B was six or seven when he began asking that question that all parents dread. Some begin worrying over it before their child is even two years old. Others decide that the day their child poses the question, they will go into hibernation until their child turns eighteen and has figured out the answer for himself.
No, it’s not, “Can I have that $800 toy?” Nor is it, “Why can’t I [fill in the latest stupid thing her friends are doing]?”
It’s not even, “Are we there yet?”
No, the Dreaded Question is this:
Where do babies come from?
Now, I don’t believe in keeping children in the dark until the day before they get married, like they did in the old days. J and I have planned to reveal all regarding the birds and the bees whenever his body starts experiencing certain changes. You know, like having to shave every morning.
But I do believe in not traumatizing children. I mean, think about explaining physical intercourse to a little person. The body parts involved.
Admit it: when it comes down to it, it sounds gross. Now pretend you’re a seven- or eight-year-old who thinks the opposite gender gives them cooties, and you can imagine the horror that such a premature education might produce.
I am happy to report that since B began asking that question, he hasn’t asked it very often. And most of the time, we have been able to blow it off with, “We’ll tell you when you’re older,” or – the phrase children love most to hear in the whole world – “You’re too young to understand.”
But last night, his nearly eleven-year-old mind decided to get more specific. “What are these things under my pen*is for?” He had been told previously that they were called “tes.ticles”, so J reminded him.
So B repeated, “What are my test.icles for?”
Like the wonderful, level-headed, modern parents we are, J and I looked at each other and grinned. Because we both knew that if we answered that question, it could lead to other questions.
Questions that would lead to potentially traumatizing answers.
This time, he would not be put off. He was up in his loft bed (thus our ability to get away with laughing behind his back) and declared that he wasn’t going to go to sleep until we answered his question.
“In the morning,” we finally promised with reluctance.
And promptly prayed that he would forget all about it by the time he woke up.
So what do you think were the first words out of his mouth when he woke up the next morning? “Good morning, Mom and Dad”? “I had a good dream last night”? “I’m starving! When’s breakfast”?
Oh, no. His first words were, “Tell me what my test.icles are for.”
J and I had discussed it after going to bed, deciding just to tell him that to make a baby you need an egg and a sperm, and that the test.icles house the sperm (he already knew about women carrying eggs). So when he was out of his bed and dressed, that’s what we told him.
“Okay. I understand now,” was his reply after the brief explanation. And he went on with his day.
But now J and I are on pins and needles. Our kid is smart; he won’t stop there. He’ll eventually connect the dots and realize that something is missing from the picture.
It’s inevitable that he will ask the next Dreaded Question, and that he will ask it much sooner than either of us will be ready to answer it:
“When can I learn to drive?”
* I am cloaking the actual name of the male anatomy so that in case you have Internet filter software installed on your computer, the software won’t accuse my website of being “naughty.”