The following comic was inspired by a previous post of the same title.
Whenever my wife travels for work, she peppers the house with little post-it notes of affection for all. And she likes to put them everywhere.
A note like this will greet me when I come downstairs for my morning coffee.
And there will be notes for the boys on their cereal bowls.
We come across them in familiar spots throughout the day–from beginning to end.
Last year, as I was putting the boys to bed, they finally became intrigued about the ubiquitous XOXO that adorns all of her messages.
At bedtime, I usually sit in the hall while the boys settle into sleep. I had just opened a book when Hayden (then 6) called out from his room, “What does XOXO mean?”
“Or is it kisses and hugs? X is for kisses and O is for hugs,” I clarify.
“Okay,” says Hayden. Their rooms grow quiet. I continue reading by the glow of the nightlight.
It’s strange, but I actually enjoy this time, sitting on the hard floor in the drafty hallway. The boys are safely tucked in for the night and I get lost in a book. I am just that when Owen pipes in from his room.
“Dad, what’s sex?”
My eyes shoot up from my book, panic-stricken.
Why is he asking about sex? What the hell have they been watching? What should I do? Pam’s away!
I think back to how goofy and innocent these two are. Like the time I thought they were coloring when they were really doing this with all of their crayons:
I can handle telling them how to properly use their crayons. But this is another matter altogether.
I take a breath, about to say, “Sex is something that mommies and daddies do when…” Just then, Hayden yells from his bedroom.
I exhale a sigh of relief. He was asking about X! X is a kiss. X is a kiss. “Goodnight you two!” I say, relieved. “Goodnight!” they reply, innocently.
As I reflect on this incident over a year later, two things stand out. One, my mind really has gone to shit since having kids. I was not capable of recalling the conversation the boys and I were having minutes ago–I actually thought he was asking about sex, not X! That quickly, the thought is gone.
Second, in hindsight, I understand why I became so panicky in this situation. It’s not that I’m afraid for my boys to have such knowledge. Pam and I have always wanted to be open and honest with them–from the start, we’ve called things by their anatomical names in this house. No “noodle” or “woohoo”–two terms I’ve heard other parents use for penis and vagina. And I do think I would have begun the conversation as I did in my head: “Sex is something that mommies and daddies do to show they love each other…” And in time, that conversation would have developed into “Sex is something that two people do when they love each other…” It’s not the topic, per se, but the realization that I must be prepared at any time to confront questions my sons will have, and to answer them in an honest and respectful way.
I don’t think my panic arose from them knowing about sex, but just that it came out of nowhere. Even though it wasn’t even the question they had, I was reminded about the fact that, like all things in life, we cannot be prepared–we never know when something will occur. We cannot schedule the conversation, block off a half hour of our time for discussion, then cross it off our to-do list. Kids remind us that life is unpredictable, and we must try to be ready for anything. ANYTHING!
To see how I handled a similar situation this year, click here .
MEET THE CARTOONIST: Jimmy Murphy
When he’s not performing Shakespearean Sonnets at The Great Wall of China, Jimmy Murphy draws everything from the creatures that haunt his imagination, to the ones that haunt his 9th grade reading curriculum, to the squishy noseless people like those seen on this website [figure1]. Although not yet at the peak of his popularity, artistically or high schoolistically, this fourteen year-old has been drawing since he could hold a crayon–the first recorded drawing being a rainbow–[figure 2]. Jimmy’s artistic influences include Shawn Coss, Gris Grimly, and himself. He enjoys reading a good book, ranting about things he hates, raving about things he likes, sleeping, and can be endlessly entertained with a label-maker [figure 3].