Right before the last day of school for my kids before the Christmas holidays, my daughter, Erin invited two friends to sleep over. As I was working on my computer, and the girls were on the kids’ computer in my office, they found some website that was dedicated to kittens and I had to endure a seemingly endless string of “Oooooh, he’s so cute” coming from three sixth grade girls. Then, after about 10 minutes of this Erin suddenly asks me, “Dad, what’s a master debater?” What follows was our discussion:
Erin: “What’s a master debater?”
Me: “What do you mean?”
Erin: “Well it says here that any time someone master-debates a kitten dies so I was wondering what a master-debater is.”
Me: Chin on the floor.
Erin: “Well, what is it? Is it a bad thing?”
Me: “I don’t want to talk about it right now.”
Erin: “So it’s a bad thing?”
Me: “It’s a play on words, but it’s not something I’m gonna talk about right now.”
Erin, to her friends: “When Dad won’t talk about it that means it’s bad and probably something about sex.”
Me: Trying to type, but without a clue as to what I was typing.
The girls quickly moved on to something else and forgot all about it. I however couldn’t forget it. I had visions of the girls’ dads showing up at my door and belting me in the nose for their daughters being exposed to ‘master-debater’ on my turf. Yikes!
I don’t know how this happened but over the last few years I’ve become the de facto birds-and-the-bees speech-giver in this family. A couple of years ago I was sitting in the car with the kids while Celeste (my wife) ran into the grocery store to get milk and bread. In the five minutes she was in there I managed to get cornered into giving the whole “how babies happen” speech after Erin informed her brothers that she would never kiss a boy because she didn’t want to get pregnant. She was operating on the assumption that she had a multitude of eggs stored in her belly and that a kiss was like watering those eggs and causing one to grow. So much for the much-vaunted “You and Your Body” class the kids had at school. Anyway, when Celeste got back in the car she took one look at me and asked, “What happened.” I felt like I’d been hit by a truck.
And just last week my oldest son, who’s in 7th grade, laughingly told me and his siblings about a boy who had to get up in front of his class to do a presentation with a full tent-effect going on in his drawers. That led to a private half-hour conversation between Michael and me that began with why it’s inappropriate to talk about that kind of stuff at dinner (and in front of his 9 year old brother) and progressed into practical advice on handling such situations for himself in the future.
I told Celeste about the master-debater incident and she agreed that I seem to be the one who gets stuck with all these questions/issues. We also decided that she needed to have a little talk with Erin since there’s no way I’m talking about master-debation with my daughter.
It’s times like these that I wonder if I can resign my commission as a dad. We definitely don’t get paid enough for this.
(Original post date December, 2005)