It’s kind of funny when you think about it, but every parent has an innate dread of “the question.” We all know it’s coming, we’d all prefer to be the one who answers it and yet, we all freeze up when we think about it.
K and I have been talking about it lately and I have a sense that the day will be here sooner rather than later. I’m somewhat concerned as C and M are only 7 and 5. I was 11 or 12 before I had “the talk” with my dad (and for a man who commanded troops in combat, I’ve never seen him so scared and uncomfortable) but the telltale signs are starting to emerge. We have entered the curious zone and quick answers are no longer satisfying.
I think we partially lucked out by having M while C was still very young. Any questions of where his brother came from were overruled by the questions of where the next snack was coming from or why the stairs were so much fun to crawl up. My earliest warning sign actually came from M rather than C. Getting ready for baths one night, a tiny voice asked me “daddy, how did I get in mommy’s tummy?” Mind you, I was bent over the tub checking the water temp when this happened and just barely escaped going head first into the water myself. I stammered. I looked around wildly for my wife (who was conveniently not at home). But, before I could say anything, M satisfied his own curiosity. “I think,” he expounded, “that you made a hole in mommy and put the baby inside her.” He then returned to the mystery that were his toes and no more was said about it. I continued to stare off into space wondering how much he already knew.
Sure, we have been saying “stop touching yourself” for years now, ever sense they first could, really. I find myself promising them that it won’t fall off if they let go. They think I’m joking, but I’m starting to get concerned that it might fall off if they don’t let go. K got the worst of it recently in the grocery store when C explained (loudly, of course) that “it just feels good, mommy!” No arguing that one, certainly not in the bread aisle. The boys have long lamented their mother’s lack of a penis, but so far, it has not gone past idle curiosity for the most part.
I also have to carefully warn them about rough-housing lately. “The wiener,” as they’ve recently come to call it (thank you, boys at camp), is a favorite end game tactic for each boy to use against the other. They’ll be happily playing together and, naturally, it will devolve into a fight. Before long the cry of “ow, my wiener!” will echo through the house. My job is then to remind them to be careful down there. When asked why, I have to quick come up with something other than “well, you’re probably going to want it to work later on…” They continue to look at me like I’m an idiot as I stammer something about very sensitive body parts (duh, that’s why it’s a target, dad) and having trouble peeing (no dad, it just comes out).
My darling wife was a great help with this recently. While the boys prepared for their showers, general shenanigans ensued (as they do) and she yelled at C to stop grabbing his “balls.” One little slip further down the slope. “Balls?” both boys asked of their mother (to who’s credit was alone in the house with them). Testicles, she quickly corrected, but the damage was done. An undiscovered country had been revealed. Well, mommy, what are testicles? (I don’t remember where I was that night, but I have no doubt that this disturbance in the force had me grinning like a maniac.)
(Let’s pause for a minute while I freely admit that I would have paid anything to have been witness to this conversation.)
Okay, so testicles, K graciously explained, were a special boy body part that had part of the baby a man carries and uses to help make a baby in the mommy’s tummy. “Oh!” shouts Professor M, “they’re full of seeds! And when you plant them, they grow a penis!” He was very proud of his deduction. Surprisingly, the conversation went no further. Although, if we were to begin naming our grey hairs, I’m pretty sure K would have one named Testicles.
While M continues his doctoral studies of human reproduction, C is more concerned with gender. Girls are starting to be more “girl-like” this year in school. They have girl-only birthday parties, they like dolls and recently several of them were gathered near C’s desk and extolling their love of Justin Bieber (or Beaver as C reported to me). “They were jumping up and down, and making silly faces and talking about marrying Justin Beaver, dad. What’s so great about Justin Beaver?” (C is also wise beyond his years.)
K and I have to be careful ourselves. The boys emulate our behavior and I find myself checking the room before making any outward signs of affection… okay, before I grab my wife’s butt. We had to explain that “long kisses” were not appropriate with your parents. One morning, I stepped into the shower as K was getting out, but before either of us could move, the bathroom door burst open and in came M. Naturally, we froze. “Are you two in the shower together?” he demanded. “Uh, yes?” was our very mature response. “Cool.” he said and he was on his way. Obviously, we dodged a bullet there, but a greater separation of shower times is now necessary in the morning.
All in all, I think The Question is forthcoming, and I’m scared. I have no idea what of, or why, but the idea of “the talk” is daunting. So, dear reader, I turn to you. What do I have to look forward to, and what (if anything) helped you get through it?