There are moments in a person’s parenting career when they are both proud and confused by their children.
For my parents, it was not the time I showed up for my college graduation in shorts and flip-flops. That’s it. Shorts and flip-flops. Oh, sure, I eventually had to put on the cap and gown, but at that point no one could tell if I was going to the ceremony or getting out of the shower.
Yep, not that time at all.
My wife came to me recently with a proud and confused moment for our 5-year-old.
“Our preschooler doesn’t think monkeys have babies,” she said.
“It’s not time for The Talk, is it?” I asked, trying to think of anything else I could do to avoid talking to our children, like joining the National Guard.
She looked at me like I was thinking about joining the National Guard. “No.”
My parents never gave me The Talk, so even though I know where babies come from (I’m well read), my experience in sharing that information is all based on dirty jokes. Maybe if I rewrite the jokes to be about monkeys, they’ll be less awkward.
“Then what’s the problem?”
“She knows monkeys climb trees and babies can’t, so she’s concluded monkeys don’t have babies.”
A nice piece of deductive reasoning from a person who believes the Tooth Fairy is real, but it left me wondering where she thinks adult monkeys come from.
“Where—?” I began, but my wife was having none of my nonsense.
Although I think I have a pretty good grip on the way the universe works (I watch loads of “Star Trek”), getting into the mind of a preschooler is a bit like watching a Tim Burton movie. I saw what happened, I just have no idea what it was. This is because a preschooler’s brain works in roughly the same way as a squirrel on Pixy Stix—it changes direction every 3.2 seconds.
“I’ll talk to her,” I said, and walked to her room. “Hey, kiddo. You wanna talk about monkeys?”
This, incidentally, isn’t an unheard-of conversation starter in the Offutt house.
“How about monkey babies?” Sure, I was rushing into this, but like most fathers I said what was on my mind because if I didn’t, I’d forget about it, like birthdays.
“Monkey’s don’t have babies,” she said.
This wasn’t going to be easy. “Sure, they do.”
“Really?” she asked, looking at me dubiously.
“Sure. Baby monkeys can’t climb, so they hold on to their mommas.” I sat and pulled out my phone. “Let’s look at pictures.”
What happened next was an outstanding piece of parenting. Nearly up there with the time I served ice cream and Dr Pepper for breakfast. I showed her monkeys do, in fact, have babies.
Then we got to a picture of a tiny macaque breastfeeding.
“Hey, I did NOT know monkeys had nipples,” she said.
Well, there's your nature lesson for today, kid. I’m exhausted. I’ll parent more tomorrow.
Jason Offutt’s latest book, “Chasing American Monsters,” can be found on his website, www.jasonoffutt.com, or Amazon.