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One rare evening my boys and I were all sitting quietly reading. A small voice interrupted my paragraph asking “How do you spell fat?”

I considered asking my son how he thought it was spelled, or what he was reading, but instead answered F-A-T, wanting to get right back to my book.

“I thought they made a mistake- they spelled it P-H-A-T.” At least I understood his confusion.

“That’s a joke.”  (Do I introduce jam bands this early?) “It’s the other way to make the F sound. Do you know how to spell phone?” “Yes, P-H-O-N-E, and also

“Yes, P-H-O-N-E, and also philosopher. P-H-I-L-O-S-O-P-H-E-R.”

Beside us, my older son Oliver is reading the second “Sidekicks” book that my mother sent him. The first was a graphic novel. As Leo phinished his book, Oliver suggested that we read Sidekicks together. Leo proposed the wonderful world of cross sections. Once again superheroes trumped science, so we settled in to read “Sidekicks” beside each other on the bed.

A typical mother might have skipped it, glossed over it, or put the book down. None of these struck me as the right option.

In the first scene of the book, the teenage superhero sidekick rescues an attractive woman and feels something happening “below his belt.” A typical mother might have skipped it, glossed over it, or put the book down. None of these struck me as the right option.

“I’m wondering if this is interesting to 7 and eight-year-olds?” I ask the boys. “Did the first book have all of this sex stuff?”

Four eyes are on me.

It is at this point that I realize any one of the other three options might have been a way to go.

“No.” Oliver says, “The other one didn’t have any sex stuff.” “What sex stuff?” Asks Leo.

“What sex stuff?” asks Leo.

I keep reading. Our sexed up sidekick is trying to calm himself down reciting math facts, and thinking about baseball. But then the woman whispers something to him, and he is “standing at attention.”

I should just barrel forward bravely, but it is really difficult to ignore a vivid accident such as this one. I glance back over my shoulder. Oliver gets it.

I put the book down.

“It can be difficult to talk about.” I tell him.

“What? What is difficult to talk about?” Asks the little filisopher.

“Do you know what the character is thinking about?” I ask.

“I have an idea.” says Oliver.

“I DON’T have an idea” stresses Leo. This may be the very worst thing in the world. A conversation that he can’t follow let alone lead, about S-E-X. This was supposed to be a superhero book, and he is getting left behind.

Here Oliver sighs, squares his blue fleece-clad shoulders (it is a day that ends in Y after all) and says: “You know how your penis practices getting ready to have a baby? Well. His penis is practicing.” Then he continues. “What I don’t understand is why he is embarrassed about his penis practicing, I mean everyone that has a penis has a penis that practices.”

All of a sudden Leo is the expert. “Well, his penis is practicing because of that GIRL that he rescued. He doesn’t want her to find out about his penis.”

Well, handled boys. But I am still here to muck things up. I read on, and the word “puberty” pops up.

“What is puberty?” asks Leo. “Its when your body starts to change from a kid to a grown up. So you start to grow hair in your armpits and your voice changes and your penis practices more.”

I know there are very good books to give them, and probably good books to prepare me to have this conversation, but I don’t have them on hand. So I go ahead and wing it.

“Its when your body starts to change from a kid to a grown up. So you start to grow hair in your armpits and your voice changes and your penis practices more.”

I continue with the sidekick book thinking about rhymes that might have clued me into the true nature of the book.

“How much does your penis practice?” My husband Steve is at hockey. The three simple words I. Don’t. Know. seem to have left my vocabulary. So I ball park it. 50 times a day? Seems about right. Aren’t teens supposed to think about sex 12 times a minute. Or an hour? Hm. That would be a LOT of times in a school day.

The boys are waiting. Google is right here, but I decide to round down. “Twenty times a day when you’re a teenager.” They both look down at their pajamas, one blue fleece, the other Batman flannel.

Oliver says: “My penis only practices like once a week or so. That will be 139 more times.” He seems impressed.

Leo of the skinny jeans says: “I will wear baggy pants.”

They seem settled and not terrified by my perhaps-off-by-a-factor-of-ten answers. So we turn back to sidekicks. The news crew shows up. From the helicopter, they shine a spotlight on our hero. “Is that a banana in your tights or are you just happy to see us?” asks the object of his affliction. The character looks down where he’s ‘pitched a tent.’

“Maybe we shouldn’t read this,” says Oliver.

“Not baggy pants,” says Leo.

“I didn’t think it was very well written,” I said.

So we turned to cross erections. I mean sections. Cross sections.

Phuck. Just look for the MC Hammer pants. Those’ll be my boys.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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