I suppose most sex ed discussions between parent and child are impromptu, but perhaps I had a fantasy that mine would be more thought out. A “let’s sit down son” sort of thing. But a recent discussion in the car certainly caught my wife and me off guard.
We were going for groceries with our 8-year-old son, and started talking about our choice to have one child. We were asking our son what it would have been like for him to have siblings.
“How are babies made?” he eventually asked.
Silence from the front seat.
“Well,” my wife attempted, “a woman has half a seed and a man has half a seed, and when they come together they make a baby.”
“Where does the seed come from?”
“The man’s seeds are in his private parts and the woman’s seeds are in her private parts,” she replied.
“They come from your penis?”
“No, they come out of your testicles.”
He groaned in the back seat.
“What?” we asked in unison.
“Ahrg, you’re makin’ my balls hurt.”
“They don’t come directly out of the man’s testicles, they come out through his penis,” my wife had the wherewithal to understand the groan.
Silence and consternation from the back seat.
“So how does the man give his seeds to the woman? Does he pee them out in the toilet, pick them up with his hand, and give them to her?”
Raucous laughter from the front seat, slowly dying off into silent hesitation.
“No, the man puts his penis in the woman’s vagina.” I attempted, my wife’s head whipping my way. I shrugged and grimaced.
After a few moments, my wife added, “Yes, this is what happens between moms and dads. But different parents choose to tell their kids different things about making babies, so don’t go talking to your friends about it, okay? It’s up to parents to have this discussion with their kids. We trust you to know these things now because you’re responsible, but maybe other 3rd graders aren’t ready to hear that yet.”
“Okay, yeah,” from the back. Ponderous silence.
My wife and I debriefed alone afterwards, again bursting with laughter. “I didn’t think we were going there,” my wife said. Neither had I, but how else do you respond to such pointed questions without either blowing off the question or making up stories? We agreed it made sense that he knew, even if it was a bit shocking to all involved. And I admired my wife through it all. She knew enough to think about the big picture. To know that there are other kids in the world, and that these kids talk to one another. The last thing we need is our son becoming the sex-educator of the 3rd grade.
I honestly can’t remember a sex discussion with my own parents. I have no sense of how I absorbed that knowledge except through a sordid patchwork of inferences from peers and popular culture. I’m glad my son is comfortable enough to ask, and that we trust him enough to let him know. And we’ll always have the funny story (likely to be retold at his wedding reception) with the 8-year-old quote, “you’re makin’ my balls hurt.”
Now if I could only get the image of a man scooping his seed from a toilet out of my head.