Up front about up front

kenThere are times when you sit back as a parent and realize, “I’m discussing the scrotum with my 13-year-old. And it isn’t that bad.”

Abby and I were doing Science homework and had reproduction, in all its sexual and asexual glory, spread across the kitchen table. We had reached puberty. Abby’s assignment was to list the associated physical changes (for boys and for girls) and the psychological changes (for both hormone-addled sexes). Turning to her workbook, we found the answers on the before-and-after illustrations of males and females, tastefully drawn and quite accurate.

“That’s not pretty,” said Abby, looking at the page.

“Well,” I said, “that’s what we all look like.” More or less.

Abby began jotting down the physical changes of puberty. “Hairy chest,” she wrote.

“Well, no, not necessarily,” I said.

“There’s hair on the man in the picture,” she pointed out.

“Yes, but not every man has a hairy chest. Under the arms and the groin for sure. Boys get kind of hairy all over, actually. But not necessarily chest hair. And hair on the face, but that might not be until later, because everyone develops at different rates.”

Abby looked up and thought for a second. “Cool,” she said.

It was cool, really. We were talking about sexual reproduction – the biology of it, not the, you know, “act”; just the cold, hard facts, thank goodness – and neither of us was blushing or looking through our fingers.

We were certainly a long way from the sex ed inflicted on me in junior high back in my very Catholic hometown. In Grade 7, the boys and girls were split up and sent to separate rooms, and each group learned only about his or her own reproductive organs. It felt like a firearms course, especially all the references to lubricants.

I have no way of proving this, but my experience over subsequent high school years convinces me that the girls’ teacher must have pointed out how the female reproductive organs sort of resemble a cross, and that if any boy were to touch anything even close to down there, Jesus would be very, very disappointed.

I do know that there was a grade-wide crisis that year when one of the boys got hold of a girl-parts instruction manual, complete with illustrations. There were outraged teachers, girls in tears, possibly a call to the Vatican. And in the end, none of the boys were any wiser about how to holster their pistol.

I’m glad, then, that boys and girls are learning about reproduction and puberty together. Times have changed. Sex, sexuality, homosexuality – we’re far more open about it now, sometimes too open, but surely too much is better than being ashamed that the opposite sex has glimpsed a schematic drawing of your reproductive parts. Isn’t it good that, with my own daughter, it didn’t feel weird at all talking about testicles at the table?

“Next: the psychological changes associated with puberty,” I prompted, “changes in thinking or behaviour. What about those?”

We got through rebelliousness and mood swings. “What else? What do teenagers become interested in?” I asked.

“Porn,” said Abby.


“Well, no. Yes, maybe, but no. How about just the opposite sex? They develop sexual feelings…”

Yes, porn is available in ways we couldn’t have imagined when we were young (though we certainly did imagine), and who knows what long-term effect that exposure will have on sexual behaviour and expectations. After all, there’s a lot of bad information out there. At the same time, there’s tons of good information as well. Confused teens wondering whether they’re normal, how things are supposed to work, why they don’t have chest hair – a discreet search query offers all the answers. Why, instead of having “the talk,” parents can simply point their kids to a website and run away. That’s a win-win for both parties, I say.

To wrap up her homework, Abby had to pick a reproductive part and research it. She picked the scrotum.

“Really? That’s probably the least interesting of all the reproductive parts,” I said. But then I got to thinking about how the scrotum is the thermostat of the testicles. Really, the scrotum is quite remarkable. In fact, when you take away the “ick” factor, the “I can’t believe I’m talking about this with my daughter/father” component, the biology of reproduction is astoundingly complex and beautiful. Not that I’m recommending that as a pickup line or anything…

“Where are you going?” I asked Abby.

“I’m going to look up ‘scrotum’ online.”

“Hang on! Make sure you search ‘scrotum anatomy.’”

Because it’s not that beautiful.

About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
This entry was posted in Family - whadya gonna do?, It Really Did Happen! and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

71 Responses to Up front about up front

  1. These conversations are starting to happen in our home. We’ve had several conversations about “balls” this week alone. Apparently 10 year-old boys spend a lot of time talking about them, regardless of audience. My daughter pipes up from the back seat often with questions that cause me to nearly rear end cars. You’re admirably steady through the process.

