We all have those times in our lives where there is a definitive moment, a life changing realization, where things will never be the same. For many of us, it involves something amazing. Perhaps you found God or religion in the unlikeliest of places. My pet sitter found Buddhism in my bathroom once when I left a book about it out to upset my Catholic parents when they came to visit. I’m not sure if that was irony or karma or divine intervention, but it was amazing. An ex-Jewish pet sitter finding Buddha in Christian’s bathroom. Or perhaps your moment was like when I looked into the eyes of my oldest daughter for the first time and I knew everything was going to change, for the better, that was an amazing realization.
Other times, the realization can be something unpleasant. Perhaps you discover that one of your family members is a more than just a little racist, or that there is no Santa Claus, or what the little telescoping, cardboard tubes you find in the bathroom are actually used for as you and your younger brother have been using them as tiny spy glasses and cannons to play pirate, a discovery made possible by directions left out by accident. The ones with the fairly graphic illustrations. I hear that’s utterly life changing and terrible. For someone else. Yeah.
I had one of those realizations recently. It came as a mixed package of both unpleasant and amazing realizations, though if I’m going to be honest, it’s mostly still unpleasant. A few weeks ago my wife and I were embarking on another round of every parent’s favorite game: “Who’s Going to Deal With This.” You know the game, the one where you try and decide who is going to be best equipped to deal with problem with your children that you know you’re going to have. Like I know that I get to deal with my daughter’s ADD issues because I also have a touch of it. Or how my wife will gladly take the “girl issues” when then they finally manifest themselves. I’ve eliminated myself from helping with that one when I suggested we throw a “First Moon” party for my daughters when it happens. I’ve been told that even the strawberry cake is a definite no.
Anyway, you know the game. The realization was we were going to have “The Talk” again, except it wasn’t just the run of the mill talk. We’ve already had the first “Talk” where the basic mechanics have been rolled out, as well as a half dozen follow up awkward “Chats.” This is the modified version of “The Talk” because this fall my daughter is going to be going to middle school and she’s probably going to learn some very unsavory things there, things she hears her friends and classmates talking about, things that get mentioned on TV and she may see on the internet, no matter how many parental controls I use. I’m normallt of the mindset to head problems off at the pass, to prepare her for the sea of misinformation out there, but on this one I feel myself balking at it. And not just a little, the urge to run from this is nearly a deep, guttural, instinctual one. Usually, like most good Homo Sapiens, I make an informed choice and not just follow my gut, though I usually wish I could. Also, I’m hungry often, so it doesn’t always go well when I follow him. He’s a liar and has bad taste in food. But this time I may listen to him.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love talking to my daughter about anything and everything. She’s amazingly inquisitive and her intuition is so very strong it’s scary. I remember at the age of four or five we talked about how genes from the mommy and daddy make a baby, how a baby develops in the mommy and she had all sorts of fun biological and ethical questions for me, but for the longest time she never thought to ask how the genes made it all the way up there. I think she knew what was coming was bad and neglected to cross that bridge as long as she could, though a few years ago we finally did. It was so traumatic for both her and my wife neither one remembers it happened, but I did. Oh boy, do I.
Now comes a different conversation, not just dealing with reproduction, but with sexuality. With how it can manifest itself in different ways, how boys all of a sudden will start to get very weird around her and other girls, and why that is going to happen, and prepare her for the dearth of sexual superstition and preteen idiocy. And this conversation supposedly is going to include things like masterbation and felatio. Oh, and by the way, to all you dads out there, we’re supposed to get in on this conversation too. You see it normalizes it, it shows the children there’s nothing to be ashamed of if both parents engage in that exchange.
Nope. Hell to the no. F@#& that noise, I’m out. That’s it. I’ve found my limit, reached some sort of interior demarcation line for the new aged Dad and I’m tapping out. I’ll talk to her about her period all day, we can discuss the inner workings of her uterus as it’s trying to claw it’s way out of her over tea and ice cream. I’ll get into the inner mind of the teenage boy (or girl, I don’t judge) to explain why they hurt her or cheated on her while we plan how to murder the damn fool, maybe we’ll even break out one of my swords and sharpen it just for kicks. Anything else, you name it, I’m on board. I know how important it is to have a good, dependable male role model for children, one who can talk to them, show them we know how to feel, emote, and think for ourselves, as well as do all the “man” stuff, like killing bugs and opening jars of stuff (and you ladies are not fooling anyone with that crap, we know you can do it, but are just trying to make us feel better about ourselves). But sitting there as my wife tells my daughter about BJs and “self love?” Nope. That’s a hard pass. My Catholic upbringing that I’ve tried so hard to repress is screaming, “THOU SHALL NOT!” and I’m ready to smack her with a rosary should it ever come up.
But here’s the thing that makes it an amazing realization, albeit still overshadowed by the terrible awfulness of it: I know if I needed to, I could. I’ll probably not admit it to her (unless my parental controls have failed and she’s reading this, sorry baby!), but should the need arises, like my wife is traveling or has beaten me to the punch and drank herself into a stupor before the talk, I know I can do it. And that’s amazing to me. Men have ducked out of much lighter responsibilities for centuries, and I don’t mean just left for the afternoon while the little lady took care of the “wifely duties,” I mean packed up and just left at the prospect of sticking around. Of parenting. I find the fact that I’m equipped to go through with the talk if necessary amazing, that and more and more men are stepping up and doing the same thing. God speed brothers, because we need more of it. Nearly every recent study has shown that a positive male role in a child’s life is nearly as important as a mother’s. We dads have often taken a backseat to parenting, we’re either made to look like the jester by the media or like the antagonist or, occasionally, like the sex object, but rarely just the dad. The guy who can share his emotions as well as his warm spot on the couch, who can crack dumb jokes and have meaningful conversations at the same time.
Except about this. I know I can do it, if I have to, but I’m taking a pass. I know she’ll forgive me for not being there for that “moment,” in fact I know she’ll thank me. And so will her therapist.