For years, I’ve wanted a chance at normalcy. I catapulted myself into the spotlight to where I would never truly have the opportunity. When I met the love of my life, she brought me back to earth in only a way she could. She loved me through my madness. Through my fame. Through my indiscretions. She tried to love me to complete and total normalcy, but that was hard for me to truly accept. Wanting to hold onto being “The King of Pop” whilst remaining Michael Jackson was hard for me. Since we got back together, I feel she’s loved me to that point. I can experience life like a normal person, or as best as I possibly can. Being in what feels like a remote place like Ohio has certainly made me feel that way. Maybe she did this on purpose. Even if she did, it worked. I’ve never felt so “normal” in my life. I can’t say that I never want to go back to life as I originally knew it, but who I am today makes me want to explore only giving myself to the world occasionally, not all the time like I used to. I want to be completely done with music at some point. I just want to give myself to the people I love, whilst still remaining true to my fans.
“Mom,” Mimi snuggled in between us once she completed her homework.
“What’s up, sweetie?” Shayla put her book down and kissed our daughter’s forehead.
“After I finished my homework, I called Nova to wish her a happy birthday and she said she started her period yesterday. What’s that?” My gaze slowly went from my book to Shayla, who’s eyes were just as big as mine. There goes that “talk” we planned on having.
The innocence that comes with childhood is slowly fading away, bringing forth so many different feelings and lessons on life. I can’t say that I was ready for this because I never truly prepared myself. But this day was going to come one way or another. In a way I’m kind of glad Mimi brought it up, now we don’t have to be so awkward about bringing it up ourselves.
Shayla took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, “welp. I probably should have told you this sooner, but I suppose now is the right time, hmm?” She quickly raised her eyebrows at me.
“Is it a bad thing?” Mimi asked. “Because Nova said she was having cramps and didn’t feel like talking to me much longer, hence why we got off the phone.”
“It’s not a bad thing… It comes with being a lady…” Shayla broke down the monthly cycle of a woman in a way that only a ten year old could understand. She told our daughter the story of when she first experienced her first period and how it does suck, but how it can be a life saver at times. I smiled at the memories of when Shayla and I wanted children but weren’t completely ready, but when her period came we both felt a sense of relief. Becoming a parent, I feel, is something you have to totally prepare yourself for. Yeah, “oops” babies happen and everything eventually works out. But being prepared for the life you plan on bringing into the world is so worth it. After raising the twins for ten years, I actually want to start all over and try for another… I feel so much more prepared now. Not to say I wasn’t before, but now that I have a handle on things, raising a third would be ten times easier.
“Boys don’t have periods? Mikey’s not gonna get one?” Mimi wondered.
“No,” I interrupted. “Boys don’t have periods. Only women can carry children. Men’s bodies aren’t made for all that.”
“I swear men have ‘mental cycles’ or something, though,” Shayla rolled her eyes. “There have been times when your father or your uncles would have some fit out of nowhere and I’m certain it’s their ‘time of the month’ or ‘week’ or what have you. We have a physical cycle whereas theirs is more mental.”
“Can you scientifically prove that?” I challenged her.
“I don’t have to. I’ve lived with men all my life to know.”
“So, Mike’s just gonna have a random fit with me some day?” Mimi looked between us.
Shayla laughed, “I mean, maybe. You’ll notice it! I promise. It’s not like an on the dot thing like with us. Men and women’s mood swings are wild. Just be prepared for not only your own, but your brothers. I’m telling you from experience.”
“Daddy, does your period hurt too?"
Shayla and I both couldn’t help but to bust out and laugh. Now Shayla has my child out here thinking men have periods because of our mood swings.
“No, baby. It’s not physical like you and your mothers,” I reminded her. “Your mother claims it’s all mental.”
“It’s ‘a period of mood swings.’ That’s what it is, I’m convinced,” Shayla shrugged. “You’ll see.”
“Does Mike know this?”
