Saturday 18 November 2017

Smug Married: Preserving innocence in face of reptile dysfunction

Popcorn's the answer when Aine O'Connor's be-open-with-the-kids-about-sex principle is tested

Aine O'Connor

THE four of us were watching a movie and during the break debated whose turn it was to make the tea.

Number Two, for the moment still exempt from tea-making, was apparently watching the ads because half-way through the debate she asked "what's reptile dysfunction?" Eh? "Something about 40 per cent of men over 40 and reptile dysfunction?" And sure enough, there was a perturbed-looking man in pyjamas on the TV screen.

Beloved suddenly solved the tea debate by volunteering and exiting with a swiftness known previously only to record-holders, Number One child started roaring with laughter in that special laugh he has for innuendo/things his sister doesn't get. And I sat there.

I'm the one with the be-open-with-the-kids-about-sex principles. Beloved doesn't disagree, usually, but he doesn't practise it either -- he has this knack for exempting himself. Although to be fair there has never been a CHAT, it's been fairly organic, questions born of events. When only I seem to be around. But reptile dysfunction wasn't somewhere I wanted to go just then. So I offered to get popcorn to go with the tea safe in the knowledge that no matter how many times she asked, or how much she jumped on him, her brother would never really tell her why he was laughing. I'm happy to tell them where babies come from, I never felt the need for storks or cabbage leaves. I did learn though to answer the question that is asked. "Where do babies come from?" Their mommies' tummies. And leave it at that until they start wondering the rest. They can't absorb too much and anyway, why put yourself through the disgusted looks of your children before you have to?

Both of ours, at 10 and 14 and more than a half, are fully au fait with the basics. But the age gap between them is gigantic at this stage, especially in terms of wink-wink how's your father. There are things you kinda don't wanta go over with them, now or ever, things maybe we are all better learning from our peers? Maybe? Possibly? Please?

You do also cling to the littleness of the littlest, trying to prolong their childish innocence. But by virtue of being the littlest, their innocence at a given age is often not what the eldest's was. They have an in-house example who, even if (s)he never speaks a civil word, is eye-opening in many respects. Number One has been battling with the concept of appropriate. Perhaps not all the jokes you feel free to tell your mother are appropriate in front of your eight-, nine- or 10-year-old sister. He is at least working out that when I widen my eyes like a nutter he is straying into "watch-it" territory.

But some gems still escape, a word, a sentence before my eyes have time to catch his. One such recent gem was about a condom. What's a condom? She wanted to know. Um well ... . And I gave her a vague idea. "Oh," responded my newly 10-year-old "you mean like a rubber?" My gobsmacked bafflement had no time to find words before her brother was berating her for being so Americanised. "Yeah, well in school you have to say eraser instead of [giggle giggle] rubber."

Really? Well maybe you could have a little chat to them about reptile dysfunction too.

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