The Birds and the Bees
Learning how babies are made was a traumatic experience for many of us. After writing last week’s post, I heard from a friend about his own experience, which caused much more trauma than my own! Let’s just say the film Look Who’s Talking had something to do with his understanding… You can read last week’s post to learn how I found out, as this week will be a continuation of that auspicious day.
SHARING IS… CARING?
I walked home from school that day fully impregnated with the knowledge of the interaction necessary for human reproduction. Now I'm no Dorothy, but it was like I’d left Kansas and entered Oz – my mind was completely blown. From black and white to colour; from a tornado in the Dust Bowl to the infamous Yellow Brick Road in technicolored Oz; from old Auntie Em to the dancing Lollipop Guild – the analogies could go on and on! I was fully enlightened!
I was a recently enlightened 8-year-old keen to share my newly imbued knowledge. I turned to Katie’s brother Tom (my next-door neighbour), who walked with me, to tell him what his sister had to do to have a baby. I made sure my younger brother was just out of earshot as he trailed behind us a few meters.
Katie, if you can remember, was my neighbour and the lovely brown-haired, brown-eyed girl I’d had a massive crush on for… at least a few days. She was sweet, kind, well spoken, considerate and gracious.
Her brother Tom, however, was…
My friendship with my neighbour Tom was tumultuous to say the least. In the mornings before school, we would watch G.I. Joe, Transformers and Thundercats together, and in the afternoon, he would try to fight me.
What a friend.
I was never quite sure if he was going to laugh and be a friend or to try to punch me in the face. I am sure it was an unhealthy combination of the two. I could in no way match him pound for pound but, fortunately, I was much faster than he was and I’d had plenty of practice in the “Five D’s of Dodgeball”. Not by playing dodgeball but by avoiding his unrestrained wrath on the daily walk home from school.
Despite knowing Tom’s temperamental nature, I turned to him - keen to share my knowledge - and began describing what Katie has to do to have a baby with her new boyfriend. I knew nothing of puberty and adolescence (obviously) and I do not remember the language I used to describe the entire process, but I can assure you my words were in NO way physiologically or anatomically correct.
However, the bare basics were right – right enough to stop him dead in his tracks. For once, Tom was speechless; dumfounded; and stood as still and deep in thought as I’d ever seen him. I stopped for a second to wait for my brother to catch up and Tom still stood motionless. I smiled and my brother and I kept on happily walking home.
“I’m sure he found that helpful.”, I thought to myself. “He sure is lucky to have a friend like me.”
My brother and I walked ahead for a few seconds.
Then, like a herd of buffalo with the unjust rage of Colonel Custer, Tom came stampeding toward me!
My brother fled. It was his only hope.
This was my battle and he wanted no part of it!
He dove at me like a raging shark with tooth-covered fingers, knocking me over onto the wet grass. We tussled
on the ground for a few minutes. I ended up pinning him down long enough for him to shout “MERCY!” and then walked home on my own.
“Strong calf muscles.” I said under my breath. “They always help.”
I did not understand his reaction. Why didn’t he thank me? Surely, he ought to be grateful I had provided him with a robust, progressive education on human reproduction!
Unfortunately, that never happened and, when I arrived home, my Dad greeted me at the door.
He looked at me suspiciously. I knew he knew something had happened, but I did not know how much he knew.
“Adam,” he said inquisitively. “What happened on the way home from school today?”
“Nothing!” I shouted back. “I just talked to Tom.”
“Adam,” he repeated himself. “What just happened a minute ago on the way home from school?”
I stood on the stairway for a moment, trying to think of a way to whitewash the recent events.
“Adam…” Dad said. “What happened?”
“Ummm… Tom got angry with me and hit me.”
“Why did he do that?”
“Ummm… I don’t know.” I said sheepishly in my whimpering-kid voice. There was no way I was going to talk with my Dad about babies.
“Adam.” He snapped back quickly. “Why did he hit you?”
He was not having any of it.
I saw my little brother smirking at me behind the doorpost. He really knew how to wind me up.
“I don’t know, Dad. He’s just angry!”
