Where to begin…
It started innocently enough around the kitchen table, where I think the best discussions are held. If we’ve done anything right as parents, it’s that we’ve created the family dinner table as a safe place to ask questions and get them answered.
Tonight we were talking about climbing Mt. Katahdin. Beth was relating the idea that we’ve been together every time either of us had climbed to the peak since the first time I took her up, when we were in high school. All except that one time when Beth was pregnant for Gabe and had recently quit breastfeeding Liv.
That’s when Gabe stopped chewing and said, “Whoa, wait … what’s BREASTFEEDING?!?”
A word on sex education in the Whitehouse house: we try to keep the kids on a need to know basis. They ask their questions, we try and answer them in an age-appropriate manner. In my case, I was offered an illustrated and clinically thorough sex education before I could pronounce the word “vagina.” On the flip side of the coin, I’m not sure Beth has ever been given the whole story. Anyway, I digress.
After an explanation involving pigs and dogs and piglets and puppies, he was starting to get the concept of mammals feeding their young through their boobs. He thought it was great in theory, but was appropriately disgusted by the thought of sharing in his mother’s milk.
It was a great conversation that revealed the following basic truths:
1. Real men change their baby’s diapers.
2. Breastfeeding is normal, best for babies, and he should count himself lucky that he doesn’t remember.
3. When you’re done having babies, the man should be the one who gets “fixed” because it’s so much less invasive for him.
Which somehow led us to the concept of being “fixed.” I remember now. We were still talking about dogs, and how our Annie, a Golden Retriever, had all the necessary equipment to breastfeed her children, despite not ever having any – now or in the future – because she’s fixed.
We explained that when men get fixed, it hurts a little, but it’s no big deal and not as big a deal as it is for a woman.
He got a little defensive. After all, the woman doesn’t have to do anything. He had to change diapers AND he had to get fixed? Hardly seems fair.
Then the big question:
If Dad gets fixed, how do you [Mom] know? Why can’t you have more babies?
He’s our book-smartest kid, but he usually lags behind his sister in the street-smart department, so this intuitive leap took us nearly by surprise.
With a grin on her face, Beth explained that it takes two people to have (not make, have) a baby. Gabriel is half Dad, half Mom; and if one of those people can’t have a baby, neither of them can. Did he understand? He did.
The next thing out of his mouth was to ask if we could all snuggle on the couch and watch America’s Funniest Videos after dinner. Crisis averted. Moving on.