Parents, does it always happen this way? One minute you’re having an innocent spaghetti dinner with the family and the next you’re in a full-on birds and bees discussion. And then, as if to prove a point, your box turtles start going at it in the next room.
It wasn’t the first time one of the boys asked us about the meaning of a dirty word. They’ve sort of become fascinated with curses. They’re not swearing, although before he knew any better, Chunky cursed the eternal future of his math homework. Who could blame him?
But lately they’ve been asking, “What does the bad S word mean?” “What does the bad B word mean?” For the most part we’ve offered satisfactory explanations, but not so with the F word.
My husband managed to delay the first F word conversation by answering our 11-year-old with another question. “Do you like it when there's kissing on a show you're watching?”
Kory: Then you don’t want to know anything more.
But it came up again tonight, and we weren’t able to redirect. Finally I said, “It has to do with the act of making babies.”
Monkey: OH! (confused expression) Like if the mom has a baby and throws it away?
Monkey: Oh. Is it when the mom drinks alcohol and the baby gets infected?
Me: No. It’s the making the baby part.
We could tell something clicked in his brain. Kory was quick to interject. “If you know what it is, you don’t need to say anything more about it in front of your brother.”
Monkey: Oh, he already knows. Our friend told us. It’s when moms and dads do this. (He pressed the heels of his hands together.)
Kory and I simply nodded then had the following telepathic conversation.
Should we be angry?
I don’t know.
I’m kinda relieved. Aren’t you?
I guess so.
About that time the turtle cage started rattling. It’s pretty unmistakable when Roger gets a bee under his shell. Molly runs. He chases. The turtle habitat is big, but not that big. He always catches her.
The boys went to see what all the noise was about. Without being too graphic, you should know that turtles start out in pretty much the same position most animals do. But as things, um, progress the male falls backward, keeping his claws attached to the female's shell, and just hangs there, belly up like a sun-bather. But this time Molly had somehow gotten flipped on her back. She had her arms, legs and head tucked tight in her shell and was playing dead for all it was worth. Roger was desperately attempting to flip her right side up. Eventually he was successful but, well, how do I say this delicately? He got the wrong end. And that didn’t stop him. By this time our explanation of “wrestling” pretty much wouldn’t fly.
Monkey, with apprehension in his voice: I think Roger is attracted to Molly.
Chunky: Why doesn’t she get out from under him?
Me: Women are patient.
We herded the boys back into the dining room, but the ruckus from the habitat proved a bit distracting.
I can only imagine it’s very frustrating to be a male box turtle. First of all, your shell is in the way and her shell is in the way. Neither of you is exactly physically accommodating. She is unwilling. And pretty speedy when she wants to get away. And, well, you’re too stupid to know which end is the right one.
Thankfully, Kory had reset the timer on their heat lamp to go off earlier. (It’s time for horny box turtles to turn their thoughts to hibernation.) When the light switched off, the mood was gone. For Roger anyway. I’m afraid Molly’s switch was never flipped to begin with.
And, so, because of profanity, an over-eager friend, and a couple of turtles, we’ve had our first official discussion about sex. All I can say is, thank goodness the rabbit is single.