Predatory Birds and Killer Bees

By Gregory Keer

I thought I’d be good at explaining the birds and the bees to my children. My own parents left the heavy lifting to a read-aloud of the book Where Do I Come From? when I was 11. So I planned to customize the lessons for each kid’s personality, giving the right information without overdoing it.

Based on the first three talks, I’ve been a disaster.

“Benjamin knows what the ‘s’ word is,” my wife told me four years ago on one fateful evening.

“You mean the bad word for ‘poopie’?” I said.

“No, I think they’ve been giggling about ‘sex’ at school,” she responded. “You have to talk to him now.”

“Why me?” I groaned. “He’s eight years old. Isn’t this too soon?”

“If you don’t do it, his friends will, and he’ll get the wrong information,” she reasoned.

So, I sat Benjamin at the kitchen table with every intention of being a wise teacher.

“Do you know what sex is?” I opened.

Benjamin fought a smile and shook his head.

“You know that boys have penises and girls…have…vag…”

Then I whinnied like a ticklish horse. Benjamin laughed so hard, he fell off his chair.

It took me a while to regain my composure, but I managed to frame sex as something that happens when people love each other and want to have a baby. I saved the more complicated details for years later.

For his part, Benjamin emitted a few “eewww’s” that assured me he was far from sexual activity. However, he did have one question.

 “Why are you telling me all of this?”

“Because we heard you were using the ‘s’ word,” I said.

“You mean the bad word for ‘poopie’?” he giggled.

Later, I told my wife I would never trust her interpretation of anything ever again.

Flash forward to the 2009-2010 parenting season, which has been punctuated by two sex talks.

The first one involved talking to Benjamin (11 at the time) about his changing body and view of the opposite gender. Once again, Benjamin was tight-lipped. So, wouldn’t you know, I pulled out a copy of Where Do I Come From? and read it to him. I’ve never seen the kid so engrossed in illustrations in my life.

Overall, it was a good introduction for the shorter talks we’ve since had regarding girls and the emotions that accompany adolescence.

Then, there was the dialogue I had with Jacob (8) after dinner one night.

“Daddy, I know what sex is, it’s when a man puts his penis in a woman’s vagina and she gets pregnant and that’s where the baby comes out, out of her vagina.”

Yes, it was all one sentence.

“Wendy!” I yelled across the house. “Can you handle this one?”

When she came in, Jacob hit her with the information.

“Mommy, I know what sex is, it’s when a man puts his penis in a woman’s vagina and she gets pregnant and that’s where the baby comes out, out of her vagina.”

Wendy took one look at me and said, “He’s a boy. You’re a boy. Talk to him.”

And she scrammed.

Jacob beamed at me from the couch. I sat down with him.

“Do you have any questions?” I asked, hoping he wouldn’t.

“Does it have to happen in a bed, or can you do it standing up, or on a table?” he rattled off.

I wondered if it was wrong to offer him ice cream just to retract the question.

“Most people do it in a bed,” I said, praying he wouldn’t ask how his mother and I conceived him.

“When I want to do it, do I just bump into the girl and say ‘sorry,’ then she’s pregnant?” he said.

“It takes a little longer,” I muttered.

“Does it hurt?” he wondered.

“It’s nice, usually…where did all of these thoughts come from?” I countered.

“I heard some of it from Franklin, but also from Rain,” he admitted. “Rain said if that’s what happens, she just wants to adopt.”

The comment was good for a laugh, but I cautioned him that it’s best to have conversations about sex with Mommy or Daddy since we have the most facts.

“Can we talk some more about naked stuff,” he continued.

“Not tonight,” I said with a grin. “But make sure you ask Mommy all about it tomorrow.”

That was fair. It takes two to make a baby, so there might as well be two making a mess of explaining how it happens.

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What Dads Need to Know: Sleep is the New Sex

By Ann Douglas

Dads may clock a bit more sleep than moms do during the early weeks of caring for a new baby, but when it comes to overall feelings of exhaustion, moms and dads are pretty much on par. That’s one of the key reasons why sex falls off the radar screen for many parents of newborns: no one can stay awake long enough to get the deed done.