Dad knew he would have to play the long game here, and so he walked me upstairs to chat. He walked me to his room and calmly stated that I would not be able to leave his room until I told him why Tom had hit me. He walked out of the bedroom, closed the door, and locked
it from the outside (in actuality, he just held the door-handle tight and provided leverage when he felt me try to open it and escape.
NO TRANSFORMERS OR G.I. JOE? GROWN-UPS ARE BORING
What was I to tell him? Surely, I could not tell him what Garret told me earlier that day. Surely, I cannot tell my Dad how babies are made. What would he know of it?
“That’s waaaay too embarrassing.” I thought.
I again moved toward the door to force it open.
No use. Whatever is on the other side of that door keeping it closed is much bigger than me.
I sat on my parent’s bed for what seemed like an eternity. I paced around the room a number of times and began looking for toys.
“Being a grown-up is SOOOO boring.” I mused. “No Brio. No Playmobil. No Transformers. No G.I. Joe. Not even a mini-basketball hoop in their room. I’m gonna be a kid forever.”
I stuffed a few quarters in my pocket to buy basketball cards later, but recognised I really wanted to get out of this room.
A frightening thought hit me: I might be stuck in here forever. I could die in this room if I never fess up to the
reason Tom hit me. My bright future as a professional baseball, basketball, football, soccer and ice hockey player would be finished.
I was poised to be the first five-sport professional athlete in American history, but to do so I’d need to fess up to Dad as to why Tom hit me.
I shouted through the door. “Dad! I’ll tell you why Tom hit me.”
The door started opening and all 6’2” of my Dad walked over to where I was sitting on their bed. He sat next to me and looked at me with grace, kindness and eager anticipation. He had no clue what I was about to say!
I looked down toward my magnificent calf muscles and murmured, “Tom hit me because I told him what Katie needs to do to have a baby.”
I wish there was a camera to capture his reaction because it was priceless! His eyes swelled in his skull to the point of explosion and I swear he swallowed his tongue for a second.
“H-h-h-who… t-t-told… y-y-y-you?” he asked.
I had never seen my Dad stutter. This was a weighty topic and we both knew it.
“Garret.” I responded quickly – anything to get the conversation off me.
“And what did Garret tell you about how babies are made?”
And so I told him about the Birds and the Bees as I understood it, with words that are not fitting for this blog.
“That’s pretty close.” He replied generously.
I’m almost certain he was holding back laughter.
I’d never used those words in front of my Dad. I felt like a grown-up; as if we were peers, if even for a few minutes.
And that was that!
“Thanks for telling me, Adam.”
“You’re welcome, Dad.”
I escaped to my Brio train set and put my blue-striped train engineer’s hat on as quickly as I could. “Phew! That wasn’t so bad.”
And you know what?
Telling the truth rarely is.
Despite the mess I’d made with Tom that day, I still managed to have that conversation with my Dad. It helped us understand each other more. I learned I can talk about things like this with him and he wouldn’t get upset, and he learned that I was growing up and the next ten years of his life was going to be complete chaos.
EVERYONE NEEDS A DAD
Over the years, I’ve learned that everyone needs a Dad. Despite the misguided philosophies that try and tell us otherwise, the voice of a healthy father (or healthy father-figure) is vital in shaping how we react, respond, reply and relate to others. In my opinion, fatherlessness is one of the greatest epidemics of our society.
A CALL TO “GOOD” MEN
If you are a man and have some role working with children and young people, you have a responsibility
Be an example of what a truly good man can be.
I’m not perfect (and boy do I know it!), but I make it my life’s ambition to try to be this for the young people I have the honour to work with.
Be true to your values.
Be someone who protects.
Be someone of integrity.
Be true to your word.
Be a person of conviction.
Learn from your experiences.
Search for wisdom and understanding more than fame and finances.
Be the best version of yourself and continue on the path toward becoming that person.
JUST BE GOOD.
If you are a woman, encourage the men around you to be this, and have patience with us as we try, because we are all at different points on the journey.
RE-CONNECTING WITH KATIE
After the 3rd grade, Tom and Katie moved away and I never saw Tom again.
Ten years later, at university, I re-connected with Katie at university.
“Want to hear how I told your brother how babies are made?” I asked her.
“Ummm... yes...?!?!” She looked at me completely puzzled.
“Well it all started on a rainy day in 3rd grade. I had the biggest crush on you…”