stork

I cannot, in good conscience, blame the stork. I’d like to, but I can’t.

Last week my 6-year-old daughter asked me how she “got out of Mommy’s tummy.” Uh, yeah. When she hit me with it — undoubtedly the most loaded question in the history of modern civilization — we were (thankfully) in a crowded restaurant. At the time, I told her to ask me again when at home because it wasn’t really a conversation polite people had while dining on teriyaki steak and egg rolls. We got home, but she forgot to revisit the issue (again, thankfully).

So now I’m waiting.

Waiting.

Waiting.

Forgive the bad pun, but it’s the pregnant pause to beat all. (Is there such a thing as a good pun? If there is, I haven’t heard it.)

I feel like the bomb-disposal guy just waiting for the timer to wind down, except in my case I don’t know when we hit zero. There’s no countdown. She could ask at any time. It could be hours, days, weeks or months.

Regardless of when the bomb blows, I had better prepare myself. She caught me off guard last week, and I won’t let her sneak up on me again. Like I said, I can’t pin this on the stork. She’s smarter than that, and she deserves a valid answer. Besides, I’m not the kind of guy who tells kids that thunder is really just God bowling or that toads cause warts. I’ll have a little fun with the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Ol’ St. Nick, but I can’t bring myself to trot out some contrived mythological nonsense just to avoid feeling squeamish. Anna is curious about the world, and to quash that inquisitiveness with a stream of lies does everyone in our family a disservice.

Well, OK, fine. I’ve stated my reasons for wanting to give her the straight scoop, but how do I actually do that? There’s a fine line between presenting factual information and freaking out a little kid.

I’ll probably treat it like I’m a defense witness and she’s the prosecuting attorney: I’ll answer the questions clearly and concisely but not volunteer any new information. Answer the questions truthfully and get off the stand as soon as possible: That’s my plan.

If I explain the basics well enough, maybe we won’t get hung up on the details. That will be the tricky part. I think the expression is, “The Devil is in the details.” That sounds about right.

“But, Daddy, why?” Those three little words will cause me all sorts of problems. Details, details, details. The funny thing is that I’ve also heard the expression phrased as, “God is in the details.” Which is it? Heaven or Hell? I suppose it just depends on the details you’re facing at the moment. When the details involve, say, the nuances of masterful artwork, the details are indeed divine. However, when you’re face-to-face with a 6-year-old girl trying to explain the birds and the bees, I expect the details to lean decidedly toward the devilish side.

I talked to my parents recently and asked them when they gave me “the talk.” They said they were still waiting for the right time, but since I now have two kids of my own, they assume I’ve probably figured things out on my own. Seriously though, they said I was about Anna’s age, maybe a year older, when I got “the talk.” That made me feel a little better. I wouldn’t want to accelerate things too quickly. The 6- to 8-year-old range seems to be pretty common.

Common, maybe, but still not without its difficulties.

If, following our inevitable discussion, Anna doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night screaming in terror, I’ll think I will have done my job adequately. Heck, I’m 37 and sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. The delivery room is a pretty freaky place, and I’m a GUY! I can’t imagine what it must be like for you ladies. I mean, sure, the end result is something wonderful, but, like the song said, “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.” The birds and the bees are one thing, but dilation and epidurals are something else.

“You see, Anna, there’s this stork ...”

David Spates is a Knoxville resident and Crossville Chronicle contributor whose column is published each Tuesday. He can be reached at davespates@tds.net.

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