“MJ!” Shayla called. After his homework, he always goes straight to that computer room to play Club Penguin. I’ve got to get him out of that habit. There’s far more to life than that.
Our son came downstairs nearly out of breath, “can this wait a sec? I’m almost done playing ‘Thin Ice.’”
“Come sit down and chat with us,” I gestured for him to come over. “‘Thin Ice’ will be there.”
He looked around awkwardly, “but so will you guys… Can I finish my game real quick?”
“No. Have a seat,” Shayla instructed him.
He sighed deeply, “can I at least log out?”
“Baby, why don’t you go on upstairs with him?” Shayla nodded toward me.
“I don’t need help logging out, Mom,” MJ called out as he went back upstairs.
“Take that time to give him ‘the talk.’” She’s right. This gives room for Shayla and Mimi to continue their own conversation while I explain to my son the changes that his body is going to go through.
I made my way upstairs. How do I even begin? There aren’t too many changes for boys like there are for girls. Yeah, you grow hair in strange places, you grow in more ways than one, voice gets deeper, acne… When I look back on that time for me, puberty was embarrassing. Especially having to go through it in the spotlight. Everyone was so used to my high voice from childhood. So was I! Having to sing whilst having my voice change was probably the hardest thing to do. The acne that would pop up on my once clear face made me not want to ever look in a mirror. When fans looked for “Little Michael” but saw a teenager with acne scars, they’d turn away in disgust. Puberty was probably the worst thing I could have ever gone through. I’m glad that my children don’t have to go through it while the world’s watching. I want their experience to be far less traumatic than mine.
“MJ?” I walked into the computer room and took a seat at the computer next to his.
“I’m logging out. I’ll be down in a second,” he expressed as he went through the steps of logging out.
“Stay here for a while. We’ll just talk up here.”
He typed his goodbyes to his online friends and proceeded to log out, closing safari. “I thought you guys wanted to talk down there.”
“We will. You and I should talk awhile first. How are you feeling, son?”
“Fine… I guess… Why? Is everything okay?” He looked at me suspiciously. I don’t know how to describe my son. Over the years, he’s gotten more quiet, suspicious, suspecting, and more introspective. He and my daughter have completely switched personalities. Mimi was never this way though. She was shy, yes, but not as internal like her brother.
“Everything is fine.” My son and I equally feel the same. Awkward. Very awkward. The only thing is, he doesn’t know what I need to talk to him about. “Have you noticed any changes about yourself that you want to talk to me about?”
He stared at me blankly, “…no…”
“Nothing at all?”
“Well, uh, there’s gonna be some changes, son,” I cleared my throat.
“Changes like… what?”
“Like hormonal changes. Your body is gonna change as you slowly become a man.” Once again, he stared at me blankly. Shayla had it more easy. At least Mimi came to her with a question. I’ve got to do all this on my own. “Pretty soon, your voice is going to get deeper. You’re going to grow in many different ways. Grow hair in weird places. Prayerfully, you don’t have acne like I did-”
“Dad, is this your way of giving me ‘the talk?’”
“You’re giving me ‘the talk,’ aren’t you?”
“Yeah. It’s gotta happen one way or another.”
“You don’t have to. I know what sex is. I’ve heard you and mom sometimes.”
My eyes grew so wide, I thought they were about to fall out the socket, “excuse me?!”
“Yeah. You and mom aren’t as quiet as you think.”
“What-” I cleared my throat. “What do you know about sex, son?”
“I know that when a guy sticks his thing in a girl, a baby comes out in like nine or ten months,” he shrugged like it meant nothing.
“Where’d you learn that?” My children have been all over the world and are mostly sheltered. I don’t let them watch anything outside of cartoons or DVD’s, so where on earth did he learn about that?
“Let’s see… Between the internet, my friends, and my cousins, I may know a lot more than you think, dad,” he smiled that same mischievous smile I would give my mother when I was his age.
This isn’t a laughing matter, but I couldn’t help but chuckle. “Sex doesn’t always create a baby, ya know?”
