I know its Thanksgiving, but I’m not going to write a piece about the holiday this year. If you’re interested in my thoughts on it, feel free to pull up my post  from last year at this time; the list of things for which I’m thankful hasn’t changed all that much since then. Instead, I’d prefer to talk about my daughter, who has suddenly decided to start thinking about things. And by things, I mean THINGS.
It all started when she asked, last week, how it is that two people were the first people, because they needed a mommy and daddy to be born, and if they didn’t have a mommy and daddy, then how were they born? I won’t lie; I was impressed by the question. Clearly, she’d been thinking, and I wanted to provide her with a thinking girl’s answer. So rather than tell her the story of Adam and Eve, I broke out the ‘ol evolutionary chart - you know the one, a line that starts with a hunched over monkey and ends with a homo sapien – and started explaining terms like “evolve” and “adapt.” I think I blew her mind. Literally. Like, her little brain was trying so hard to wrap itself around the idea that monkeys turned into men, that her head had smoke coming out of it. And of course, she just didn’t get it.
Somehow, all of that talk about things that happened millions of years ago coalesced with what she’s learning at school about what happened with the Pilgrims hundreds of years ago, and when I asked her to try to explain in her own words what she learned, it came back to me as something like this: Monkeys turned into Indians, and then the Pilgrims came on a boat to Los Angeles, and they all had a feast together that they called Thanksgiving, and that became a holiday for Jewish people. Uh-huh.
So anyway, you’d think that after such a botched job I’d have learned my lesson, but no. A few days ago, Harper asked how babies are made. Now, she’s asked this before, and on the advice of some very smart people, I’ve always gone with the “give only enough information to answer the question” approach. So, once again, I explained that when an egg and a sperm meet, a baby is made. Simple, easy, and it’s always satisfied her in the past. But this time, not so much. This time, my little thinker wanted to know where the sperm and the egg came from. So, I explained about ovaries and the little slides called fallopian tubes that the eggs go down, and how they land at the bottom of a mommy’s vagina. ‘Nuf said.
Except that then she came to the logical conclusion that if a daddy is standing next to the mommy when this happens, then a baby is made. Now, I suppose I could have let her go on thinking that. In retrospect, I probably would have been better off. But at the time, it just felt too, I don’t know, 1950’s Catholic school or something. And so I corrected her. Matter of fact, correct terminology, the whole,
I’m-a-liberal-democrat-and-I-believe-in-being-honest-with-my- children-no-matter-how-much-it-freaks-them-out shebang. Actually, I explained, the only way for an egg and a sperm to meet is if the daddy puts his penis inside the mommy’s vagina.
There is no way to describe the face that she made when I said this to her. The best I can do is to say that is was equal parts horror, shock, disbelief, and eeeewww. And of course, the first thing she wanted to know is if daddy and I had done that. Yes. He put his penis inside your vagina? Yes. There was a pause. It was rather lengthy. Can I try that with Davis? No. No, you can not. NO. But why? And so, not knowing what else to do, I launched into an epic about genes and dna and mutations, and then there was that smoke again, coming out of her head. And so I put my hands on her shoulders and looked her squarely in the eye. I know this doesn’t make sense to you, but you can not try doing that with your brother. You just can’t. Do you understand? A nod. Then, well, can I try it with Ryan? (Ryan being the five year old boy whom she plans to marry). No. But why? A good question, I thought. And I don’t have a good answer. And then I panicked, and fell back on that old, parental standby, Because You Can’t. But why? Because I Said So. Okay, but could I? It is possible? I realized that she was looking for a physical reason, as opposed to the moral ones that I’d been providing. I didn’t want to lie to her, but I also didn’t want her sitting in Ryan’s playroom the next day, asking him to put his penis inside of her vagina. And so I went old school. Yes, it’s possible. But it will hurt really, really bad. Does it hurt you? No, because it doesn’t hurt when you’re a grown up. It only hurts when you’re a kid. And a teenager. And a freshman in college. This seemed to do the trick. The questions stopped, and I wondered if maybe those Cold War era nuns were onto something after all.
The next day was Sunday. We were in the car, the whole family, and Harper asked if we were going to have another baby. Probably not, I told her. Okay, she said. But daddy, you know, if you want to, all you have to do is put your penis inside of mommy’s vagina. Michael almost drove off the side of the road. Harp, I said, imagining this same conversation taking place at recess, with her friends, you can talk about it with me and daddy, but it’s not something we really talk about with other people. But why?
I sighed and looked back at Davis, who was oblivious to the whole conversation. He was sitting in his car seat, playing with a stick he’d found in the backyard, his sweet little face still carrying the last remains of babyhood. And at that moment, I was just so happy that Davis is still only three years old, and that he’s a boy, and that, when the time comes, Michael will be the one who has to have the sex conversation with him.
All right, so maybe this post is about Thanksgiving after all.