Explaining the Facts of Life

Explaining the Facts of Life

I had to explain a few things about the male human body to my son this week. Nothing he isn't already aware of. He's eight, after all. But we had to discuss some of the. . . scientific terms versus the "family terms" we use.

It was an awkward discussion made even more awkward by the fact that my 10-year-old and 14-year-old daughters were at the table.

My wife and I made a deal before we ever had kids. She would talk to any daughters about the facts of life, and I would talk to any sons.

I'm easily embarrassed, and get all red in the face whenever my daughters tell me what they just went shopping for at Victoria's Little Sister's Secret. My wife is just as uncomfortable when dealing with boy issues, so the arrangement was fair.

We even went so far as to discuss who would take over, should one of us meet an untimely end.

Me: Well, we could get your sister to talk to the girls about it.

My wife: Yeah, but she lives in Fort Wayne, and it's not like she can just race down here whenever the girls have a question.

Me: No, but maybe she could schedule a time to come down.

My wife: You just have to give her enough notice. Usually about two or three weeks.

Me: I think I can do that.

My wife: So who do you think should handle the boy talk?

Me: Hmm. My brother could do it, but he's in Chicago, and I'm still not entirely convinced he knows everything.

My wife: He's 30 and just got married.

Me: He'll always be a little kid playing with his Transformers to me.

So far, we haven't had to call in any pinch hitters, and have been able to field most discussions. But the biggest scare was a few years ago, when our younger daughter asked "where do babies come from?"

We had gotten some great advice about talking about the facts of life: only answer the question you've been asked.

"Daddy, where do babies come from?" she asked again, ignoring the sweat that had appeared on my forehead.

"Why don't you ask Mommy that one?" I said, after my heart started.

"They come from a mommy's tummy," said my wife.

"You mean they're not adopted?" Our kids are adopted, and until this very moment, she assumed all kids were adopted.

"Nope. They all come from a mommy's tummy."

"Oh, okay." Crisis averted. I heaved a sigh of relief. And we only answered the question that was asked.

"You realize one of these days she's going to ask how the babies got in there in the first place, right?" asked my wife.

I shivered slightly. "Maybe so. But that's your department."

We've been lucky in the last few years. Even though our kids are home schooled, our oldest goes to a charter school, where she's been able to learn all kinds of valuable information that we haven't had to teach her.

Luckily, she hasn't shared her knowledge with her little brother and sister.

Unluckily, they expect me to.

Here's the problem: we're a close family. We eat dinner at the table together every night, we talk about specific family issues and events, and we try not to keep secrets from each other.

Which is an awful thing to do to a father.

Because when my son starts asking at the dinner table what certain things are called, this ends up being a discussion everyone hears.

It's not so much that this isn't a discussion for girls. I think it's important they know what certain things are called. I just don't think I should have to be the one to explain it. I mean, we had a deal.

But this time, I did something no one expected, and one that will — I hope — get me out of future discussion for years to come: I gave a full and frank discussion about boy parts, giving the scientific names, the family names, and even a few of the playground names.

I explained why some words were appropriate, and others were not. I explained why they could not use certain words, even though they now knew them, and why I was not going to have this talk more than once, so everyone had just better pay attention. I finished the discussion, wiped my forehead, took a big drink of water, and said, "Now, are there any questions?"

"But Daddy, I just wanted to know why they're called 'peanuts.'"

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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