Last week, we took a day trip to the charming town of Easton, Pennsylvania to visit the Crayola Factory. Like most families, our kids have been holding Crayola crayons since they were babies. And, like most families, we took this one-hour car ride to the factory to talk to our boys about sex. Nothing says sex like…Wait. You don’t see the connection? (I’m relieved). The two are not connected, but that’s the thrill of parenting: you never know which direction your children will take you, even when you have Google Maps on your phone.
In the morning, as we are getting ready to leave, Owen (10) walks up to Pam and whispers something to her about sex. “Do you know what sex is?” she asks.
He shakes his head no. “Some kids at school were talking about it,” he says.
Hayden (8) chimes in: “And someone wrote it on the seat of the bus.”
We exchange a look. The time has come.
“Well, we have an hour in the car. We can tell you all about it,” I say. Owen looks nervous. “Don’t worry, buddy,” I say, “sex never takes a whole hour.” Pam shoots me a look that says behave, Michael. Behave.
And so our journey began. It was like Masters and Johnson by way of Binney and Smith.
Me: Guys, pause your video games. Mommy and I need your attention.
Pam: Are we really doing this now? We haven’t prepared what to say.
Me: It’ll be alright. We just have to start the conversation today. Boys, do you know anything about sex?
Me: You have NO idea?
Me: It’s okay if you have. We just want you to know the truth.
Both boys shake their heads. Sure, they giggle at the word “sexy” in songs. Sure, they wonder why Snow White and Prince Charming kiss so much in the TV show Once Upon a Time. They’ve heard talk, but they just weren’t putting two and two–or should I say X and Y–together.
Me: Well.. (deep breath) sex is something two people do when they are in love. It is a physical act. During sex, a man puts his penis in the woman’s vagina.
Both boys appear panic-stricken.
Me: A man and a woman have sex when they want to have a baby.
Both boys mouths drop.
Hayden: You’re freaking me out, dad.
Owen: Do we have to have sex?
Me and Pam in unison: No!
Owen: Do we have to have sex if we want to have kids?
Pam: Well, no, there are–
Me: Honey, let’s keep it simple. Yes, sex is where babies come from.
Owen: I’m not having kids.
Me: And, when a woman has a baby, it actually comes out of her vagina, not her belly.
Hayden: No way!
Pam: It can come out her belly if…
Me: Keep it simple, hon.
Pam: Well, both of them did come out of my belly. Mommy had what’s called a cesarean section with both of you.
More looks of fear.
Hayden: So, you guys had to have sex twice?
Hayden: Oh, my gosh, Owen, could you imagine if you walked in on mom and dad when they were making me?
Owen: Stop, Hayden! That’s crazy. Can we stop talking about this now?
Me: Yes, we can. But I want you to know, you can ask us anything you want about sex. I’m sure you are going to hear things from other kids, and we just want you to know the facts. I’d rather you hear it from us then on the bus or from kids at school.
Hayden: Sex! Ew, that’s so weird. Why would anyone have sex?
Me: And don’t be those kids that go around telling everyone else what sex is now that you know.
Owen: Don’t worry. I don’t want to think about it. I’m NEVER having sex.
Hayden: Me neither!
For the rest of the day, the word pops up every so often. The boys crack up and shake their heads in disgust and amazement, but overall. a fine first outing.
AS we explore the Crayola Factory, I am thankful for all of the wonder they still have in being kids. Coloring and creating, climbing the crayon shaped jungle gym; making figurines out of molding clay. This is what it’s like, I think. They are exposed to things, and then they go back to being kids. Like rubber bands, their minds’ stretch, but then return–almost–to the original shape–almost.
A few days later, Hayden hands me a note from school. It’s announcing the return of his guidance counselor from maternity leave.
“How exciting!” I say. “Maybe she will bring in her baby for your class to meet.”
Hayden seems preoccupied by something. Finally, he says, “Her poor husband.”
“Poor husband?” I say, confused. “Why her poor husband?”
“Umm. I think you know.”
“No, I don’t buddy.”
“Ummm. S-E-X,” he spells.
“Sex!” Owen exclaims.
“Yeah, the poor guy had to have sex with her!” Hayden says.
“He’ll be alright,” I say. “He’ll be alright.”
And so will you, I think to myself.
Behold the boys latest creations, brought to you by Crayola markers. Can you spot any damage from our conversation?
“Rocky Roads” by: Owen