I'll never forget the day my father gave us "the talk." We were sitting in the dining room at the gold flecked formica table. I was facing the shelf in the paneled wall that held nothing but flotsam, including the birthday candle that was marked incrementally. The idea was to burn the candle down until the next notch every year, until you turned 16 and your life was over as evidenced by lack of candle. The candle got tossed before my 16th birthday, so I never had to experience watching the final years of my childhood melt slowly into a puddle. Instead, they were just thrown in the garbage.
We were eating chili out of the SOUPER family bowls that my grandmother had given us for Christmas before Jeremy was born. The bowls had faces painted on them, and handles shaped like ears, and they stacked up. It was funny because our last name was SOPER and there were five of us, and five bowls, including two boys and a girl. The girl bowl looked just like me, with brown hair and brown eyes, but I preferred to eat my chili out of the mom bowl because she had dangly pearl earrings. I was busy making sandwiches out of chili smeared on saltines when my brother Ed blurted out "Dad, where do babies come from?"
I froze. By this time I had already had TWO talks from my mom. In the first talk, she drew a picture of a womb and explained that all the eggs that I would ever have were in my body RIGHT now, an idea I found thrilling and a tad burdensome. I remember jumping rope and thinking, "I have really got to watch it. These are the only eggs I'm ever going to have !" The second talk I don't remember much, except that my mother wasn't too thrilled that someone on the school bus had already communicated the facts of life to me via hand gestures. Someone's index finger pushing into a loose fist. "That's what it's like." Well, ok. Wow. Ouch. When our talk was over she asked me if I had any questions. Tight-lipped and horrified, I managed to grunt through gritted teeth "Does it hurt?" No, was her answer. Great. Gotta Run!
I sat in silence, stunned, with a chili cracker sandwich half bitten in my mouth. What was happening? What would he say? My dad was not a man known for grace under pressure. Dinner with children made him especially antsy. But maybe it was the familiar site of the stained brown carpeting or knowing that just in the other room the floor to the kitchen was slanted enough for any spills to run directly to the middle of the linoleum, but he felt at home enough to give a simple, eloquent answer. "Well, children," he said in a smooth voice, suited for radio announcements, "When a man and a woman lie together in a special way, part of the man joins with part of the woman and it creates a baby."
I was STUNNED. Could there be a more eloquent, age appropriate explanation? Definitely going to file THAT one away for the future. The answer completely satisfied Ed as I recall. I have no idea if Dad ever had a more detailed talk with the boys about it, but since most of them have gone on to father children I'd say it's a pretty safe bet that they got the right information somewhere.
Lately I've been feeling it's time to start talking to my oldest son, Jarvis, a little more about the facts of life. Maybe it's because he's recently started mooning over his little friend from pre-school who he hasn't seen in two years. She's the great love of his life, a tiny dynamo with kitty ears and two front teeth knocked out, which made her look like a preposterously small six year old instead of just a fairly small three year old. The last time they met was at the supermarket. He scrunched up his face and pretended not to see her. Then suddenly, at age 8, she is all he talks about. His growing awareness of woman awakens his dormant crush from four years before. Plus he does things like talk about "babes in hot tubs" and tweaks the breast of the mannequin at my friend's vintage clothing store. Instead of just telling him his behavior is inappropriate, I am thinking it might be better to go a bit more in depth. I've been waiting for the right time, dropping hints that he pretty much ignores. Truth be told, he's still been pretty innocent. He knows his behavior is outrageous, but he doesn't know why. He still thinks the rating after R is "I for Inappropriate for All Ages."
Once, I was certain it was about to happen. The kids were asking a lot of questions which I attempted to answer briefly and coherently, and while I was bracing myself for the BIG ONE when suddenly the boys started complaining about MEN not being able to have babies and before I knew it they were off on another tangent. So up until the other day, the kids knew babies started from seeds in the mamma's belly, and the baby come out of hole near her bottom, and that was all they cared about.
That is, until Play Group last week where my kids were exposed to two VERY pregnant ladies. I guess they started reminiscing about when I looked like that because Linus suddenly said as we were leaving "Mom, how does that HUGE baby get out through such a tiny hole?" (I never told him the hole was tiny...how does he know that?) "Well, it stretches." "Well, I guess it would HAVE to because babies are HUGE." Alice chimed in "Mommy, isn't it funny how babies tome out of der mama's PAGINA?I" I started to laugh, and then, it happened. "Mom, how does the baby GET in the mom's belly anyway?"
Here it was. The moment I had been waiting for. It was my time to be progressive, and understanding, and explain things clearly but appropriately. It was my time to trot out my dad's speech from yesteryear. Except that I completely forgot that ever happened and began to wing it. While driving a mini-van full of children and attempting to find a space in the oncoming traffic where I could turn left. I guess I got a little flustered.
Before I knew it was trying to explain to my kids that; Yes, the man plants the seed, which joins with the egg in the lady's body and makes a baby, but NO he does not PEE into her mouth or into her underwear. Finally I just blurted out "The man has to put his penis into the woman's vagina."
Linus then asked "So, can I see you and dad do that sometime?" I answered, no, because it's private. I didn't have the heart to tell him that he already had. Poor traumatized lad decided to just skip the knocking part and walked right in on mommy and daddy's special hug a few months ago. He immediately went and told his brother about the extremely confusing thing he had just witnessed, and Jarvis flatly told him "That's disgusting." That's right. It is. Keep thinking that, my sweet, naive kids. For as long as possible.