Let Me Tell You About the Birds and the Bees

Photo:  edwardianteddyboy.com
Photo: edwardianteddyboy.com

When my eldest son was two and a half or so, our little family was running to catch a rush hour train at Union Square.  Fighting our way against the tide, my husband held our son tightly on his hip as he pushed forth down the stairs.  At some point midway down, my son exclaimed, in a volume that only a two year-old can achieve, “Dad!  You’re squashing my testicles!!”.  Needless to say, the throng of commuters parted as people stopped to stare, then giggle, then outright snort.  We made the train with time to spare.

I am one of those moms, the ones that teach their kids to say “penis” and “testicles” and “vagina” as opposed to “wiener” or “bunny” or “lady town” or some other cutesy, infantilized euphemism.  To my eternal disappointment, at 5 and 9 they have discovered there is a veritable thesaurus worth of words for testicles and have since adopted “nuts” as their go to when discussing that part of their anatomy.  You wouldn’t think a nine year-old and a five year-old would be talking about testicles so much.  You would be mistaken.

I’ve never minced around the subject of bodies or babies.  My kids have never been under the illusion of storks or tummy zippers or magic fairy dust bringing babies forth into this world.  We moms get little enough credit, I’m not going to minimize the blood, sweat, and tears of labor and delivery and give kudos to some glorified carrier pigeon. I’ve stopped short of telling them about how their dad compared my first son’s birth to the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, and all the accompanying carnage, or about the choice words I had for the nurse on duty during my exceedingly speedy delivery of the second.  But I’ve answered their questions as they’ve come up.  We started with the tried and true “a special part of the mom gets together with a special part of the dad” and added details as we’ve gone along; sort of like a birds and bees charm bracelet.  The little one usually goes on his merry way, happy with whatever new slang word for testes he has learned.  But the big one—the big one is getting curiouser and curiouser, particularly about girls and how their bodies are changing.  And the only Alice around this house of males is me.

Photo: thestandard.co.uk
Photo: thestandard.co.uk

He still has a long way to go before his voice breaks, before he starts developing muscles, before he starts needing to worry about anti-perspirant, Clearasil, and shaving.  We have a few more years before crusty gym shorts and stinky sneakers and pilfered magazines hidden under the mattress.  But though he is still a few years away from the onset of puberty, his interest in the whole shebang has increased ten fold.  If curiosity killed the cat, I wouldn’t be surprised to find a few feline corpses hidden about his room.

It makes sense.  I remember fourth grade myself (Mrs. T and The Wall and long division; the first time I kissed a boy, mono, school dances in the cafeteria.  Shelly Brighton* and her giant boobs).  By the end of that year, there were definitely some rising fifth grade breasts on parade.  Which means the same will likely hold true for my own fourth grader.   My son seems miles away, but there are a few boys in his grade that are more physically mature than he.  Boys who, as my husband puts it, will have a full beard by 13.  They are the ones who will have a five o’clock shadow on their way to middle school home room, the ones who will have a receding hairline by graduation, the ones to whom all the other young men in the locker room compare their still narrow chests and baby smooth cheeks to.

Photo: thestandard.co.uk
Photo: thestandard.co.uk

It’s likely that in the next year or two some of his friends are going to get hairier, taller, pimplier, and grossest of all, interested in girls.  We are also living in Denmark, a country that does not shy away from nut swinging/boob bouncing nudity.  There are naked breasts on bus advertisements.  There are wrinkly testicles on the beach.  He would have to be blind not to notice.  Put that together with the changes he may be starting to feel, and ones that his peers are starting to show, it is only natural that he is going to notice that the times, they are a changin’.  And though I have never shied away from talking about bodies, I am, at the end of the day, a girl.  The only Alice.  I can give him accurate, concise and truthful information about periods and ovaries, a detailed comparison between Tampax and OB, but the snakes and snails and puppy dog tails stuff is a little more foreign to me.   Talking, with both me and his father, only imparts so much information.  He is requesting visual confirmation.  Fearing finding google searches for naked fourth grade girls or something similar on my computer, I did the only thing I could think of.

I ordered a book.

The book came last week.  Before I could even see it, he unwrapped it and went off to his room to read it.  By himself.  Under his duvet.  He did this once or twice over the next day or two, obviously found whatever information he was seeking, and the book has been sitting in his drawer since.  But it’s there if he needs it.  I may need to read it myself, just to brush up on this stuff.

