Because my father worked in the medical field, he wasn’t home a lot. Thusly, my mom often played both roles of matriarch and patriarch. While other boy scouts came to meetings with their dads, I had my mother accompany me. I actually didn’t mind this kind of thing all that much … except for the day she attempted to talk to me about puberty.
I had already learned a bit about this stuff in school. Luckily they started us on sex education early, about 4th grade. But for a ten year old, the schools exercised caution and kept the information as mild as possible, so things continued to remain a bit blurry. Around sixth grade, my mother tried to fill in some blanks.
“So I wanted to talk to you about something,” Mom said one day while we were driving in the car. “You might start waking up in the middle of the night with your sheets wet. And I just wanted you to know that this is perfectly normal.”
I had no clue what she was talking about. And with such a weird way to start a conversation, I had to figure it out.
“What, like I will start peeing in the bed?” I asked.
“No, it’s not urine,” she made the correction. “It’s something else. And it will be okay.”
Her attempts to tiptoe on the subject only made it more confusing. I started picturing dramatic scenes: waking up in the middle of the night drenched in pools and pools of strange fluid overflowing my bed.
“Well if it happens, should I come wake you up for help?” I asked.
“No no no…” she rushed. “Do not come wake us up.” My awkward question apparently made my mom highly uncomfortable. I could only imagine the regret she must have suddenly had about starting off such a subject with the topic of wet dreams. These birds and bees were getting stranger than she had intended and yet there was no turning back.
“If it happens,” she said, “just take your sheets to the laundry.”
I was officially horrified by this conversation. Not by the idea of my mother trying to talk to me about puberty. In fact, I still had no idea that’s what she was even talking about. More so, I was completely freaked out about the idea of having to do my own laundry … in the middle of the night. What was I — some kind of animal? I had never done laundry before. And then what would I sleep on? Other sheets? Where do I get those? And how do I put them on a bed?
Clearly my problem wasn’t that of bodily changes coming around the corner — being a spoiled kid who didn’t know how to do anything for himself was the bigger issue.
Looking back, I often wonder why my father hadn’t been the one to give his son “the talk.” Probably because by that age, they realized I already had a one-way ticket on a train to Homoville. Back in the car, my mom could tell I just wasn’t getting it. And rather than be upfront, she decided to quickly wrap up the conversation and change the subject. Unfortunately, I was left with more disturbing images in my brain.
Ironically, I never did end up having a wet dream. But if they had been anything like the things I pictured, then they probably would have been one hell of a good time. My mom’s heart was in the right place but her unease about the subject held her back from being more frank. And sometimes, being too cautious in a sensitive conversation can only make things worse.