“Yeah, I know. Otherwise, I would have been had a younger sibling by now.”
“And besides that, you have to know that you should only have sex with someone you really care about. Can’t be out here having sex with any and everybody. That’s sharing a very intimate part of yourself. Most guys don’t talk about that. They just think sex is fun… And it is! But it’s really fun with your wife. You have to remember that.”
“But you and mom aren’t married.”
“We were though.”
“But you’re not now.”
I nodded, “I understand that, but-”
“But she’s not your wife. So, why not just say that sex is fun with someone you really love?” He’s too smart for his own good sometimes. He makes a valid point. And while he watches us openly engage in “sin,” I can’t really tell him to do the opposite when I’m out here doing the complete contrary.
“When you really, truly care about someone, it’s totally okay to have sex with them, if that’s what you choose to do. You just have to be careful. You don’t want to have a baby before you’re financially stable. You don’t want to catch anything from anyone. Sex is a very serious act. But listen, there’s more to this ‘talk’ than sex. Like the smell in your room.”
His eyebrows knit together in confusion, “what smell in my room?”
“The smell your mother smelled. You don’t smell that? You can’t be out here smelling like that. We’ve introduced you to deodorant and proper hygiene. I don’t know what you’re doing in there, but your mother says your room stinks.”
“I never noticed.”
“Of course you wouldn’t. You’re probably immune to it at this point. So from now on, I suggest showering at night, that way you’re not getting in bed after a long day smelling like who done it and why. Change your linen and wash your clothes every weekend. And open a window to get some fresh air in there, okay?”
“I guess… What happens if none of that helps?”
“I’m almost certain that it will.” I didn’t feel as awkward anymore, so I explained the intricacies of puberty. The weirdness that comes with a random erection. How acne can make you feel insecure. How the voice squeaks at the time you least expect it. Our conversation came natural to me, and while I spoke to my son, I was proud of myself. Proud that I was able to talk about this in a way I wish Joseph could have explained to me. My son will never have to worry about being made fun of for the way he looks or for the changes that his body will go through. I’m going to be there every step of the way whenever he has questions. I just want to be the best father I can be. I want to be a great example of what a father is so that whenever MJ decides to have children, he’ll know how a father is supposed to be and be even greater than that.
“What’s a ‘wet dream?’”
My lips involuntarily tightened together in embarrassment and curiosity, “hmm?”
“A ‘wet dream.’ What is it?”
“Why? Have you had one?”
His cheeks turned a slight shade of red, “I’ve woken up with my bed a little wet before. It’s all in my pajamas… I swear I don’t pee in the bed though!” He held his hands up in surrender. “My friends say it might be a ‘wet dream…’”
“So you have noticed some changes about yourself. They’re normal. It comes with getting older.
“But what is it? Every morning I wake up and my sheets are wet.”
“And you haven’t thought to change your sheets…? No wonder your room smells… When a boy becomes a man he produces more testosterone. That’s all that is. You’re getting a little too excited in your dreams and you’re waking up to the result of that. Who are you out here thinking about?”
“No one…” he blushed.
I laughed, “you’re thinking about somebody to be having dreams like that. Wet dreams don’t happen out of nowhere, but they happen out of nowhere. Who are you thinking about?”
“If I tell you, you’re gonna make fun of me.”
“Now why would I do that?” He shrugged. “I’m not going to make fun of you.”
“Well, before I tell you… Have you ever had one of those dreams before?”
“Yeah,” I nodded slowly. “Like you, I was a bit confused. But my brothers were kind of enough to tell me what was going on.”
“Grandpa Joe didn’t tell you?”
“Your Grandpa Joe and I didn’t have the kind of relationship that you and I have. But luckily, I had older brothers who could explain everything to me.”
“Were you thinking about Mom?”
I smiled, “I didn’t know your mom at the time.”
“Do you still have dreams like that?”
