Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Look! They're male and female, and they're mating!

Sorry for the above X-rated photo and dialog. This is a photo that Nico asked my husband to take while the family was out walking recently.

This is one of the more amusing side-effects of Science education: sometimes Sex Ed comes along for the ride. Way back in the birds and the bees and the whales, I was fretting about what I should tell my kids about sex and when. Since then I've learned. Just stand back and let science take its course.

The down side is that while Nico now knows quite a bit about about the mechanics of human reproduction (extrapolating from the other species in his nature documentaries), he's a little hazy on a lot of the social trappings that are supposed to be the easy part. So one night a few weeks ago he asked me a few follow-up questions:

Nico: How did you meet Daddy?
me: We were in school together.
Nico: When mating, could you feel Daddy's sperm?
me: [hedging, not sure how to answer that one]
Nico: Does it hurt?
me: No, no, it's very sweet.
Nico: What about rival males?
me: You won't have to worry about rival males.
Nico: But in every species there are rival males...
me: Once your sweetie loves you, there won't be any rival males around.

I almost hesitate to write the above dialog since I'm sure at least some people reading this will be going "Wow, that's weird -- a six-year-old kid asking such questions!" But I figure that I might as well answer his questions as clearly and accurately as I can since he probably wouldn't have come up with these questions if he weren't ready to have answers.

It was questions like the above, though, that made my husband once muse that maybe these nature videos he's contantly watching aren't really appropriate for kids (as I mentioned here), what with all the sex and violence. Nico might talk about how "the male injects his sperm into the female and the eggs are fertilized" (in his BBC / David Attenborough voice) and people could get the wrong idea and think he's some sort of pervert...

Of course his passion for Biology isn't all about the mating. For fun, I'll throw in a few more of his recent drawings:

alpine newts

"les animaus de la bisse" -- one of his amusing phonetic spellings in French. It should be "les animaux de l'abysse" or "the animals of the abyss"

"The deep sea" -- as soon Nico saw this picture on the computer, he got all excited and told me the names of all the species he's drawn here. :D


JohnR said...

What a great mind Nico has! Thanks for sharing this interaction with your son. It hit a tender spot--maybe because I wish I had had similar reassurances from my parents.

Anyhow, it would be difficult for me to resist answering tangentially and rationally that humans as a species do have to worry about rivals, even if mommy and daddy don't. I'm glad you didn't.

B.G. Christensen said...

Oh, great. First evolution, now sex. Science is clearly evil. I'm going to call my local politician now and demand that all science classes in elementary schools be replaced by Bible study.

flygirl said...

Cute story! Your son sounds like he is very curious and has a great personality for such a little guy. Good answers on your part as well.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey John!!!

I know, I thought about mentioning that people do indeed have rivals, but it seemed a little complex for his level of understanding. He's thinking more in terms of these films he's seen of frogs or snakes or insects where mating is interrupted when a second male arrives and wants to take over. With humans you generally don't have to worry about that...

Hey Mr. FOB!!!

That should solve this problem!!! ;^)

Thanks FlyGirl!!!

Lars Larson said...

Boy, oh Boy are YOU naïve! According to Men's Journal there are LOTS of rival males out there and if the article I read holds any water a lot of them are ALREADY sleeping with my wife! The Yoga Instructor, the Stay At Home Dad, the Desperate Ex, the Sensitive Co-Worker.

And as for Nico. You need to send that boy to Church! How else will he be able to experience the shame and mortification of his first wet dream?

Anonymous said...

RIVAL MALES?! Oh my, that's funny!

Rebecca said...

Anyone who thinks those questions are weird just hasn't spent much time around kids. Or at least not SMART kids.

The Exterminator said...

When he asks you to promise that you won't eat his father's head off after mating -- it might be time to call in the shrink.

In the meanwhile, you should be delighted and proud to have such an inquisitive son.

AnnM said...

Hysterical! I actually did get the rivals question, in a different context ... but I have children by my ex, and a son with my husband. So the little one has raised some very big questions, including the $60 million question, why did I
stop loving [my ex].

Ugh. Not an easy question to answer both simply and honestly. I'll take the scientific sex questions over that any day. (Although I get those too.)

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey ErlyBrd!!!

Wow, Nico's nature videos didn't cover any of that....

Hey Pants!!!

Cute, isn't it? ;^)

Hey Rebecca!!!

You may be right. I assumed this was weird because our whole family is a little weird... ;^)

Hey Exterminator!!!

The funny thing is that we've actually kind of talked about this. In one of the videos about arthropods there's a species of spider where the female is much larger than the male. In the sex scene, as soon as they're done, the female catches the male and wraps him up in web silk to eat him. As a comprehension question, I asked Nico if in humans the female eats the male after mating. He thought about it for a bit, and we concluded that the fact that his dad is still alive shows that they don't -- at least not every time. ;^)

Hey Sam-I-Am!!!

Yikes, that is a difficult one. Were you able to come up with a response?

Unknown said...

I have to tell you again how absolutely fabulous I think you and your spouse's attitudes about encouraging your son to think. And that he's able to feel excited and happy about asking questions rather than embarrassed.

I know it can't be easy, but I think (you know, the woman who has no kids) you're doing a great job.

I wish I would have been encouraged similarly growing up.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks O.G.!!!

We're kind of playing this by ear, so it's nice to see others agree we're doing okay. :D

beatdad said...

We had similar conversations with my older son when he was six; the only difference being that his question were all about humans and did not stem from watching nature videos.

Now, I would guess that he knows more about human sexuality than the average American 12 y.o.

We are working on the ethics of sex and emotions now.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Wayne!!!

That's fabulous!!! Keep me posted, and let's compare notes. :D

Anonymous said...

Mr C and I both laughed to tears over this one. In Nico's Attenborough English, it's even better. Mr C was especially admiring of the accuracy of the newt picture. Give Nico our compliments. :-)

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Wry!!!

I hope we can get together again soon -- Nico is still talking about how cute your dogs are!!!

Anonymous said...

That conversation is priceless.

And the drawings are adorable. They remind me of the drawings the children I aupaired for in France used to make me (gotta love the French children's cursive!). Although their drawings were not nearly as scientific, I'm sure.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks yrsuchariot!!!

It's true the handwriting they learn in school is pretty distinctive. This is one of the things that first impressed me about my (now) husband -- his perfect handwriting. And the fact that he'd take notes in French (in real time) of a lecture that was given in English....