I considered myself a kind and loving mother for putting nice little notes in my girls’ lunchboxes when they went to school. Most of the time, I drew hearts and scribbled “I love you.” There were instances when I jotted whatever matters were weighing on my mind. “Could you not put away the peanut butter without wiping off the jar first?” or “Thanks for the stretch marks.” I had a girlfriend who also wrote notes to her five boys. “Please don’t draw chalk outlines on the front porch anymore with your sibling’s names inside of them.” She was one of those mothers in critical need of a live-in masseuse and bottle therapy. Specifically, Pinot Noir. Especially after she opened one son’s lunchbox after school and found the note with a drawing of what looked like two people engaging in sexual activity. When her boys got confined to their rooms, they were hoping she wouldn’t be so stern as to lock the doors and throw away the key. They probably would have asked her to bake them a cake with a file in it, or at least have some foxy looking chick jump out of it. I used to want a boy in the biggest way, until I hung around her house.

Parenting a girl wasn’t any easier. When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I wanted to induce labor to have her more quickly. As time went on, I was obliged to spit out life lessons every other second, and when it came time to have “the talk,” I avoided it like the plague and put it off as long as possible. I didn’t think I should be talking to a preschooler about sexuality. There were things I would have liked to be doing more, like cleaning Port-a-Potties at the fairground. She did wonder why her little cave of wonder was cut off, given that the male thingy can get erect. Having seventy-thousand thoughts per day, I assumed she’d be more contemplative about toys or seesaws. In due time, it was my job to inform her about carnal cohabitation. The hardest part would be explaining whips and handcuffs, and how hard it is to get it on while playing Twister. Not that I ever did those things. I wouldn’t have known where to buy whips or handcuffs let alone use them. Nor was I about to explain porn stars to my innocent and trusting child, or get myself into some contorted position playing a game with no clothes on. And thankfully the condom discussion came much later as well.

There was always a certain amount of angst associated with parenting girls who ran around half naked, exploiting themselves. I didn’t want any males putting their bananas in my girls’ fruit salad. Once again I was under sex duress. So I did what most mothers do. I told them to see their Dad. But when they saw him lounging on the couch watching sports, they walked right by him and followed me to the bathroom banging on the door for me to explain why they couldn’t go au naturel. That’s when I went to their dad and said, “Roses are red, you’re children are blue. Somebody has to convince them to cover their privates, and I nominate you.”

My mother always put great emphasis on explaining things to her ten children. She was so loud and clear when delivering directions that she compelled even the neighbors to brush their teeth and clean up after themselves. But when it came to explaining the facts of life, I think she was a bit inhibited. I got the inside scoop from a friend about the birds and the bees. She gave a bizzaro description and one that really puzzled me. Plus she waited till the teachable moment of her birthday party and recited the sperm/embryo/benefactress story in explicit detail to a dozen or so of us six year olds during the cake cutting. She also said something about being conceived on the seat of a riding lawnmower. Naturally, I went home with plenty of questions. My mother went into a catatonic state of annoyance and never allowed me back at that house. A couple of years later, I was at my friend’s home down the street when she asked her mother about sex. Her mother replied, “I can’t talk right now. General Hospital is on.” My curious friend yelled to her older brother who walked in saying, “I got this.” Their mother jumped from the couch and frantically pulled her inquiring youngster into the bathroom to explain the minor details. And by minor, I mean she didn’t give her a major and altogether accurate summarization of sex. My gal pal walked out with a huge smile on her face and told me that it was nothing more than a special hug behind closed doors. I knew then that “Mommy and Daddy are just doing gymnastics” was a crock.

The only thing my own daughter needed to know was that bees have stingers and birds can peck and poop all over the patio furniture. Of course then she asked me what the difference was between bees and wasps. I was much more inclined to answer questions in this area. I told her that bees make honey, are compatible with horses and hogs, and are more reluctant to sting, whereas wasps are just aggressive little ass—-s. Not really. I said that wasps are surly and combative killer bees that can sting multiple times and leave severe swelling. She responded, “But I thought a wasp wasn’t a bee?” That’s when I made a beeline to the liquor cabinet for a shot of Schnapps. When the subject arose again, I suppose I was a bit inebriated because I told her that when bees marry, thirty-thousand guests arrive and they should have swarm prevention. I probably wasn’t any more accurate when I said that when bees do the ol’ lust and thrust, they can lay as many as a bajllion eggs per day. At least I didn’t tell her to “buzz off!” I ended up buying the illustrated guide to puberty called What’s Happening To Me?, which served as a great substitute for anything I had to offer. I did teach my girls how to talk and use the big girl potty, which have proven to be very valuable life skills. Some days I amazed myself. Other days I put their shirts on backwards, and the laundry in the dishwasher.

I read in Time magazine that the brain doesn’t reach full maturity until the age of twenty-five. I only hoped my daughter’s judgment gland would be fully developed before then.

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