This summer we adopted three male guinea pigs. We’d been told it’s best to have two males only or two males and a female if you are going to keep three. But they were cute and the kids didn’t want to leave one behind so we have our Council of Three: Cooey, Rascal, and Rocket. They aren’t babies anymore, and I know this because they’ve taken to ejaculating on each other’s backs.
My daughter Ahna picked up Rocket and there was a sticky white glob close to his tail.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“Oh, gross.” Those of us over age five started laughing because there was only one thing it could be.
“Let’s go wash your hands,” I said to distract her.
I recalled when my ten-year-old daughter learned about ejaculation.
We were listening to the ’80s hour on the radio and “Wet Dream” by Kip Addotta was on.
“I can’t believe they have a song on the radio about a wet dream,” said Jamin.
“Why?” asked Maya, “What’s a wet dream?”
“Well, it happens to boys as they go through puberty and they may have a really nice dream with thoughts about sex and then they ejacu– do you know what ‘ejaculate’ means?”
“I don’t think so,” said Maya.
“It’s where sperm comes out of the penis.”
“Oh yeah — I remember reading about that in your book.”
My mouth hung open, not because I was appalled at the topic, but because I’d never experienced two kids having such a relaxed, healthy, informative conversation about sex. Growing up without a sibling close to my age, it never occurred to me that brothers and sisters could be helpful in sex education — very helpful.
As they talked with each other and me about their changing bodies, I hear similar threads of concerns about their upcoming firsts. Jamin asked the “What if” questions about his first wet dream and Maya asked the same ones about her period.
What if it happens at a friend’s house?
What if I don’t know what’s happening?
What if someone else finds out?
Maya’s questions were easy for me to answer. We talked about how to be prepared and how to look for signs. I reminded her that no one will judge her — it’s only natural. A group of women friends and I have planned a time to create menstruation bags for our daughters. I envision the one I will gift Maya: it is red silk and tucked inside is a beautiful writing pen, a bracelet that says “Courage” or maybe “Strength,” a funny book of comics, and a letter from me. The letter will say I am proud of her and that I am so delighted she chose me to be her mom. Even though she might feel she has no control over her body right now, some day she’ll understand what a gift it is to be female. She can tuck this red bag away until her time and then open it with me, or privately, her choice.
But with Jamin, it’s difficult because I have no experience to draw from. It honestly never crossed my mind that ejaculation is the male equivalent of menstruation: the signal that as sexual beings they are entering the fertile phase. Yet there we were, looking at our amorous teenage boy guineas with a look of disgust, “Oh gross,” we said. If I consider ejaculation and menstruation as similar rites of passage, why are wet dreams bawdier? Why the stories of blushing boys hiding sheets while daughters are likely to call out “Mom!” from the bathroom? If I want him to feel supported and celebrated shouldn’t he have a “Congratulations on your ejaculation” bag?
Yes, I can see it in my mind’s eye: it is a white silk bag and tucked inside is a beautiful writing pen, a boyish leather necklace, a funny book of comics, and a letter from me. The letter will say I am proud of him and that I am so delighted he chose me to be his mom. Even though he might feel he has no control over his body right now, some day he’ll understand what a gift it is to be male. He can tuck this white bag away until his time and then open it with me, or privately, his choice.
When I got home today, I apologized to the guinea pigs. “You aren’t gross,” I told them, “you are just becoming little rodents. I’m so happy you are part of our family.” Cooey raced around the cage making chuck-chuck sounds and promptly tried to mount Rocket.