Fourth grade was a long time ago.

*Oh, Shelly Brighton, how we all envied those fourth-grade somethings.  (Not her real name)

16 thoughts on “Let Me Tell You About the Birds and the Bees

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    1. It is an Usborne book geared to 9-12 year olds. More a general overview of body changes than sex. But what is nice is that this one is meant for boys, but it has a small section devoted to how girls are changing too in it, which I thought was nice. I am assuming the same (in reverse) holds true for the one geared toward girls.


  1. Another very well-written and interesting post. And might I just add how lucky you are, as the only Alice in your house, that your young Mr 9 hasn’t asked you to show him exactly where he came from, as our young Mr 8 keeps requesting of his mother! Freudian, much? It’s bad, but over the years our home has abounded with euphemisms for all the various body/baby-making bits. Ultimately,I suppose, I get a laugh out of how absurd the words we come up with are, to avoid using proper scientific names. Infantilism (I’m not sure this is the right word, having just googled it?! Believe me, I don’t have a thing about wearing diapers) is my main source of humor, I’m sorry to say… 🙂


  2. Ah, the wonder years. Judy Blume was our font of knowledge…until sex ed in 7th grade. My sister-in-law is slightly horrified that the Edinburgh schools were doling out sex ed to 4th graders. Too soon? What do the ever progressive Danes do?


    1. Ah ha, I had the ‘movie’ in 5th grade. But they separated boys and girls. Then in high school we had ‘health’ class. You know, the old condom over the banana trick. I’m not sure the Danes do anything. Nudity and sex are just par for the course, perhaps they figure you don’t need to be educated!


  3. What book did you order? I re-read Judy Blume’s Are You There God It’s Me Margaret recently knowing that even with my 2nd grader it would soon come up. I remember how excited I was to get the book and all the knowledge I would gain from it. I cannot remember being so engaged in a book before, but a re-read showed how little about the topic at hand there really was. It amazed me how much of the story I missed because it simply was not relevant to me. I wanted the juicy stuff. By the way, there isn’t much. Definitely a book for much older kids if they will take in the full scope of it’s meaning. Love to know where you turned though!


  4. Apparently there was an uproar over AYTGIMM as Ms. Blume updated it to include the usage of tampons as opposed to the belt and pad of former days. I should re-read it myself. I ordered an Usborne book specifically geared for his age group, 9-11. I’ve looked before at books and a lot of them are too sex oriented. This one is more about body changes. I know there is one for girls too!


  5. Great post Dina. Things seem to happen at much earlier age now. We got the same book after my oldest came to me around age 10 and asked why his penis kept sticking up randomly. I of course told him that it would be a better question for his Dad, who then ordered a book. He had already begun sprouting arm pit hair and wearing deoderant at age 9. Makes me a little sad that they grow up sooner. I always assumed we would all catch up to “Shelly” eventually. Hmm.. i’m still waiting!


    1. Ha! I only caught up to Shelly when I was pregnant and/or breastfeeding! I did recently read an article which recommended doctors and medical associations lowering the age at which not only girls, but boys as well, start to experience the first signs of puberty. Maybe not arm pit hair, but the stirrings of that special hormonal brew that will wreck havoc on family life as we know it.


  6. In Grade 6, my son was taught about ‘himself’ and many other related subjects at school, yes, the school WE know. He came home on that day (and thank goodness, the school sent an email to ‘prepare’ the parents), the very first thing he said when he walked in the house was,”I knew that I didn’t come from your butt but I didn’t know how you guys did it…urggghhhh” His facial expression told it all 🙂


    1. I particularly love how the idea of his parents ‘doing it’ was probably worse for him than the whole idea of ‘doing it’ in and of itself. I’m in my forties and frankly, the idea of my parents ‘doing it’ still causes me to make that face.


  7. When my friend Alice’s daughter Cayleigh was nine, she outright asked about how she came to be. They were in the car, and Alice almost wrecked. But, she told her. Penis in vagina. Feels good. Sperm goes from Dad to Mom. Egg fertilized. And, here we are.

    When they got home, Cayleigh marched into the house, looked at her dad, screamed, “That’s the grossest thing I ever heard!” And went straight to her room.


    1. She really and truly was an Alice! We (I really mean me) have had the basic er….logistics conversation, which was enough to put him off for a while, which is true to most parent’s intentions.


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