always, always wear condoms.  The body is a vessel that must be protected.
  • STDs: We talked about how to tell which girls would carry STDs, stressing the point that there is no way to know.  So protect, protect, protect!
  • Oral Sex:  Of all the talks we’ve had, oral sex is the one most awkward.  Matter of fact, I never explained exactly what it is.  My son made it very clear that he knew exactly what it was, as if to beg me to not say another syllable. But I will. You can bet on it.

There came a point when these talks would make my son so uncomfortable, that we would have the discussions while riding in the car together.  He still tried to summons Scottie to beam him up, but he was trapped in the car with me—Mom.  He had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

A year ago, I handed my son an excellent book called Sex, Puberty, and All That Stuff: A Guide to Growing Up, by Jacqui Bailey. Best $13 dollars I ever spent.  This book covers anything and everything regarding young adults and sex and intimacy.  I used it as a springboard to talk to my son about sex, so much so that one day when I started the conversation, he urgently interrupted me and said, “Mom, if I promise to read the book, can you promise to not talk about sex?”

I agreed. Fingers crossed, of course.

Michelle

Michelle Bond is a writer. A mother. A Flower Child. All of these things… not necessarily in that order. She’s written for Today’s Black Woman and regional publications. Visit her at CoffeeBreakDMV.

This post is part of Planned Parenthood’s Let’s Talk campaign, a month-long online conversation designed to help and encourage parents to talk to their kids about sex and relationships. Stay tuned for more insightful Let’s Talk content here on MyBrownBaby and on some of your favorite sites around the web.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

20 Comments

  1. Hi Michelle!
    Great post! What is the ideal age for the book you gave your son? This might be a silly question, but is it good for girls as well?
    Thanks! Have a great day!
    Honoree

  2. My family members think I’m crazy for calling my son’s penis a “penis” and having him call it what it is. But I’m always like, “I wouldn’t give any other body part a nickname, so why this one?” I don’t want it to be taboo or seem like we can’t talk about it or anything.

    As a single mom, I’m taking away so many points from this article, but one thing that I’m getting from it now that my son is about to be 4 years old, is that we have to discuss not allowing others to touch his penis. He knows that it is private and belongs in his underwear, but I think I’ve taken for granted that is VERY vocal and tells me a lot. I think I need not take that for granted and re-iterate to him that he’s not to allow others to touch him AND to let me know if that were to ever happen. I think that’s the next step in our conversation. Good tip, Michelle.

  3. I had to give my fourteen year old nephew the talk last week. He came to me and said flat out that he refused to consider his mom in that context and that he knew the things the boys in his class talked about couldn’t all be true. So we played mario kart for three hours while I was as honest as I knew how to be. I then told him about respecting girls and not being with someone just for sex and to always use a condom and spermicide even if the girl is on birth control and to please please please not do anything he wasn’t 100% sure he was ready for. I think I did a pretty good job for being a virgin myself.

  4. Great post, Michelle. I pride myself on always being open with my kids (boy, 14 and girl, 10) about “sensitive” topics. I’ve never beat around the bush, always called things by their right names (although there’s always the problem of what to call female genitals – vagina isn’t technically correct, vulva sounds weird, so we just went with “girl parts” with the understanding that there are different names for the different parts). My son and I have a pretty open relationship and so far he hasn’t done too much cringing – we, too, do a lot of talking in the car where we can avoid eye contact while discussing STDs, masturbation and all that :-) We talk about how weird the girls are right now, dating, being friends with girls, how he wants to have a girlfriend (trying to convince him that it’s not necessary now….). We’ve talked about pregnancy and all the gory details – this is a child who, when we went in for the ultrasound when I was pregnant with my daughter, at the age of 3 went up to the technician and asked her to show him where the umbilical cord was – her jaw dropped! :-) At any rate, talking is good, don’t stop talking, even when your child says he doesn’t want to hear it, because deep down he really does. Really.

  5. I loved this post. I had to have this conversation with my 14yr old son, especially now that he has been he has stated he has a girlfriend. I have raised my son in the same manner that you have with your children. Being a single mom is far from easy, I am glad i have found a place to connect.

