The Dangers of DaughtersErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
On Wednesdays, rather than rehashing a news story, I reprint one of my old columns. I've got 15 years' worth of the damn things, so there's no point in letting them sit moldering in a box in my garage. At least not the good ones. This one is from 3 years ago.
I think it's time to start talking my daughters about the facts of life.
Now, bear in mind, I don't want to have this conversation. If I had my way, my daughters would stay locked up in the house and not be allowed to date, hang out with boys, or become young women until 10 years after I was dead.
However, my wishes have been largely unheeded by Mother Nature and the human life cycle. My daughters continue to grow older, and have begun learning more about the birds and bees. Which is a problem, since none of us have been talking about them.
I blame NBC's "Fear Factor," the reality show that forces contestants to face their fears through frightening challenges. They have death-defying races, spend time in tanks with alligators, spiders, or rats, and have to eat otherwise unedible parts of animals, like brains, intestines, and other tasty snacks.
My three children were watching a repeat episode a few days ago, where the contestants had to eat something that only reinforced my loathing for the show.
"The people on 'Fear Factor' had to eat tentacles," said my five-year-old daughter.
"That's not a big deal," I said. "That's calamari — squid. We've had that before."
"No, daddy, DEER tentacles," she corrected.
"Yeah, they were shaped like eggs," said my ten-year-old daughter helpfully. "I didn't know what they were."
"Tentacles!" my three-year-old son shouted. "Daddy, what are tentacles?!"
I hope the heavy feeling in my chest and my numb left arm were normal for fathers whose daughters start learning about the male human body. I was caught between wanting to bust out laughing and shrieking at the top of my lungs. All I could do was grit my teeth, mumble "uh huh," and desperately wish something else would distract them.
"Ask your mother," I muttered through clenched teeth, hoping that would satisfy them until they forgot the entire conversation.
But it didn't end there. Not more than 12 hours later, my wife reported that my oldest daughter asked where babies came from.
We had discussed this at length while our eldest was still a toddler. I reminded her of our agreed-upon solution.
"Just answer the question she asked. Tell her babies come from their mommy's tummy," I said.
"No, she already knew that," said my wife. "She wants to know how they get in there in the first place."
That feeling in my chest and arm flared up again.
I knew this day would come. It's been hanging over my head ever since I knew our first child was going to be a girl. Back then, I swore I would do everything I could to protect her from marriage, dating, and those awkward teen years when young boys wonder why I glare menacingly at them whenever they look at my daughters.
Now Mother Nature is having her own little laugh at my expense and discomfort. "Ah, you have forgotten much from your own childhood," she seems to laugh at me.
My own sex education was delivered with one simple word: "Here."
When I was 11 years old, my mother handed me the childhood classic, "Where Did I Come From?" the book that described sex like "being tickled, but only much better."
It described the entire birthing process, from the sly wink the man gives to the woman, all the way through through the entire gestation, followed by the birth and breast feeding. Other than that, I figured things out on my own.
This was the '70s, where sex education was learned on the playground and from books our mothers gave us. It's so much different from the 21st century, where kids learn about sex from TV, the Internet, movies, magazines, radio, their friends, Victoria's Secret catalogs, and if they're lucky, parents who wonder how to explain "like being tickled, but much better" to a ten-year-old who struts around the house, singing "Oops I Did It Again."
We've tried to shelter our own kids from this. They don't listen to pop music, we don't buy skimpy clothes, and we limit their television watching to shows like "The Strict Abstinence Gang" and "Father Knows What Boys Want, So You're Never Leaving the House."
It doesn't seem to be working. Now they're learning about "deer tentacles" and that only boy deer have them. They've figured out that if babies come from a mommy's tummy, something must have put them in there. And nothing I do seems to stop it. So I guess all I can do is go with the flow and make sure they learn it in a safe, educational environment.
"Hey kids, let's go visit Grandma and see if she has any of my old books!"
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