Sex Education: Mulvey-Welsh style

My parenting philosophy is simple, my kids started out great and I’m trying to screw them up as little as possible.

I am, I think, more open than most parents. I tend to think that if the kids ask about or bring up a topic, someone has already brought it up to them, so I may as well take the opportunity to get the truth into them in some form. If you’re old enough to ask the question, then your old enough to hear an answer. I’m not saying that full disclosure on every topic is necessary, but having age-appropriate information isn’t going to do them any lasting harm.

You gain credibility with children by being open and honest. Answers doesn’t have to be long, in-depth answers for I am also a firm believer in the follow-up question. For example: Q. Where do babies come from? A. The hospital. If that satisfies them great. If not, they can ask a follow-up. Hey, it’s worked so far!

We have cats (and a dog, but only cats at the time of this story). One of whom was a female. A very, shall we say, active female cat. Minnie, it seemed, was quite popular with the boys and got herself knocked up. Minnie’s first delivery started while we were out. When we arrived home, Emma walked into the living room and screamed, “something’s wrong with Minnie”! I knew she was imminent, so I figured out pretty quickly what was going on.

Ok, background information being delivered, I will move on! Minnie, I’m not proud to say, had several more litters. I’m a bad pet-owner in this regard. What, don’t judge me; everyone makes mistakes.

One afternoon while driving my children (I know, right), they started discussing what the cats did when they were home alone. According to Emma, they probably have kitty-sex on the couch. And it was probably happening At.That.Very.Moment. Mind you the male cats are neutered (and gay – but that’s another blog story) and really not much use to a female looking to score in the increasingly popular kitty-sex-couch-capades! Hell, my couch hasn’t seen that much action in – well, let’s just say since before kids.

From that conversation starter, they branched out into where babies come from and how they’re born. I have been listening this whole time trying to figure out how this conversation was going to end when Dylan pulled out the “first you have sex” and then “the mom pushes the baby out of her butt”. At that point, I decide parental intervention is necessary.

Do you know what sex is, I asked. Yes, he answered. It’s when you wrestle, naked, on the couch. Oh, where did you learn that, I asked. It was in a movie. I learned two things with this statement: (1) I have to monitor the TV watching more closely and (2) this is why they think the cats are having sex on the couch. At.This.Very.Moment!

I understand, I say, why you would believe that, but sex is a little more involved than that. Yes, he says, I know that. You have to use your penis too. Well yes that is true I told him (having decided that it was probably best not to delve into the other ways one can have sex, minus the penis) but it’s not really a topic that he should be worrying about at his age – you know, being nine.

Moving on to the “pushing it out your butt” part of the conversation. I learned that he deduced that fact from watching Minnie give birth. For those fortunate enough to NOT have seen that, it does look like the kittens are being pushed out through the butt. Well at least, I think to myself, they pay attention to what goes on around them!

So, as the conversation continues and I adjust their knowledge, Emma chimes in with “Really. That’s what I told my friends and now I have to tell them the new stuff.” Ha! I have learned, dear friends, that my children armed with information they gleaned from watching cats, TV movies and some strategic questions placed to their dad and me, decided they understood the whole reproductive cycle from soup to nuts. They had so much information, they believed themselves experts. Especially Emma. Who took it upon herself to educate her friends on the mystery of reproduction. Thankfully, she was a quiet child with a small circle of friends with incredibly understanding parents.

I suggested she let me handle the “new” information part with phone calls to the parents.

I take the opportunity to explain that with information comes responsibility. Just because a subject is tolerated in our family that’s not the case for every family and every family gets to set their own rules and boundaries for what is acceptable and it’s neither our place nor our responsibility to interject our topics and values.

As the kids get older, the questions get harder. I never shy away from a question and still answer as honestly as I feel they can handle. In certain instances I have told them that they’re simply not ready for the answer. Dylan balked at that once. I explained, again, how we give them loads of information because we respect them and their ability to assimilate information. If I feel you can’t handle the topic, you need to have enough respect for me to accept that.

Hey, it works for us.

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Thanksgiving kitty: Gizmo, the cat who hated everyone

Pat and I got Gizmo our first Thanksgiving together way back in 1992. Gizmo was never a happy cat, not even as a kitten. He lived his entire life as a grumpy-old-man-cat.

The only person he liked was me and he wanted to be with me constantly. Giz got less attention when I started having kids, Dylan first and then Emma. They took most of my time and poor old curmudgeony Giz got pushed aside. That’s ok I think he liked the abuse.

The kids wanted him to like them, especially Emma. She wanted the fluffy kitty to play with her and be her pal. Gizmo would look at her with a sneer, as if to say, nope. Never. Not gonna happen. To amuse ourselves we would make up songs about poor Gizmo. Our favorite was GIZMO (like BINGO) “There was a family had a kitten and Gizmo was his name-o, G-I-Z-M-O.” Not terribly original but we liked it. What, we’re easily amused.

Gizmo

Gizmo

Gizmo lasted a long-time. He outlasted Baby Kitten and Jake (our other cats). I knew his time was getting close. He was having trouble with the stairs and he was losing weight. One day he disappeared. It was the week before Thanksgiving, fitting really. I looked around for him but no luck. Life keeps its own schedule and we were getting ready for a trip to Baltimore for a family wedding (shout-out to Chris and Cora!) so I said very little about him to the kids and prepped for our trip.

My plan was to do laundry Wednesday, pack Thursday, and leave directly after school Friday for the 8 hour drive to Baltimore. I washed my first load and tossed it in the dryer. When I went to retrieve the laundry, it was still wet. I figured I forgot to press the start button – it had happened before.  Popped it on again and went to bed. Next morning, laundry is still wet. Great! Dryer’s broken. I’ll deal with it after work. I get home and run outside to check the vent for clogs. That’s when I find Gizmo.

Dead. In his favorite spot, the window well. Hard up against the dryer vent, blocking it.

So now I have: a dead cat, dirty and wet laundry, and children I have to tell that their cat is dead. Joy to my world. I cover the cat, package up the laundry to take to the Laundromat and sit down to tell the kids Giz is dead. They react how I expect them to react. By then it’s late, so Giz will have to wait until morning.

Friday dawns, cold and rainy – pouring to be precise – and me with a cat to bury. Out in the garden, I dig a hole and place Gizmo in as gently as possible. Now before I can close the hole, the children need a service – a freaking graveside service, in the pouring rain, for a cat who hated everyone. And who gets to officiate at this service. That’s right, me. As I stand in the garden, wet and cold and not a little irritated, I’m thinking to myself that my kids are never watching TV again. Ever. Stupid cartoons. With their stupid pet burials and elaborate services. Hate.

We eventually make it to Baltimore; Chris and Cora’s wedding was beautiful.

If you think that was the end of our Thanksgiving travails that year, well, you’d be wrong. But that’s a story for another blog.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Enjoy your families and count your blessings.