  2. I recieved my “talk” in the supply closet at school. (I guess an actual classroom with windows wouldn’t have been secure enough!) Sister Claire herded the girls into the closet and explained things in terms so vague, no one really had a clue what she talking about. One brave girl asked if Sister could clarify how we use our parts to actually make a baby. According to Sister, that information was on a need to know basis and we wouldn’t need to know until after we got married.

  3. Scott says:

    Any time I’ve asked the twins whether they have questions about sex since our initial “birds and bees” talk, I get crickets. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

  4. candidkay says:

    You are bringing back memories of a priest explaining the birds and bees to us in Catholic school. I believe the conversation never elevated above boys were like heaters–turn them on and they’re hot immediately–while girls were like irons, who take a while to warm up. It’s a miracle I ever had children . . . 🙂

  5. rossmurray1 says:

    Reblogged this on Drinking Tips for Teens and commented:

    WordPress time travel. That’s what happened when I hit “publish” this morning and all of a sudden I see that my post appears to have been published two days ago which means it didn’t turn up in Reader in the present so I edited the time stamp on the thingy-widget-amacallit for the current time and that put the post in the Reader all right but then anyone who gets notices in their email (Hi Bill) was getting a “file not founded in common sense” message when they clicked the link because today’s past post was now in the present, you see, so I’m reblogging here for everyone that happened to.
    For everyone else: Hi, how’s it going?

  6. This is so great! I sometimes wonder how I’ll handle the sex stuff whenever I eventually have kids (Of course I’m already worrying about it…necessary anxiety) and I think you did GREAT. I don’t even really remember discussing with my parents?

  7. I’m still not comfortable discussing these matters with my 13-year-old. You are the good example to my bad. Can you come down here and talk to my daughter? Have you got passport?

    In sixth grade I went to a father/son night at my school. We were shown some slides and a filmstrip of the female reproductive system. On the way back to the car my dad said, “If you have any questions, ask your mother.” What a hero.

  8. List of X says:

    At least Abby is not asking you to bake a batch of scrotum cookies to bring to school.: http://blog.sfgate.com/sfmoms/2014/09/24/mom-irate-when-2nd-grade-teacher-refuses-vagina-cookies/

  9. Paul says:

    That’s a great way to teach sex education Ross. When I was younger it was simply a taboo topic – no school course, no parent talk, no public info. In retrospect, I’m not even sure where I got the information that I did. I think it was the aliens who kidnapped me who provided the necessary information. Having a school program that de-emotionalized (as much as is reasonable with young minds like that) the learning process while the facts are taught, is an awesome idea – I’m glad our educational programs have come that far. i’m also glad that I past that point in famly life – so have at it you lucky son of a gun. Ha!

  10. R. Todd says:

    “That” conversation has been going on in my house since my children were pre-teens, if not before. My wife and I were raised in diametrically apposed styles. Her family never mentioned it, mine glorified it (many of the jokes I remember as a kid didn’t make sense until after I was an adult). So, I made sure that I was as open about the topic as possible. Still do, even though my youngest is turning 20. It has sparked many a “eww” or a “gross”, and sometimes even a “go to your room” from them, but in the end, they have a pretty good understanding of what the whole thing is suppose to be about. I think. Maybe.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Sounds kind of like here. It certainly wasn’t talked about in my house growing up so I’m glad we’re not repeating that pattern. The jokes and ew moments get you through it, because it really is funny business when you get right down to it.

  11. franhunne4u says:

    Good you could talk about male parts with your daughter in a matter of fact way. Does your wife talk with her about the female private parts?

  12. Such a classic, age-old discussion that manifests so differently in each household. I wish I would have been reading you when my daughter was still in high school…I would have made a copy of this post, sent it to my husband and put him in charge.
    Also glad to know that WP has an odd time-warp thing going on. I just hit publish on something and it showed up three hours before I even wrote it. Damn, I’m really good. (or, is somebody’s way of saying that nobody needs to read that crap!)
    Definitely NOT the case with you. Thanks for reposting 🙂

  13. Karen says:

    Love the accompanying illustration. What would really be cool is if you had one of those pointer things to direct the attention to whatever aspect of the anatomy is being discussed.

