We gave Finn “The Talk” last summer, and every once in a while I’ll go in his room and see evidence that he’s been studying the books we gave him: It’s So Amazing! and Who Am I? Where Did I Come From?. (The latter book is really geared for kids younger than he is, but I figured I better have it ready in case he had loose lips and started dropping hints about the process to the twins.)
So far, he hasn’t. But every once in a while, Finn will have a followup question. Surprisingly, after the great amount of knowledge and detail I displayed during our initial talk, (and Bill’s completely losing his shit for the duration of the conversation) he has chosen to go to Bill for extra information.
The other night I was reading Grieving the Loss of Someone You Love** when Bill came rushing into the bedroom, red-faced.
“It happened again,” he whispered, panting. “Finn said, ‘Can I ask you a question about sex?’ and I said ‘go ahead’ and he asked me if you neuter a dog, whether the dog goes through puberty. Now, how the hell am I supposed to answer that?”
“Honey,” I said, “there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t know. You’re not a veterinarian. I’d say you can either ask a vet or google it. The ball’s in your court. Literally,” I giggled.
Bill sighed and went back downstairs.
Thirty minutes later Bill came back. “I told him we could call the vet when they opened and ask about the dog. Then he said, ‘Can I ask you another question about sex?’ and this time I said ‘I guess so’ because I was afraid of what he was going to ask, and so I prepared myself. Do you know what he asked?”
“Not a clue, honey,” I said.
“He said that he read that it takes a month for the sperm to reach the egg, and he wanted to know if that means you have to have sex for an entire month to make a baby.”
“Obviously, he’s confused,” I said. “What did you tell him?”
“Well, of course I told him that you do not have to have sex for a month to have a baby, but he was pretty insistent on the idea that that’s how long it takes for the sperm to reach the egg.”
“Honey, he’s getting mixed up with the fact that a woman makes an egg every month. You need to clear that up.”
Just then, Finn came upstairs. “Hey,” he said nonchalantly. “I think I’m gonna go to bed.”
“Hey Finn,” I said, “Will you go in the kitchen and get me some water? When you come back, I’ll give you a tip.”
“What kind of tip?” he asked.
“A tip that will serve you well in life,” I answered.
“Sure, Mom,” he said, and he left.
Bill turned toward me furiously. “You’re not going to say anything about it, are you?” he asked.
“Of course I am,” I said. “He can’t go around thinking people lay around stuck together for a month to make a baby. They’d miss work. How would they eat? Or go to the bathroom? It’s a preposterous thought.”
“If you tell him, he’ll know I told you he asked, and that will be so uncool that I ratted him out to his mom,” Bill pointed out.
I considered his argument. It was a good one. I certainly did not want to do anything to prevent Finn from asking us questions about sex in the future, even if we were less than skilled at answering them.
“You’re right,” I whispered, as we heard Finn approaching. “Grab some change off the dresser so I can tip him.”
Bill threw me some quarters and dove back into the bed just as Finn entered, bearing a glass of cold water. He handed it to me.
“Thanks, honey,” I said, and I gave him fifty-seven cents.
“Cool,” Finn said. He walked over to Bill’s side of the bed and lingered there a minute.
“Hey, Dad,” he said, “I think I was wrong earlier when we were talking about babies.”
“Oh?” Bill said, lifting an eyebrow and glancing at me.
“Yeah, I was thinking that it took a month for the sperm to travel through the fallopian tubes, but really it’s that the mom makes an egg every month. So how long does it take for the sperm to reach the egg?”
Bill looked at me helplessly.
“It varies from sperm to sperm,” I said authoritatively. “Some are fast swimmers and some are slow and steady. But it does not take a month. And once the sperm gets into the mom, it can keep swimming toward the egg long after the man has gotten out of the bed and gone off to do something else.”
“Oh,” Finn said slowly. “That’s where I was getting confused. I didn’t know the sperms could keep swimming after the mom and dad are finished… you know.”
“Well, they can,” I said briskly. “So that’s all cleared up. It’s late. Head to bed or you’ll owe me fifty-seven cents for being late.”
“No way. I’m outta here!” he exclaimed, and he ran down the hall.
Bill looked at me. “Did you hear him say ‘fallopian tubes’?” he asked. “That kid knows his biology. I think he gets it from me. I was good in science.”
(Not so good, however, that he knows whether our dog is going to go through puberty. I refrained from pointing this out, in the interests of maintaining marital harmony. If there is a veterinarian out there reading this, feel free to help us out.)
** My counselor gave me this book after my mom died. It looked like one of those geeky Chicken Soupy books, but actually it’s helpful. According to the book, I’m not crazy when I think for a moment that I’ve seen my mom in the grocery store parking lot, and I’m not just being mean when I wake up and feel angry at everyone in the world. The depth of my anger has scared the hell out of The Voice of Reason, but she’s holding up well so far. And that’s what good friends are for.