Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Living in Fear of the Big Question

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I have a 5-year-old and 3-year-old son. (To be clear, it’s not that I have one son who is both 5-years-old and 3-years-old, which would be impossible, but rather two separate sons who are 5-years-old and 3-years-old respectively.) In any event, I have a blast with them. We play with Legos and action figures, watch cartoons, draw pictures, and generally do all the stuff you would expect to do with kids at that age.  But the thing I enjoy doing most with them is teaching them new things.

Young kids are full of wonder. They are curious about everything and aren’t shy about asking questions. And for my part, I love to explain things to them. A sampling of some of our Q&A sessions includes:

Q: Why aren’t there any dinosaurs on the earth?
A: Because they all died out millions of years ago.

Q: What’s the fastest animal?
A: Um…a cheetah, I think.

Q: What are eyeballs made out of?
A: Some sort of jelly-like substance.

Q: Why is the sky blue?
A: Because of…you know…gases…and, um…the angle of the atmosphere…and…uh…wanna watch cartoons?

Okay, so maybe I don’t have a perfect track record, but at least I’m happy to take a stab at answering whatever childlike queries come my way. That is, at least, I’m happy to right now. The problem is that I know that sometime in the next few years I’m going to have to field that one question that puts fear into the hearts of parents all over the globe.

You think it’s the obvious question, don’t you? You think the question I’m referring to is “Where do babies come from?” Close, but not quite. See, my kids have already asked this question and I gave the seemingly obvious response of, “Mommies’ tummies.” For a while, at least, this satisfies their curiosity. But at some point the follow up question is destined to dawn upon them—“How in the world do babies get into mommies’ tummies?” That’s when I will run and hide. Unfortunately, kids are great at hide and seek, so you can only use that tactic for so long.

I have no idea what the average age is for asking about the “birds and the bees.”  I was around 11-years-old when I asked. I think this may be on the late side, because I distinctly remember feeling foolish for even asking. In fact, I have a vague recollection of starting the conversation by saying, “I feel like I should know this but…” This conversation took place at a diner that I was at with my dad and 18-year-old brother. I remember my dad looking nervous and saying, “Really? You don’t know this?” In retrospect, I’m sure what he was thinking was, “Crap, I thought some kid at his school would have told him this at recess by now.” Years later I don’t remember the specific words my dad used (although I do remember him using a really bad metaphor about hammering nails) but somehow he managed to stammer out an explanation that made sense to me—with my brother snickering the entire time.