(I wrote this story a few years ago and stumbled across it the other day.)
Recently my wife told me it was time to have the birds and the bees talk with our oldest son, and I couldn’t help but think about when my dad had the same conversation with me.
I don’t remember exactly where we were. I just remember it was the two of us and Dad was acting like somebody had died, and then he thrust this book at me. I looked at the title and it was something like “Little Timmy Learns How Mom and Dad had a Tickle Fight Under the Covers and Used Love and a Little Sweat Equity to Make a Baby.”
Of course I saw where this was going, and how pained Dad was, so I tried to let him off the hook and said, “You’re not telling me my sweet, dear mother was involved in something disgusting like this?”
My father can be a tad proper or formal at times. With this conversation he was like, “All right, son, it’s all in there. You know, read it. I don’t think you’ll have any questions. But if you do have any questions, read it again, because I’m pretty sure the answers are in that book.”
Not quite. Obviously when he went to the bookstore Dad was too embarrassed to browse through the sexual education books. I’m thinking he found this one in the humor section. The book was six pages long. Apparently, it was written by a NASA engineer with some kind of attention deficit disorder. It had stick figures for visual aids and what should have been pretty simple personal hardware was going all different directions and swooshing in and out of things. It looked like rockets were blasting off everywhere.
After perusing this book, I immediately knew something was terribly wrong with me since the male stick figure had a penis long enough to wrap around the planet. And there were more pictures, and charts and graphs and probability scales I could not understand. Just to clarify things, my mother came to the rescue. In her very no nonsense, we-survived-the-Great-Depression kind-of-way she filled in the gaps left by Dad’s book. (Clearly I learned plenty about making babies, although my family planning could have used a little work.)
Some people say we all want to be like our parents. I think that even if we respect our parents immensely, we still want to be for our children what our parents were not. It is a generational, parenting shift that’s easy to see if we simply bother to look.
According to the stories my parents told me, my grandparents fed my parents bugs because there was no money for food. They also made their clothes out of animal hides. This means I’m pretty sure Dad never had to learn about sex from some dumb book and instead figured it out from watching the farm animals that were apparently wandering around his dirty, bare feet.
So life was hard. Then it wasn’t, and my parents showered their own children, us, with all of the things they did not have. We were handed a world of opportunity. But maybe they didn’t make us work as hard as they should have. And maybe they didn’t push us as hard as they had been pushed.
My father does not like coarse language. While he is not in to the crude thing, he’s also too polite to embarrass you by saying something about it. So those of you who have pulled him off to the side at some point and told him jokes of questionable taste, yeah he smiled, but he was cringing on the inside. And did I mention that this man can act? He is accomplished. He could play the psycho father role when young men of dubious backgrounds came to pick up his daughters. He could lay on the guilt when one of his offspring could not make a family event. My favorite trait, and perhaps his least appreciated acting weapon, lies in his exaggerated facial expressions. The man has an Oscar worthy set of bug eyes that’s he’ll throw out there at some perceived injustice, but he saves that for really special occasions.
My father is an attorney and he did a little time in politics. If any of you are ever accused of a major crime, and you actually committed that crime, then I could not think of a better person to get you off. You don’t have to waste a lot of time explaining the crime to him. Don’t burden him with the facts. He’ll win in spite of your stupidity or your temporary moment of bloody passion. I think it’s because he can identify with a jury. I think it’s because he figures out their own stories before he gives them his.
Some people in their hometown never quite got past the party affiliation Dad chose in his political life. It is a party that is at odds with a lot of folks in the social circles Mom and Dad keep. It bugs me a little bit. It doesn’t bother him in the least. He’s a big believer in Norman Vincent Saint Peale, as he calls him. The Power of Positive Thinking, and all that. You could always find one of those books on his nightstand when I was growing up, and you probably still can. Apparently, Norm talked a lot about living for the day, moving past your mistakes, not holding grudges, and drinking copious amounts of red wine.
So, at this stage in life, Dad has entered his growing vegetables and raising farm animal years. Who would have guessed it when we were kids? Now my father has his own farm. Maybe, for him, the end will be a little bit like the beginning. Growing what you eat. Animals scurrying about underfoot. But I’m pretty sure the fashion conscious ladies in my family are going to draw the line at wearing animal hides.
So maybe there will be some things I will do differently with my kids. But it doesn’t mean that what I do will be right, or what my parents did was wrong.
You know, it’s just a thought, but instead of the birds and the bees speech, maybe I’ll take my son out to Dad’s farm, and let him watch the animals go at it, instead of giving him some dumb book.