  14. markbialczak says:

    You guys are off to a great understanding, Ross. Back in the day, my only talk with my father went like this: The day before I left for college he handed me a three-pack of condoms and said to me, “I hope you use these,” and I said to him, “so do I.”

  15. pjoy93 says:

    Way to anticipate what your kid’s going to Google. I never moved faster than when my youngest set off to do his “Pick any animal, any animal at all” report. On his way to the computer I thought to ask which animal he chose…American Beaver, Mom!

  16. peachyteachy says:

    Nice Dadding, there, Daddy! Also, your Abby continues to rock. But you knew that.

  17. Elyse says:

    Thanks, Ross, for sending me back to junior high. Thanks a f’cking lit.

  18. ksbeth says:

    good on you, ross. my first year teaching, (multi-age 3rd through 5th grade classes), i taught this course with a mixed group. quite an adventure. but that’s for another blog…..)

  19. Lisa Smith says:

    so fun to read as I can actually hear this conversation and am giggling. Be careful…we may call you to guest lecture!

  20. Lisa Foster says:

    Ok, my kids are now all in their 20’s but I remember telling them that sex was fun, felt good and it’s going to happen if they let it. I then went to the clinic and brought home a grocery bag of condoms. Their father passed away, so it was up to me to help them (and the school I suppose because they knew everything already) become responsible sexually. Being open and happy about the birds and bees is a good thing. No, I didn’t want to know the details of what they were doing with their boy/girlfriends, but I made damn sure that they didn’t want to, and shouldn’t want to be/get pregnant or contact or spread STD. Now my oldest son, at 25, is having his first baby. They are ready and I say good luck as the life cycle moves round. As for me, well, back in my day, we learned from the gym teacher and National Lampoon magazine. The biggest and most important topics for our children these days are to teach how to avoid unwanted pregnancy and to avoid diseases. This of course coincides with maintaining your wits (no drinking/drugs etc, which is another scary topic altogether).

  21. cricketmuse says:

    I conveniently skipped this aspect of parenting believing the progeny would learn by osmosis. Worse. They learned from friends and siblings. I agree. Scrotums are better discussed by a parent.

  22. gladfool says:

    I remember being handed an age appropriate book with tasteful illustrations by my mother, and being told, when you’re done reading this, let me know if you have any questions. (with a ”please don’t have any questions!” look on her face!)

  23. Mike Booth says:

    All this mechanistic sex education turns love making into something you do in auto shop. Remember when sex was mysterious, scary, wonderful and truly awesome? Sigh.

  24. Shreya says:

    The funniest post I’ve read in a long time. I could relate so well to sex ed in Catholic school, where I grew up. Amazing.

  25. Letizia says:

    I love that you and your daughter can have an open talk about this. I remember being separated at school as well and being yelled at by our teacher because we were giggling, wondering what the boys were discussing. Co-ed sex education, now that makes some sense.

  26. Ned's Blog says:

    Sorry I’m late to this post, Ross. What with the WP time traveling and the time change here in the U.S., I’m not even sure what month it is. Regardless, I do remember that my older brother had “the talk” with me by parking us discreetly at the local library in his VW van and then pulling out issues of Playboy from under the seat. “If you put ‘that'” he said, pointing to my crotch, “in ‘there” he said pointing to an area on the centerfold,” then you get another one of you as a baby. Got it?” I suppose parking at the library made it seem more cerebral…

    • rossmurray1 says:

      When it pays to have a delinquent as a big brother. Just kidding. What does he do now?

      • Ned's Blog says:

        Ha! Let me preface my answer by saying don’t feel bad about asking; he died in a motorcycle accident when I was 12. He was a really funny guy who left me with a lot of great memories. Oh, and all his Playboys.

        • rossmurray1 says:

          I’m sorry, but I do feel bad. Not necessarily for asking but for you and your family. I can only imagine how devastating that must have been. Probably still is.

          • Ned's Blog says:

            After looking back over my reply, I realized it probably sounded kind of flippant. I just didn’t want to be a Debbie Downer. I appreciate you reading through that. We were “technically” step brothers and he was 10 years older, but we were very close. He was a funny and complicated guy who always had me laughing. Most of that side of my family is gone now, but I think about him often. And not just when I see Playboy.

            Thanks for asking, Ross.

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