“Nope. They stop around sixteen, seventeen. One of those.”
“Oh… So I have to go through this for seven more years?”
“It’s normal. Just change your sheets and you shouldn’t have any problems,” I carefully reminded him. “Now, who are you out here thinking about that got you having these kinds of dreams, son?”
He blushed deeply again, “I really don’t know if I should tell you.”
“I don’t want anything to happen.”
“Like what? I can’t do anything about who you’re attracted to. It is what it is.” Now I’m curious. Why does he think I’m going to do anything about who’s “causing” these dreams. That has nothing to do with me. If he’s attracted to someone, he’s attracted. It happens.
He took a deep breath and looked at me, “you ready?”
“Lay it on me.”
“Shhh! Dad!” His face turned a deep red of clear embarrassment. “See?! I told you you’d make fun of me!”
“I’m sorry,” I covered my mouth to hide my smile. I’d be wrong if I disagreed with him. Ms. Ivy is fine. She’s traveled all over the world with us as the twins tutor. And I’d be lying if I said I never took a second glance at her. She is banging. “She is pretty, son.”
His eyebrows knit together in confusion, “you agree?”
“I mean, yeah. But don’t tell your mom I told you that now.”
“So… it’s okay that I have a crush on her?”
“It’s completely normal for a boy of your age to have a crush on their teacher. It happens all the time,” I shrugged.
“Oh… So, you think I have a chance?”
I laughed, “uh, no. But it’s okay to look every now and then.”
“So, you look at her too? Does mom know this?”
“Your mom doesn’t need to know all that now. All she needs to know is that she’s the only woman for me. Ms. Ivy is cute and all, but I’d never jeopardize what I have with your mother over your tutor. So, let’s just keep that between us, guys, alright?” I held my fist out so he could give me a fist bump.
“Keep what between the guys?” Shayla and Mimi walked into the computer room.
I looked at my son who looked at his mother and blurted out, “nothing!”
“Mmhm,” Shayla’s lips pursed as she sat beside me. “What y’all up here talm ‘bout?”
“The circle of life and becoming a man,” MJ laughed. I winked at him, making sure that Shayla couldn’t see the gesture. Something as small as this shows my son that not only can he trust me, but I can trust him as well. This is something I always wanted with my own father. To be able to talk to him without feeling like I’d be humiliated or like I ever had to take a jab at him. At least I get to have this with my own son.
“Well, Mom just talked to me about becoming a lady,” Mimi teased.
“What’s so great about that? You’re only gonna get uglier.”
“Guess we’ll be two ugly twins because you look just like me, little brother.”
“You’re only seven minutes older. That hardly makes me your ‘little brother.’ But as a man, I’ll look better. You don’t get that option.”
“So, calling yourselves ugly in front of the not so ugly people who created you, is okay?” Shayla asked, then turned to look at me. “Since when?”
“Ion know,” I shrugged. “But I know one thing, I don’t make ugly children.”
“Neither do I. So, where’s the ugly in the room? Point it out, so I can see it.” At that, the twins went quiet. “That’s what I thought.”
“To be fair,” Mimi spoke up. “Mikey started it.”
“And I finished it,” Shayla reminded her, causing not another word from either one of them. “I brought you up here so we can discuss this as a family. I think we’ve had the respective separate conversations. Now, if you all have any questions, we can both answer them fair and square. And that way, you both will be prepared for what’s going to happen with each other as life continues.”
MJ and Mimi gave each other an identical once over. Mimi rolled her eyes before looked back at us. No one could have ever prepared me for this level of parenthood. Even these moments I have to cherish. Ten years has gone by entirely too quickly already.
“I have a question,” Mimi’s hand shot up.
“What’s that?” Shayla asked.
“Does Mikey know he’s going to get a period too?”
“What’s a ‘period?’” MJ looked between us.
Shayla and I sighed as we looked at each other. Preparing for this took a dramatic left. Since I wanted to be normal, this is what comes with it, huh?