As if the 2 hour delay wasn’t bad enough, the school bus ran late. We sat in the car at the end of the street, sheltered from the cold and snow. Naturally, the kids take the opportunity to push buttons, turn dials, and rummage through all the car’s compartments.
“What’s this?” Luke asks holding up a tampon he retrieved from the glove box.
“Oh, that’s just something for mommy.”
I give him my standard response. Like all kids, Luke has been keenly curious about tampons forever. Mysterious dispensers in public restrooms and the sometimes colorfully wrapped objects in my purse have driven him crazy for years. He suspects it’s candy, and therefore unfair. I deflect and dismiss like a pro. But this time we were stuck in the car together with nothing to distract us.
“But what do you use it for?”
Sigh. I look for the bus. Nothing. I briefly explain the biology of a menstrual cycle. Both kids look appropriately appalled. Then the questions start.
“So I’m going to have a baby when I’m 12?” Sally asks.
“No! No. No. No. Um, no. Definitely not. No.” I stammer for awhile. “That’s just about when your body starts going through changes. Maybe you’ll be 11 or 14. It’s different for everyone. But you won’t have a baby then. Nope. No. No.”
“Am I going to need to wear one of those things you wear?” she asks while holding her hands in front of her chest mimicking imaginary, gigantic, future breasts.
“A bra? Yes.”
“But why? What’s it for?” Luke asks.
Sally jumps in, “It’s to hold them up so they don’t pull you down and knock you over. But then you’d fall on them and they’d bounce you back up.”
“Really?” Luke asks me.
“Well, not exactly. They don’t knock you over or anything. And they couldn’t bounce you back up.” I lose a moment wistfully remembering my pre-kids breasts. Or could they? “But it does sort of hold them up and keep them in place.”
“That’s super weird.”
“Yeah, it is isn’t it?” I look for the bus.
“Why do you keep this in the car though?” Back to the tampon.
“In case I need it. I keep all sorts of things in the car like band-aids, tissues, jumper cables.”
“So you could be driving and all of a sudden…”
He mimes a flood erupting from his loins. I look for the bus. I explain more about menstruation. I look for the bus. They both become pensive.
“You have a thousand eggs? So a woman could have a thousand babies? ”
“Yes. No. I mean women have a lot of eggs but a woman could not have a thousand babies. Woman can have many babies though. More babies than most women end up having.”
“You should have another baby! I want a cute little baby!”
“Babies are cute. But you wouldn’t like it when I’m super tired and grumpy and yell at you two for being too noisy and don’t have time to pay attention to you because all my attention is on the baby.”
“But you already are grumpy and yell at us.” Touché.
“It would be worse.” I look for the bus.
“Can you just decide to have a baby one month instead of a period?”
“Well, not exactly. Remember when we talked about this? That it takes both a mommy and a daddy to make a baby?”
“Yeah, but you and daddy already did that.”
WHERE IS THE FREAKING BUS?
“Well, um, we’d have to do it again.”
“The bus sure is running late!”
“You’re going to bleed out of your penis!” Sally expertly tells Luke.
“No I’m not! It’s just for girls. You’re going to lay an egg every month! Ha ha!”
“She will not LAY an egg! Well, yeah, I guess she sort of will.”
Two sets of eyes grow huge with fear and disbelief.
“They’re tiny though. Don’t worry about it. And, Luke, your body will do weird things too. Where is the bus?”
I think of all the weird things it will do. I say, “Your voice will change.”
“Yeah, well that’s not nearly as bad as bleeding out of your vagina and laying eggs.”
Yeah, tell me about it. You also will get more handsome as you age and you’ll be paid more. I’m peppered with a few more questions as we wait out the last of the 25 minutes for the late bus. As the bus finally pulls up I realize that I’m sending my kids off to school full of strange new information and ideas with which they can embarrass teachers and horrify friends. Essentially they’re fully loaded, ticking mis-information bombs. I quickly remind them that they can come to me with any questions but should not talk about this at school with friends and teachers. They assure me they won’t and they’re off for a very abbreviated school day.
Parenthood involves so many strange and uncomfortable conversations, and there’s nothing like being trapped in a confined space to inspire kids’ curiosity. Certainly, I’d prefer them get their facts from us rather than their friends. But is it too much to ask that next time it’s Tim not me?