of biology and career choices

For a while now Aaron has been inching closer and closer to "The Talk" with his questions about where he came from.  I had been able to satisfy his curiosity by answering exactly the questions he's asked -- that he has DNA from both Josh and me, that he grew from an egg in my uterus, that Josh had to give me some of his DNA in order for the egg to start growing into a baby, that I used my muscles to push him out through my vagina when he was big enough, etc.  Mostly stuff I could look him in the eye and tell him matter-of-factly.

I try to use the correct terminology. I try (despite my Puritan upbringing) to not get too squirmy when I use the correct terminology.  I'm more than a little thankful that most of these conversations happened last year in the car on the way to or from preschool so that "looking him in the eye" could be a loose translation of "glancing a little less frequently than usual in his direction in the rearview mirror".

A week ago Saturday, as we were all sitting quietly in the living room he sprung the big one on us. "But how did Daddy give you his DNA so you could put it with the egg that grew into me?"

One of the upsides to where we live now is that it is, quite literally, less than a two minute walk to school.  One of the downsides to where we live now is that it would be ridiculous to hop in the car to drive him to school.  Especially on a Saturday.  So, here we are, comfy and cozy on a (probably soggy) Saturday afternoon, well fed, reasonably rested, with no rearview mirror to act as a bumper from this most dreaded of questions.

In the echoing silence my first response was "Shit." (I managed to keep that in my head.)

My next response was "Daddy?" (Unfortunately for Josh, I said that out loud.)

Josh's face suggested that he was valiantly trying to figure out how the combination of Aaron working on a giant floor puzzle + Josh responding to work emails + me scouring the internet for weatherstripping x SportsCenter on in the background = Let's Have A Family Discussion About Sex!

His first couple of attempts at where to start gave me enough time to remember, "Hey! We have a book! With words and pictures! Aimed at kids! It's science!", so I sent Aaron up to get his Little Encyclopedia of the Human Body. He brought it down, sat down beside me and perused the index, then flipped to page 78 - Egg and Sperm:  How babies are made.  (Methinks maybe he had already read this page?)

We sat there and read it together.  Well, as long as "read it together" means basically the same thing as "I sat on the floor and made him sit on the floor in front of me, facing the book rather than my face and then I choked out the words on the page":

Adult humans use their reproductive systems to make babies.  Males produce cells called sperm that can swim.  Females produce a single egg each month.  To make a baby, a man puts his penis inside a woman's vagina to release sperm.  The sperm swim toward the egg and fertilize it.  The fertilized egg grows into a baby inside the uterus.

He sat there for a few minutes, quietly taking in the rest of the information listed, helpfully, next to the corresponding pictures.

I considered whether or not I could just leave it there and remain true to The Teacher's Oath. Hey, I'm not REALLY a teacher anymore, so it doesn't really apply, right? Right? He's my child, not my student... what do you mean my child is my most important student and if I don't feel compelled to honor him enough "to impart the knowledge [he] seek[s]" then I probably should reconsider that wild dream of every going back in the classroom. Shit. All right then. Deep breath. Here goes: asked him if he had any questions.


A: Where does the penis go?

Me: Into the vagina.

A: Why does it have to go there?

Me: So the sperm can fertilize the egg.

A: Oh.


A: Sounds kinda yucky and messy.

Possibly related:  This past Wednesday Aaron informed me that he thought he'd like to be a "blesser" when he grew up. When I asked him what exactly that was, he elaborated, "A blesser, a priest.  You know, like Father McGriel?"

I suppose there is a certain "neatness" inherent in following a calling into the priesthood...

1 comment:

Lora said...


I'm glad you told him. And he will be glad one day too.

I learned that penises went into vaginas (I mean, I knew that penises went AROUND vaginas somehow, just never INTO vaginas) when I was 12 or 13. And you know who told me? THE CHILD I WAS BABYSITTING.


So there is that.

Love to you guys.
And many blessings.