It was the Christmas season of my 14-year-old son's 4th grade year. We had finished decorating the tree and my daughter had fallen asleep beneath it. Taege sat on the sofa next to me writing his list for Santa. I was writing in my journal when he looked at me and asked, "Mom, is Santa real?" Oh, crap! I was not prepared for this conversation. But I'd sworn I would never lie to my kids when this question inevitably arose. So I asked, "Well, what do you think, baby?" Pretty good psychology, huh? He would answer "yes" and I'd say "Then if you believe he's real, that's wonderful." See, no lie involved and I'd be able to avoid the talk for another year or so. Christmas magic would continue.
But no. Instead, he looked down at his lap and said, "I think it's either some really nice man or..." and he looked me square in the eyes, "...it's you." Double crap! I was trapped. "Which of those do you think it is, honey?" I asked. With tears in his eyes, he said, "You?" My heart broke. I felt like I had betrayed him in some way. I explained the concept behind Santa and let him know that "playing" Santa was one of my greatest joys as a parent. That I reveled in seeing the excitement on his face Christmas morning. We talked more about it and about the true meaning of Christmas. I swore him to secrecy with his sister. Then all of a sudden, he got this wide-eyed look on his face. "Mom, if you're Santa...then you can make Christmas come early!!" Um, no. Very nice try, but no way. He continued trying to convince me with all the reasons why I should move the holiday up by weeks, but I wasn't budging.
Then came the bombshell. "Well, if you won't make Christmas come early, then can you at least tell me why Uncle Dedo's dog was hugging my leg last week?" Really?? Yes, we had seen my brother's dog getting fresh with Taege's leg and, yes, we had laughed. But when Taege asked what Bernie was doing, I had said, "He's just giving you a hug, honey." He knew I was lying. And now he was paying me back. So, what did I do? I had handled the Santa thing pretty well, so I had the brilliant idea that now would be a good time to talk to him about the birds and the bees. Yes, I was that stupid. So, I started explaining about eggs and sperm and how babies grow in the mommy's tummy. "How do the babies get in the mommy's tummy?" he asked. Well, I had the good sense not to talk about mommies and daddies doing the nasty. He was only in 4th grade, for Pete's sake. So, I had another brilliant idea to use the animal kingdom as an example. Good ol' Bernie. I explained that when mommy dogs and daddy dogs love each other and decide to have puppies, they have this thing called "sex" to make the puppies and it looked kind of like what Bernie was doing to his leg. The look on his face told me I had truly confused him. Then he asked, "What does a sperm look like?" Well, it looks like a tiny tadpole, I told him. To which he replied, "So, Bernie was trying to put a frog in my leg?!?!"
And there you have it. I could write a book about what not to do as a parent. Thankfully, a couple years later I got another chance at the birds and the bees talk with my son. Believe me, I rehearsed that time. And now he teases me about the "Santa, sex and a frog" talk. I'm certain my great-grandchildren will be hearing this story some day. If nothing else, I can make them laugh.