    Thanks

  6. Having “the talk” with a parent can be awkward, but it’s great that you are tackling it. I don’t think it’s ever too early to start, and I think it’s great to come from a place of understanding, instead of a dictatorship.

  7. This is a great post! I have a 14 yr old son who will be 15 next month. I have raised my son the same way. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Oh boy. You are one courageous lady. I am terrified to have the talk with my kids. Not in the stereotypical way where I am embarrassed to say the words or too scared to discuss the big topics like STDs. I worked as a volunteer with teenagers for a long time and it was not difficult to discuss it with them. It’s more the fear that the mom/kid dynamic will change our relationship. I like still being Mom. I don’t want to be Woman to my kids. I am afraid that once we cross that line there is no going back and I won’t like it on the other side. Am I just being a coward?

  9. You’re controlling and weird. If my mom stood outside the bathroom when I was growing up, I’d be scared for life just as I can imagine your son is. No wonder he cringes when talking about sex with you! You have a lot to learn about parenting…

  10. I don’t think this is weird at all. I don’t have any kids but I have 2 nephews(8y/o and 2y/o) and I worry about things like taking them to the bathroom when we’re out. Obviously the 8 year old is a bit to knowledgeable to be in the ladies room but the idea of sending him alone into the men’s scares me because I know what can happen.I too wait outside the door&encourage him to use the closest stall even if we’re in a church bathroom.

  11. Goodness-do I remember those days with my son. He did cringe after awhile. Now (at 19) he just expects it from me (along with small arsenals of condoms). I get no details (thank the heavens), but he knows that when I talk to him, it is coming from a good place. I made him promise to talk to me when he decided to have sex the first time. And he did. We had a mature, but brief conversation, about why he though this person was the right person. I didn’t teach him abstinence because I know how hard it was for me. But I tried to impress on him the importance of giving a piece of himself to someone-forever-even if the two of them didn’t last forever. As a result, he is pretty selective about who he shares himself with. Parents (fathers AND mothers) LOVE him. He is such a good guy and I feel great for having instilled my values in him.

    The girl is next…ohhh boyyyy!

  12. My 14 year old son cringes while my 12 year old daughter takes notes. A birth-control commercial was on TV and this restarted the conversation about birth control and this time, I don’t know why I included my daughter in the conversation. I said to no one directly “you know the pill doesn’t stop anything but pregnancy you can still get STDs you always need condoms and you bring your own; trust no one.” My daughter looked shocked and said “really?” I suggested that it is better to wait until sophomore or junior year of college to have sex since you would have you would have an academic routine already. I told my son that when he was ready I would take him condom shopping; he said no way. Once I explained to him that there are many sizes, textures and flavors he was happy that I was willing to do that for him since he didn’t trust his friends judgment. He realized that I made protection a project with many elements that had a checklist that needed to created so your aspirations would not be interrupted with an unplanned pregnancy. Since I include my children in family budgeting, I made the case that I am not in the financial position to add/help with the expense of baby food, diapers and daycare.

    While freaking out in my mind, I speak to the in a gentle voice and with a smile on my face. I want them to come to me or their therapist who they now meet without me in the room with anything.

  13. I enjoyed reading this.

    When my son was 10 I talked to him about wet dreams on the way to the supermarket.

    When he was 13 we talked about masturbation whilst he did the dishes.

    I think that the ‘trick’ with boys is to not confront them eyes on (if you see what I mean). By talking ‘sideways’ there is less embarrassment for this beautiful boy who is becoming a man, worrying about someone hearing him talk to his mother this way.

    I plan to do the same with my 8 year old son when the time is right. Oh and we’ve always talked about it being a penis and a vagina.

    I knew things had gone well when my older son (now 19) explained the ‘financial implications of a baby’.

    Mars xx

  14. Wow I wasn’t ready to talk to my thirteen year old until after he got a tablet for his birthday and the first thing he tried looking up was women and men having sex. I WANTED TO go crazy thank God my parental controls were set on my internet. Thank
    You for this article

  15. I am surprised that you didn’t mention any of the morality of sex with your son, particularly given that you are a single mom. Does being a single mom make you less credible than a married mom on issues of sex? ( I don’t presume so, but I wonder what your thoughts are). If you date, does this make your conversations with your son more or less credible to him?

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