Even on those nights when there’s interest, energy, and opportunity (the ultimate bedroom hat trick at this time in your life), your sexual fortunes can turn on a dime. The in-laws drop by to sneak another peek at the little one — at 10 pm. Your wife’s best friend calls to talk babies and breastfeeding. Baby wants a bonus-bonus-bonus feeding. And then the ultimate insult: your neighbor’s car alarm startling Junior into wakefulness just as you and his mom are getting nice and cozy. Moron.

And even if your baby does settle back down to sleep after a quick nurse and cuddle, the libido may have left the building. (Your wife’s, that is.) That’s because the Maternal Emergency Response System (MERS) has been put on full alert as a result of the baby’s panicked cry, causing the woman of your dreams to switch from sex kitten setting to mom mode in two seconds flat. It’s as if a gigantic Boy Scout poured a huge bucket of ice water on the campfire that was her sex drive. You can try to get things started again, but you have 50/50 odds of looking like an ultra-attentive lover and 50/50 odds of looking like a pushy jerk who won’t let a tired mom get the sleep she so desperately craves. It’s up to you if you want to want to play sex life roulette. If you win, you win. If you lose, you lose big-time.

And while we’re talking mother meta-text (the things that moms think but simply won’t say), here’s something else that might be conspiring against your sex life: basic biology combined with a common maternal misunderstanding. It has been scientifically proven that moms are hard-wired to be more responsive to their babies in the night than dads (they hear their babies better and they’re more tuned into their babies’ movements, even when both mom and baby are asleep). This means that moms tend to respond instinctively to their babies’ murmurs and stirs while dads are still somewhere off in dreamland. What a mom may interpret as laziness or mean-spiritedness or rotten parenting on the part of that slumbering dad may be basic biology at work. So you get in trouble for being a guy.

But don’t use your guyness as an excuse. She’ll be on to you in a flash. If you even think about using the aforementioned biological fact as a license to play Rip Van Winkle for the next 18 years, you can kiss your sex life goodbye for at least as long. (Let her know that she’s welcome to wake you up if she hears the baby in the night and it’s your turn to get up. Crisis averted.) While your evil friend Barney might be tempted to try to con his wife, he will pay dearly for his stupidity. If a mom feels that her partner isn’t helping out enough with night-time parenting, she’s likely to start feeling angry and resentful, and anger is anything but libido enhancing, as every guy knows.

Here’s what one of the moms that I interviewed for Sleep Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler had to say: “There were nights with my first child when I would be hit with this overwhelming urge to kill my husband,” confesses one mother of two. “I was so resentful of the fact that he was lying there sleeping while I was getting up for the third time that night to breastfeed. When I’d come back to bed, I’d get in bed as noisily as possible in the hope that I’d manage to wake him up. I practically used the bed as a trampoline as I bounded back into it at 4:00 am. If he didn’t wake up, I’d lie in bed feeling incredibly angry at him for not waking up, and that resentment would build in me until I felt like I was going to explode. And all the while, he would be having a good night’s sleep without a care in the world.” (Note: In my book I talk about each couple’s needs to figure out what kind of split of night-time parenting duties makes the most sense for them: sometimes 50/50 isn’t equal or fair.)

When I talk to new moms who are feeling this angry and desperate, I try to give them a Dad’s eye view of the situation — to remind them that everything isn’t perfectly rosy on his side of the bed either. In fact, he may be experiencing a smorgasbord of emotions that he may be reluctant to express for fear of upsetting his partner further. So it’s not a cakewalk for dads, either, despite the stereotypical image of the well-rested dad sauntering off to his perfect job to “get a break” all day long.

So what does it take to keep your sex life on track when neither of you are getting much sleep during those weeks and months after baby arrives on the scene? Those three magic ingredients I mentioned earlier (interest, energy, and opportunity) plus a few more: persistence, a sense of humor, a connection as a couple, and a feeling that you’re playing for the same parenting team. As one of the moms that I interviewed put it, “We were tired, and that was a fact of life. Sort of, ‘If I wasn’t so tired I’d jump you’ and ‘If I wasn’t so tired, I’d like it.’”

Ann Douglas is an authormagazine writer, andnewspaper columnist who specializes in writing about parenting. A popular speaker, Ann leads workshops and delivers keynote addresses on a variety of topics of interest to writers, parents, and others who share her passions for education, health, social justice, and civic engagement. She is the host and producer of theTrent Radio shows Citizen Parent and This is Your Writing Life. She lives and works in Peterborough, Ontario, and volunteers her time with various projects and causes.

