“Why do boys have balls?” It’s a good question. It’s a question I knew was going to be posed in some form or another before too long – after all, my son’s four, he’s got a sister, and she thankfully doesn’t have a scrotum. It’s hard not to notice such differences at bathtime, even if you’re not a particularly observant child. Admittedly, the specific nature of the question took me slightly by surprise – in particular, my boy’s focus on the whole “balls” thing. Surely, that’s not what you notice first. You only get on to the age-old “what’s the point of your bollocks” question when you’ve well and truly come to terms with the willy – don’t you?
I don’t remember what conversation, if any, I had with my parents about procreation. To be honest, I think there must be some kind of evolutionary function that ensures we banish such memories from our minds. But I knew I’d have to have an answer up my sleeve for if and when I was asked a question along those lines by one of my kids. The only problem was, I hadn’t yet even begun to formulate that answer in my head. Hence my answer to the question, which went something like this: “Er…for the tadpoles.”
Even I didn’t see that one coming. Inevitably, the discussion couldn’t end there.
“There are tadpoles in your balls, Dad?”
Right, I can get out of this one. I really can. It’s easy. I’ll explain it clearly and calmly; after all, it’s no big deal.
“Yes! That’s right! Yes!”
Would it be wrong to ask his mum to continue the conversation from here? Of course it would. Of COURSE it would.
“Well, it’s so that…well, look at Mum – she’s got a baby in her tummy, and that baby started growing when I gave her a tadpole.”
The look of utter confusion on my son’s face at this point is something I’ll never forget.
“You gave Mum…a tadpole?”
“Yes! And then it grew even bigger into the baby that’s in Mummy’s tummy! That’s lovely, isn’t it! Now, do you need a hairwash tonight?”
At that moment, my son turned to his little sister, raised his eyebrows, and gave me a look that clearly said: “We’re not done with this yet. Be in no doubt: this conversation will continue.”
In my head, I’m a dad who’s always going to be completely at ease with my kids. I’ll be happy to talk to them about anything. I’ll merrily discuss the menstrual cycle with my daughter (I’m sure she’ll be delighted when that wonderful day arrives), I’ll maturely and supportively highlight the dangers of internet pornography to my son before he hits puberty, and I’ll read up on some really good ways to share the facts of life with my kids at the appropriate time.
In reality, however, it doesn’t quite work like that. After a tough day at work and a long commute home, all the good intentions go out the window when faced with a left-field question from an inquisitive four-year-old. As for that moment when the conversation with my son continues, so long as he doesn’t ask me any more details about that lovely moment when I handed over the tadpole to his mother, I think we’ll be fine.