Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Trauma: Reproductive Revelations Pt. 1: Connor

I was 13 years old before I pieced together the puzzle I first noticed when someone explained (in hushed tones) what the word scrawled on the fence meant. Since she was only 7 too I just assumed this was a concoction of the worst she could imagine. Before then it had never occurred to me where someone might put things. I put it out of my mind for years.

At 10 my mother dutifully followed the recommended disclosure path using a Disney “How Do I Tell My Daughter” kit complete with pink-boxed sanitary pads and belt, and a book called, “It’s Wonderful Being a Girl”. (I think all mothers of 10 year old girls had one of these kits hidden in their closet. My friends and I discussed them at length long before they were actually produced.) I was satisfied with this partial information for several years until The Question finally dawned on me: “How does the male sperm get inside the woman to fertilize the egg?” Maybe there was some credence to what the girl had said to explain what was on the alley wall after all?

Not only did I get confirmation from a girlfriend in one of our intimate spend-the-night talks, but there was a name for it too: “sexual intercourse”.

Some years later I read an article in a magazine called “Born Knowing”. This woman said that basically fresh from the womb she started telling her child about the actions that had resulted in her birth.

It seemed like a good idea. From my own experience of figuring it out on my own to myriad TV sit-com scenarios I could see that there was a major two-way discomfort in having ‘The Talk" that was alienating. Maybe having the facts out on the table as a given would foster open talk without the wrenching embarrassment.

However a little more time and reading tempered my enthusiasm. One must take care to not read too much into children’s questions and overwhelm them with more information than they were asking for.

I didn’t start at birth with Connor. It was during my pregnancy with Scott that I saw the opportunity to start to ‘tell’ him.

I’ll admit that while I tried to restrain myself I did kind of tip the playing field so he would ask how the sperm got to the egg before he might have been inclined to on his own. He did take the news calmly though, and I was glad to have it over with.

A couple days later he said, “Mommy, when Clea and I get married I will put my penis in her vagina and we’ll have babies.” Uh oh. Clea’s the CAT. She had been 10 when Connor entered the world, and hadn’t forgiven me for it yet. I didn’t like the image that came to mind… As calmly as I could I said, “Well, Connor, humans don’t usually mate with animals.” He said, “So then I’ll have to marry YOU and we’ll have babies.” I said, “Mothers and their sons usually don’t marry”. To my horror he became agitated and heartbroken: “Well, then how am I going to find a woman! How am I going to find a woman!” Sobbing, he concluded: “I won’t be able to find someone to marry so I’ll just have to marry myself!”

OMG, what had I done? This clearly had not gone at all well. Belatedly my mind showed me shades of the future: Connor divulging the information I’d given him to his pre-school friends and furious phone calls from parents. Exploring scenarios to try to proactively prevent this, in my mind’s eye I saw myself confusing him further: “WHY can’t I talk about this with my friends at school?” (“Is there something WRONG with it?”) Another frightful image: what if he suggested trying it with one of his friends? The worst though was that he was clearly suffering from this taste of the fruit of knowledge, and it was all my fault.

I’m the worst mom ever.

At least he didn't try anything with the 14 year old cat. What an undignified memory to have to carry in her declining years.


Douglas W said...

You know... it's a wonder the human race hasn't worked it out by now... but it's a bit like reading all the books about "How to be happily married", or "Perfect Parenting" that we can lay our hands on in our enthusiasm to get it right.

But all the reading, all the lectures by our parents and grandparents, don't take away the need to have to learn how to do it for ourselves. Sure, some of the things we read or hear beforehand might come in useful... but only some... the rest we learn simply by living.

As parents it is probably best not to try to tell our children how to grow up in advance, but let them discover the world for themselves, hopefully with our good example for them to follow... but at the same time always be there for them when they have a question, or fall in a hole, or stuff it up... they probably appreciate us better after the fact than before it.

Lori said...

I can't help but laugh! And I know I shouldn't. (But you tell it so well.)

I screwed it up, too. My only saving grace, though, is that we don't have a cat.

Can't wait for part 2.