Me – Well the woman’s body provides the perfect environment for the baby to begin growing in but, if a baby is not growing, she gets rid of the blood and nutrients and stuff ( wait is this right? are there any nutrients in there?) that she doesn’t need. This happens every month.
Him – What do you mean? You mean it comes out?
Me – Yes. It comes out of the vagina.
He looks at me. He looks away. He turns the page.
At the top of the page big letters spell out Planning Ahead; postponement, abstinence and birth control. Again I am tempted to close the book but, as I am trying to convey my counseling availability for future hard parts of growing up, we continue. My kid will know that he can come to me with stuff if it kills me.
Me – So if you don’t want to have a baby there are things you can do to stop the sperm from getting to the egg.
On the page there are all these drawings of pills and creams and sponges ( I told you I bought this book a few years ago) and there’s a cartoon of a male figure with an erection putting on a condom.
Him – What’s that?
Me – It’s called a condom. You can put it on and it catches it so it doesn’t get to the egg.
Him – (panicking)YOU MEAN IT FALLS OFF?
Me- (alarmed) WHAT?
Him – YOUR PENIS CAN FALL OFF?
Even though I know this is the absolute wrong thing to do, I start laughing. I have to bite the insides of my cheeks to stop.
Me – No, no. The penis can’t fall off. The condom catches the sperm.
Him – Oh. Then what do you do with it?
Me – Put it in the trash I guess.
Him – Yuck.
We go on for a few more pages and I am working my way up to taking "It’s Perfectly Normal" away from him. I want it to look casual and organic when I do but I’m also acutely aware that the book gets to – well, let’s just call it other things – toward the end and they are not a mommy’s job.
I lift it out of his hands saying –
Me – Any questions?
Him – Uh uh.
Me – I want you to know that you can talk to me about any of this stuff any time ( except, of course, for the aforementioned) It doesn’t embarrass me. You can ask me any questions or anything. Okay? Your dad, too.
Him – Can I tell my brother?
Perfect, just what I was hoping for.
Me – No! It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it but you are more mature. We’ll make sure he knows when he’s ready. Let us do our job, okay?
He has a glint in his eye.
Me – Seriously.
Him (disappointed) Okay…
He runs off and I realize I’ve been pretty much holding my breath for 15 minutes. I take a slow, deep one and give myself a pat on the back.
You can avoid the challenges of a conversation like this with a 10 year old by taking advantage of the window that opens around age 4 or 5. This window is very real; I had it, many of my friends have had it. Most of us slammed it shut as quickly as possible, telling ourselves it was better to wait until our kids were older, but you can walk on through and it might have been easier for me if I had. When my kids started asking the "how did I get here" questions I could have quickly and easily dispense with them by saying, "Daddy puts his penis in Mommy, his sperm meets an egg from her body and a baby begins to grow" There would have been no mention of menstruation, nothing about condoms. The kids simply would not have asked. Oh, well. Too late now. At least it’s over with and I think I did a pretty good job. Now, if I can just make sure my reverse psychology works and my son tells his brother, I won’t have to go through this again.