Another week, another memory.
I started my blog for the week talking about the upcoming federal election, environmentalism and the ever dawning end of the world as we know it. Then I remembered a day of questions and answers with my kids that always makes me smile.
I decided that the world needed more smiles and the end of the world probably wasn't going to come this week, so I decided to post this story instead.
“How many of those kids are yours?” A small boy with dark eyes with wisps of dark hair sticking out from under his touque asks me as I save his faded multi-coloured ball from sailing over the playground fence.
I hold out the ball and he takes it in both hands. It is easily as big as his head. “Those four over there are mine,” I answer, pointing to the monkey bars and the slide.
“Even the brown one?” he asks watching as my blonde oldest son Quinn, tries to boost his half-filipino youngest brother Mark up to reach the cold metal bars.
“Yup, all four of them.” I answer with a smile, wondering what the world would be like if grown ups asked the questions they were thinking. Thankful for kids and their straightforward ways.
“Whoa! That’s a lot of babies!” his muddy friend says, enthusiastically stepping forward and joining the conversation with a broad grin spread across his face. “My mom only had one baby and she said that was enough.”
I smile to myself and explain. “They didn’t all come out of my body. We’re a blended family, so two of them are mine from when they were born and I’m a stepmom to the other two because I’m married to their mom.”
“Wow, they have a lot of moms,” the first boy says, with a look of surprise. “That’s not fair, I only have one mom.” His face falls and he looks at my boys crestfallen as if he is shouldering some new loss.
“I only have one mom too,” the other boy says with a shrug, “but I have a dad.”
“There are lots of different families,” I say to the boys, feeling like I might be rehearsing an after-school special. “My kids don’t have a dad, just a donor and a lot of moms.”
“Oh.” The first boy seems relieved, almost smug now. “I have a dad too.” He looks at me very seriously. “They don’t have a dad at all?” he asks, as though he isn’t sure he has it right.
“Nope, no dad,” I confirm and with that, they’re gone. They join my kids on the slide, playing a game that seems to involve a lot of climbing up and down the ladder and very little sliding.
Today I don’t have to explain the entire situation, two original lesbian couples, each boy birthed by a different mom. It’s sometimes too much for the grown ups who dare to ask to take in, but I feel somehow like the kids would accept it more easily.
I notice my second oldest child Reed, standing off to the side just out of arm's reach. He notices me looking at him and waves as he is off to join the others, climbing up the slide and over the top as he dives into the game.
“Mama?” Reed asks as we are getting ready for bed that night. “What’s a donor?” I startle at his question, wondering if the word has been rattling around in his head all afternoon.
“Remember, it’s the person we got the sperm from so that we could make you,” I remind him. We have talked about the donors a number of times, but none of the boys have been very interested so far. “You and Quinn have a donor we don’t know, and Mark and Wesley have a donor that we do know.”
“If you don’t know the donor mama,” Seven year old Reed says the words very slowly as if pondering each one individually, “how did his sperm get into you?”
I pause for a moment, trying to figure out the simplest way to have this conversation. Reed had been asking a lot of questions recently, so I had brought home a book from the school where I taught all about bodies and babies. Now, I was fielding questions from all the kids all the time and my wife was avoiding the questioning as much as she possibly could.
“He had to give his sperm to a doctor and then the doctor gave it to me,” I try, but I see his brow furrow and know right away that he has more questions.
“But mama, how did the sperm get out of his body for the doctor?” I feel like I am on a slippery slope into the unknown, but I always say if the kids have questions, then it’s important to give them an answer, so I soldier on.
“The sperm came out of the donor’s penis into a bottle and he gave the bottle to the doctor.” Reed looks positively alarmed and I don’t have to wait long to see why.
“How does the sperm come out? Can it just come out by itself? Will it just come out anytime?” His questions are rapid fire as he self-consciously holds the top of his jeans and I stifle a laugh.
“No, it doesn't just come out anytime.” I say with a small sigh, “Your body doesn’t make sperm yet, it won’t until you’re older. When it does, you can get excited in a special way, and the sperm will come out, but you will always know when it’s going to happen,” I say, feeling a little sweat forming along my brow. I’m sure it could be argued that one does not know exactly when the sperm is going to come out, but I hope this answer is close enough.
“Except when you’re sleeping!” Quinn, my oldest pipes up from where he is sitting at the computer.
“What?” I ask, caught off guard almost irritated at the intrusion into my carefully choreographed answer.
“You said that at night the sperm could just come out by itself sometimes.” He says looking at me almost accusingly. Just entering his tween years, he does not like the idea of any of this puberty stuff at all.
“But it won't happen just suddenly when I am walking down the street or something?” Reed asks urgently, needing to be sure that he is clear on his information.
“That’s right.” I say to him, “When you get older, the sperm will not come squirting out at random times when you are walking down the street.” I may not be an expert in this department, but I’m pretty sure I can guarantee him that. “Now go brush your teeth,” I add after a moment to check and see if the stream of questions has come to an end.
As Reed and I are climbing the stairs I can hear Mark talking loudly to his mommy, “I want to read the book about making babies!”
“Me too!” Wesley chimes in and I smile again to myself, glad that I am on the stairs where I can’t see the glare my wife is giving me right now.