As a parent, there are a few moments that stop you in your tracks and make you want to run screaming from the room: the first time you realize your toddler can reach the top of the stairs in under three seconds, the first time you hear a swear word out of one of your cherub’s mouths, and the moment you look at a pregnancy test and realize that another one is on the way.
But, there is ONE moment that I consider to be the Holy Grail of screaming fits: the first time your child asks about sex and how they came to exist.
Our then 10-year-old son, God love him, was a bright, curious little boy and it really should have come as no surprise to us that he was starting to put one and one together and figuring out that it equals three.
Actually, come to think of it, I should have realized that we had it coming when, around the age of three, he matter of factly asked us at the dinner table (it’s ALWAYS at our dinner table): “Mommy? If my testicles are my nuts, does that make my pee-pee my bolt or my screw?”
Aside from questions resulting from my daughter seeing me just out of the shower, I can attest to that being one of the more awkward questions I’ve ever been asked. For the record: I totally threw Hubby under the bus and made him tackle THAT one (sorry, hon…).
On the night in question, as per the usual when these situations arise, we were at the dinner table and we were discussing genetics, science and the process of cell division (that’s totally what you talk about over spaghetti, too, right?). We could tell the conversation was starting to take a turn for the worse when our son started specifically asking about the transfer of genetic material. In his 10-year-old, Einstein way, he was really trying to figure out how genes got from point A to point B. We did everything we could to derail his train of thought before it became a train wreck that no one could clean up.
“But Mommy, how did Daddy’s genes and your genes get into me? Did one of you throw the genes up on the other? The mechanics are just not making sense to me.”
Houston, we have a train wreck.
As my husband and I looked at each other across the table, silently doing the “Who’s going to take this one?” conversation with our eyes (ya know, the conversation that gets loud and heated with eyebrow raises, lip squeezing and jaw moves), I realized that, while I always knew this moment would come, I did NOT think it would happen so soon. I had not prepared! He still plays with Legos and wears footie pajamas! I had no written materials to give him! I am a control freak without a plan to talk to my son about The Birds and The Bees! Help!
Thankfully, and one of the many reasons I married him, my husband took one for Team Burke and took our son upstairs to have “The Talk.” From what I understand, Hubby attempted to buy us some time for the REAL Talk with a discussion of IVF (“genetic material is transferred in Petri dishes in a lab”….), but our precocious son knew there was more to it and so my Hubby leveled with him in a way a 10-year-old would understand. I kind of wish I had been a bee on the wall for THAT discussion….
After it was all said and done, our son came downstairs, newly enlightened and slightly bewildered. I knew my husband had done a satisfactory job when my son confided in me, “Just so you know, Mommy, I won’t be doing THAT for a really long time, because, frankly, I find it disturbing.” Phew. I resisted the urge to add that Mommy wanted him to find that disturbing until he was 26 and gave him a hug instead. And then, I’m not going to lie: I poured myself an enormous glass of wine. EN-OR-MOUS.
I was proud that my little guy felt comfortable coming to us with the big questions of life and at the same time, unnerved at what was clearly the opening of a new chapter in our roles as parents. Later, as I cleared the dinner dishes, my son came into the kitchen, triumphantly, with a stack of Petri dishes left over from a germ science project declaring that he wanted to do “an experiment.”
I realized that while we may have tackled the mechanics, we had a long way to go with regards to the art of romance. As I stood amongst the Petri dishes and gulped my wine, I offered up this silent prayer: “Please Lord, don’t let him be the guy at a party that says, ‘Hey, baby, wanna connect with me genetically?’