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Talking ’Birds and Bees’

When should a father tell his kids about love and sex?

By Brian Caulfield

My son is 10 and he’s asking questions. I try to answer but he often cuts me off with a dismissive, “I know, dad, I know,” as though he’s an expert on anatomy and reproduction. I figure he’s not yet ready for “the talk” but he wants to make sure the lines of communication are open when the time does come – and maybe needs assurance that I’m willing to discuss with him this deeply personal and sensitive subject.

Birds and the Bees

I look back to my own upbringing and recall how truly innocent I was, the youngest of three brothers in New York City. It was the 1960s, before the streets were awash with posters of nearly naked models and ads for racy TV shows. In the old Irish Catholic tradition, my parents only hinted at where babies came from. When I was in the 6th grade, one of my brothers decided that it was time I knew, and told me the facts of life as we walked home through the streets from “dirt field” baseball. My only thought was, “I guess that makes sense,” and I didn’t think much about it till high school. That’s the way the world was back then – sex was not pushed in your face at every turn of the block or switch of the TV channel. And the internet was not even a dream.

But today, parents have to be on high alert, and make sure they get in their message of love and responsibility before the media gets a foothold in their child’s mind and imagination. So I am at that point – should I just go ahead and tell my 10-year-old the full story that we’ve discussed in many roundabout ways before – or do I wait till he asks outright and is ready to hear me out?

A friend of mine said he just flat-out told his 10-year-old one day and was amused when the boy said in that “way cool” tone: “Gee, dad, you mean you do that with mom?” My friend had a newfound respect from his son.

My 10-year-old surely hears things from his 5th-grade classmates. After all, they have already studied plant reproduction, with the words “sexual” and “asexual”. When I saw my son’s textbook, I used the occasion to mention that humans reproduce sexually, but that God is also involved in putting a soul into a new baby. “I know, dad, I know,” was the impatient response. I assured him that we will have a talk soon about how babies are made, and encouraged him once again to come to me with any questions.

Fathers – what is your experience with this topic? Could experienced dads share their wisdom? And younger ones share their questions? Use the comment box below to start a discussion on this important subject.

Brian Caulfield is editor of Fathers For Good.