You know when your child is emotionally off. It is built into our “Mom DNA.”

Moms are like super-computers constantly taking in data and converting it to usable information. Or even a lack of data can be a bellwether. Like when you don’t hear any noise coming from their general direction for a solid 90 minutes, you know something is afoot.

This time it was a loss of the pep in his step, loss of appetite, and just a general sense of apathy towards everything. I asked him if something was wrong, only to be met with the same answer, “I am fine, Mom! I chalked it up to the fact that I am occasionally overly -sensitive and moved on with a watchful eye.

Three days later, as we are about to walk into my in-law’s house for a family dinner, he hits me with it:  “Mom, I need to tell you something.” 

Instantly I wanted to grab anything and spike it to the ground while doing “The Griddy” in the front yard, turned end zone because I knew I was right! But I pause, collect myself and prepare to lend him my ear with a compassionate look of mom-like understanding.

Him- “Mom, I did something bad. I’m scared to tell you because of what you’ll say or do. But it’s making me feel so bad inside I have to tell you”.

Me- “It’s okay, son. We all make mistakes. Tell me what you did.”

Him- “I….I…I… I don’t even know how to say it.”

Me- “It’s easier if you just let it out. Say it quick.”

Him- “It’s sooo bad, though.”

Me (to myself)- “Okay…what the heck has he done? He’s never acted like this. Did he get in trouble in school, cuss with his friends, lie about his grades? What is this villainous deed that has him so tongue-tied!”

Me- “Maybe just start with a couple of words.”

Him- “I…I…don’t even know how to start?!?!”

Me (to myself)- “Did my kid smoke a cigarette! Did he steal something from the gas station! Oh, this is something big!!! What is that new boy’s name he has been hanging out with?   Wait, wait, wait, keep calm.”

Me- “I’ll tell you what. Look down at the ground, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and say it out loud.”

Him- “I don’t know how.”

Me (to myself)- “OH MY GOD CHILD!!!! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE????”

Me- “If you trust me, then you can tell me.”

Him- “I……I touched myself down there, and something happened, and I think it was terrible!!!”

Me (to myself)- “Oh, thank God!  You’re not about to enter the ranks of the Juvenile Delinquent!!!”

Me- “Oh honey, it’s not a bad thing. It just means you are growing up! You’re getting older, and your body is producing these things called hormones that make things ‘down there’ work differently than you’re used to. You shouldn’t feel bad or ashamed or upset at all.”

Him- “It just happened so fast that, and, and, it was over and I thought it was bad.”

Me- “I promise it wasn’t bad. It happens to every boy around this time in their life. What concerns me the most is that it took you so long to tell me. You’ve been carrying this around for three days. You carried it all by yourself because you thought I couldn’t possibly understand or that I would be upset. Neither of which is true. 

It’s time you start to see mom, dad, and even your big brother as people and not just your family. You have real people, who love you no matter what, who have been through what you are experiencing this very moment. If you feel bad or have questions about these things that either embarrass you or make you feel bad, then talk to one of us. 

Don’t carry it or bury it. Share it so that you can let it out and move on, with or without it.  You have a safe place to talk about things that make you uncomfortable because you don’t yet understand them. All you have to do is speak up. Don’t hold them in. Does that all make sense?”

Him- “I just feel so relieved!”

I wiped the rest of the tears from the side of his face. His posture changed to more confident, he walked a bit quicker, and as he walked away, he even gave me a slight smile.  He ate a huge meal as if he hadn’t eaten in a week; in reality, with his anxiety, it was more like two days.

I nearly cried. He’s still a boy, after all. He warms my heart and breaks it too. He is growing up slowly at light speed, and I don’t know how to explain it. 

All I can do is make sure he sees me as more than a mom. I’m a person. I’ve made my share of mistakes, and I have felt shame and all that accompanies it. But my experiences are a part of me now. I choose not to hide them but highlight them. 

Our children will be stronger because they benefit from the truths we are brave enough to share with them.



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