I hadn’t anticipated that I might need to have ‘the talk’ with my kid this Spring Break. I also didn’t realize that our new kitten would be the conduit to this conversation. The other night, our 7 month old kitten was howling. I had no idea what it was except that it was loud and strange and a lot of noise for a tiny cat. Turns out, Little Miss Monkey is in heat. She and her brother, Buster, were found in a parking lot and spent the majority of their lives in a split-level kitten condo at the vet. When we brought them home just over a month ago, Buster had been fixed, but the vet felt Monkey was still too small, so we needed to wait. Unfortunately, she was so overwhelmed by the palatial surroundings of our tiny duplex, that she sought refuge under the dishwasher, refusing to come out. We borrowed the condo from the vet and they both have slowly adjusted and have been feeling more social and ready to join our family. In the last week, she finally ventured out and was beginning to consider letting us pet her outside her cage. She was coming into her own, but then, just like that, my house became the cat version of a Judy Blume book.
This is a problem. My son is asking questions. At almost 10 years old, he still hasn’t asked me where babies come from or how they are made, and has no clue about how his mother’s body works. For goodness sake, this is the same child who once (not too long ago) asked me what I called my “lady penis”. For starters, never that. I thought by having two boys, I bought myself extra time. They have no idea about menstruation and that was peachy keen by me, but Monkey is messing it up for me. He wants to know what ‘heat’ is and why she is rolling around and moaning and trying to persuade her brother to rethink their sibling, and therefore, platonic relationship. He wants to know why I won’t let her meet the neighborhood boy cats who are coming by at night and doing their own version of “Say Anything” at our window. Oh what I wouldn’t give to hear a boombox and “In Your Eyes” blasting. But no, my ears are bleeding with the sounds coming from the Abyssinian down the block at my back door at 10 p.m. Don’t they know I need my sleep? I have a cold and my parents are coming to visit this weekend. I don’t have time for teenage romance right now, feline or otherwise. My son wants to know if she is looking to meet a boy cat and have a family. How will they make the baby and does being in heat hurt? So far, I’ve been able to dodge the question of how with distractions of extra TV time, but I also know I can’t run from it much longer.
Was it like this for my parents? I remember when I was about 10 or 11, my mom gave me a book and sent me to my room. “What’s Happening to Me” was this funny, accessible way to introduce me to what was going on with my body and where babies came from. It’s companion piece, “Where Did I Come From”, was something I had also read. I just looked at them again recently and wow, the 70s and 80s. Not exactly fit for the modern day, but it worked at the time. I also remember going to school one evening in fifth grade where we were separated by gender and left to watch sex education filmstrips. In fairness, I think it gave me the basics, but really, I don’t remember my parents sitting me down and explaining anything. I’m pretty sure I learned more from “Forever” (thank GOD for Judy Blume!) than anything else. Either I blocked out any talk with my parents, or it just never happened. If it never happened, I hold no ill-will, I save my resentments for much more important things, like not getting my own room or having to beg for parachute pants. But this? No complaints from me. They dodged a bullet and I’d like to follow in their footsteps. I don’t want to explain this to my kids. It’s uncomfortable. It leads to other gateway topics like love and attraction and sex for the fun of it and why are his sheets sticky. Is it getting hot in here?
Like everything else I’ve done in parenthood, I’m sure I’ll have the conversation, and it will be fine. I’ll read 1000 blogs and articles, ask everyone I know, overthink it, and then just do whatever the hell I want. If I time it right, it’ll be on the day I notice he’s spending too much time in the shower and, please God, don’t let me have PMS.