There are a number of important things in your early life that you likely remember learning. You remember where you were when you found out that there was no Santa Claus. You probably remember learning how to ride a bike. You remember your first crush, your first slow dance, your first kiss, your first heartbreak.
But do you remember where you were when you first learned about "The Birds and The Bees"? Was it in health class when you were in the ninth grade, and everything was completely foreign to you? No, that's not likely - it was probably earlier. Perhaps you were an awkward thirteen-year-old who stumbled upon his father's poorly hidden x-rated DVD stash. No? Even earlier than that? Maybe you were a confused preteen who took bits and pieces of whispered school yard stories and formed them into an almost-coherent idea. What? You were younger than that?! Fine, possibly a nine-year-old who accidentally came across your German shepherd in the back yard taking advantage of the neighbor's purebred, prize-winning poodle.
If you say you were even younger than that, then you're lying. You're lying... or you're me.
My mother is an amazing woman. People will always say that their mother is the best mother - but those people are wrong. My mother is caring and funny and giving and sweet and just the most perfect mom that any person could ever hope for. She sent me to private school to be sure that I would have the best education that money could buy. She colored with me and took me to movies and baked cookies with me and answered any question I ever had as fairly and honestly and concisely as she could. She never babied me, but at the same time she treated me with more love than I have ever seen anyone give to their child.
So what was it, you ask, that led my mother into my room for an impromptu health class on that one night when I was seven? I do not have an answer to that question - all I know is this:
If I was not asleep, I was nearly so. Perhaps my mother had been out that evening, or perhaps she had been home and was on her way to bed - I do not particularly recall. Either way, she came into my bedroom and softly jostled me awake. I remember a small amount of commonplace mother-daughter chatting at the beginning - how had my day been, how was school going, things of that nature. And then, suddenly, we were talking about when a man and a woman love each other. Wait, what? Where did this come from? What did this have to do with penmanship and art class and carrying the one in math? And so, as my mother continued to explain that love was a beautiful thing and that it was meant to be cherished and respected, I tried to figure out why the hell I was up at one in the morning when I had a spelling test the next day. Slowly but surely, as I started to wonder what this was all about, words I did not understand began to come into play. Penis? Vagina? I know what love is, but I don't think I'm familiar with the concept of "making" it. Yet still she went on, and suddenly my incredibly active imagination started to form all sorts of horrifying visuals. My mother soon realized that I was forming my own opinion of what this act would look like and immediately took it upon herself to remedy the situation. Two minutes and a blue crayon later, I was looking at the most anatomically-correct stick figures the world has ever seen. "This" point point point "is the man's penis. And when a man and woman are in love, the penis goes inside here," arrow arrow arrow, "the woman's vagina. Then, the sperm comes out" squiggle squiggle squiggle "and goes into the eggs," circle circle circle, "and then a baby is made!"
Of course! The point follows the arrow until the squiggles go into the circle and then there is a baby!
See, even as an adult that sounds absurd. Imagine being seven years old and trying to figure it out. What is this witchcraft! What is this sorcery! Squiggles and circles do not a baby make! But I accepted this information for what it was, wished my mother a goodnight, and went back to sleep.
I understand that she was doing nothing other than trying to keep me informed and educated in all aspects of life. Perhaps she had seen a jarring episode of Oprah that stated that more and more third graders were having unprotected sex. Maybe she read an article in Good Housekeeping that suggested that girls between the ages of six and eight were 300 times more likely to get pregnant than they were ten years ago. Whatever the reason, she approached the situation with grace and class and taught me an important life lesson, and for that I am grateful.
Plus, you'd better believe this is how I'm teaching my kids someday.