Posted in Featured Moms & Dads, Marriage, Sex Ed | Leave a comment

Girl Crazy

By Gregory Keer

At age 7, I had no idea why I wanted Sherry Green’s attention, but I liked being next to her in the line for chocolate milk. We’d smile at each other while sharpening our pencils. We’d pick each other for the same kickball team.

One day, we actually had a conversation, in the middle of the playground at our elementary school. Shyly, I kicked the tar that filled the asphalt cracks as we talked about our favorite TV shows. Then, her friend Melanie showed up and Sherry started wailing on me with her little leather purse.

“Stop talking to me, Gregory Keer! Get away from me!”

In shock, I took a couple more whacks before I ran for my life. To this day, I do not know what happened. Sherry tried to approach me several times, but I wasn’t interested in more random abuse.

Twenty years later, I got over my confusion with women long enough to marry Wendy. I still have my moments of cluelessness around her, but it’s nothing compared to what’s in store for my sons.

Benjamin (now 6) and Jacob (2 1/2) have their own — though very different — issues with the opposite sex. Benjamin has a couple of girl friends, but, for the most part, he has bought into that “girls are aliens” theory.

The other night, we learned that he had spent time in the “uncooperative chair” and we asked him what he did to try the patience of his kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Renetzky.

“I was a little too wiggly,” Benjamin said with a smile and a wiggle.

“What do you mean, ‘wiggly’?” my wife asked.

“All the boys have a problem being wiggly,” Benjamin. “We just can’t help ourselves.”

“Do any of the girls spend time in the uncooperative chair?” my wife inquired like a maternal Diane Sawyer.

“Not really. The girls always talk, though. The boys are quiet when the teacher is talking. We’re just wiggly,” he explained.

Fascinated by my Benjamin’s budding interest in gender studies, I queried him about other things he might have noticed. “What do you guys like to play when you’re on the yard?”

“We dig tunnels in the sand and go on missions. Sometimes we play basketball,” he said.

“Do you ever play with the girls?” I wondered.

“Not really. They play with Barbies,” he said.

“Do you think any of the girls is pretty,” I asked.

My son shook his head like I was crazy, “Forget about it.”

Currently, Benjamin isn’t close to having a crush. But last year, one girl would sit at storytime with her arm around him — and his arm around her! — like they were cuddling on a couch. They even “married” each other in a pretend ceremony held in their pre-K classroom.

Later in the year, Benjamin had a playdate with a pair of adorable twins. Benjamin endured their competitive declarations of “I’m gonna marry Benjamin! No, I’m gonna marry Benjamin.” He got so fed up, he announced, “I’m already married!”

Of course, the marriage didn’t last and, during the summer at camp, Benjamin participated in another round of mock weddings by marrying himself (we have the certificate to prove it).

Now, my younger son is a different story. It appears that girls, especially older ones, love his devilish smile, which somehow outweighs his penchant for putting sand in their hair.

Earlier this year, Wendy and Jacob were at a playground where two preschool girls, Sydney and Emma, invited Jacob into the playhouse with him. Inside, they began bickering.

“He’s mine,” Sydney said, taking Jacob’s hand.

“No, I want him,” Emma said, pulling him to sit in the corner.

All the while, Jacob laughed like a mini-Austin Powers, obviously delighting in the attention.

Not that Jacob doesn’t reciprocate. Whenever we visit Sydney’s house, Jacob follows her around, saying “Sydneee” like a European womanizer. He’s also pretty attached to Emma, as he proved at a breakfast we had with her family the other week. All the kids sat at their own table, keeping their manners admirably until Jacob’s fondness for Emma got out of hand. The kid was draped all over her, hugging her face and nearly sitting in her plate of $2.99 French toast.

“If he gets any closer to my daughter, we’re going to have to discuss a prenup,” her father cracked.

So far, the only legal union in our household involves Wendy and I. She’s also the one woman who holds the key to my sons’ hearts. Clearly, they’ve made a wise choice. Despite my inability to read her meanings on certain occasions (all my fault, of course), I’m thrilled that this woman with the huge smile shares the secrets of her soul only with me.

In this month of Mother’s Day, I wish for my sons the kind of girl Daddy has. For my wife, I promise the eternal love of a husband who’s just happy you haven’t hit him with a handbag.

Posted in Columns by Family Man, Love and Courtship, Sex Ed | Leave a comment