A few days ago I was driving Darcy home from school. She announced that she was going to have two babies and I promptly wrecked the car. All right I didn’t really wreck the car but I didn’t think I’d have to worry about my daughter becoming pregnant until she had gone through puberty. Darcy is only four after all but apparently kids grow up pretty fast these days no matter how many GMO foodstuffs we withhold from their diets.
“I will call the girl Flower Sparkle and I will call the boy Lyle,’ my daughter continued, “Now daddy,” she paused and looked at me through the rear view mirror, “how do I get them in my tummy?”
“How about some ice cream when we get home,” I responded with a time honored tradition of offering frozen dairy products in lieu of engaging in an uncomfortable conversation.
“I love ice cream,” Darcy said in a serious tone that belied her young age. I made a mental note to find a good therapist for my daughter in ten years who specializes in confusing dairy fetishes and went home to have ice cream with Darcy.
For the past month or so Darcy has been trying to wrap her head around where she came from and in my limited way I can vaguely relate. I recall having some of the same questions when I was my daughter’s age but as a child and, to a certain extent an adult, I was remarkably uninquisitive when it came to my origins. I’ve always been a bit of a prude and even as a young boy I knew that the subject entailed a conversation I wanted to forgo for as long as possible.
My sister however could scarcely think of anything else. From the minute she could put together a semi coherent sentence Fritha began to barrage my mother and father with questions: “Was I in mommy’s tummy?”, “How did I get there?” and my favorite, “Did I come out of mommy’s butt?”.
At first my Frit was appeased by the sorts of generalities parents tell their children about pregnancy and sex. It wasn’t long however before she started asking more detailed questions like “how did I get in mommy’s tummy?” which my mother responded to with the standard “because your father loved your mother in a very special way” prompting my sister to ask “how did I get out?”
If memory serves my dad offered to take us out for ice cream beginning the aforementioned time honored tradition of offering frozen dairy instead of discussing sex with children and creating some pretty confusing feelings about both subjects ever since.
At the age of seven I was pretty good with the whole “a man and a woman love each other in a special way” explanation and didn’t feel that anything further needed to be discussed on the subject until I was in college. My sister, after scarfing down a double dipped chocolate cone thirty minutes later, went back for more answers and I found myself an unwilling participant in a conversation I never meant to have. I can honestly say that listening to my mother and father describe the logistics of sex as a young boy was, and remains to this day, one of the most uncomfortable events in which I have ever taken part.
I’m sure my parents weren’t all that excited about the conversation either. They approached the subject in a theoretical fashion which I appreciated. I didn’t want a first person account about how my mother and father humped away with wild abandon but I shouldn’t have worried. Mom and dad described the physical act of love with as much interest or passion as someone describing how to change the oil in a car. In retrospect this may have had something to do with the fact that neither one of them had benefited from an oil change for quite some time. I can’t say with any certainty that the conversation brought their troubled marriage into relief or their subsequent divorce some six years later but I have my suspicions.
What I do know is that listening to my mother describe the beauty of the physical act of love delayed my onset of puberty until I was well into my twenties. The subject of sex was, thankfully on my part, never raised again. The only reference to anything of a sexual nature in our home occurred many years later when my brother found giant pile of pornography I’d ditched in the field behind our home that was subsequently discovered in his desk by my stepmother.
It should come as no surprise that I carry a little baggage when it comes to the discussion of sex. When it comes to answering my daughter’s question about the act of making children I’d like to spare her the same sorts of emotional damage I’ve incurred and, for better or worse, I’ve delayed discussing the logistics of sex and birth with Darcy.
Instead I’ve provided her with generalities and misdirection. I tell myself that there’s only so much a four year old can understand and that’s somewhat true but the fact is that my daughter is ready for answers even if I’m not. I’m aware that my own hesitation to discuss the subject only piques Darcy’s interest as well as the fact that the longer I push the discussion off my daughter may intuit that sex or her plumbing is something that is dirty or shameful.
As a reasonably decent parent I’m aware that my hang ups are my own and, as such, I’d prefer to forgo subjecting my daughter to my own issues if at all possible. I’m sure that over the next few weeks I’ll engage my daughter in an honest conversation about sex and childbirth. I’ll even attempt to answer her questions to the best of my ability in terms that a four year old can understand.
I don’t want my daughter to be damaged or have the same sorts of weirdness I’ve inherited. I’m not exactly ecstatic about the thought of my daughter having a healthy sex life once she’s matured and is able to handle the complexities and potential liabilities of a physical relationship but I after I have a few drinks I imagine I’ll acclimate to the idea. Unfortunately I haven’t had a few drinks and I actually just shuddered a little bit when wrote that last sentence. Excuse me I think I’ve got to duck out for a twelve pack and a quart of ice cream.