In 2005 my dad authored an essay titled, simply, “Sex.” In it he related the following anecdote, of which I have no memory:
As a parent I tried not to make the same mistakes as my mother, but it wasn’t easy. When my son Brendan was somewhere between four and seven, he was watching a public television show about reproduction in our upstairs bedroom with my wife Franny while I was downstairs washing dishes. I later learned that at one point he began drawing madly and asked his mother if what he had drawn was in fact a vagina. When she stammered something possibly incoherent, he asked her what it was and what the sex act was. She, true to her upbringing, told him to go ask me. When he came into the kitchen, he showed me the picture, a remarkable likeness of a vagina for such a young kid, and then he asked me how the act was done. I thought about blowing him off but decided to be frank. I explained it graphically but briefly, and that’s all he wanted. He received the information in the same manner he would have if the question had been how dew was formed. He absorbed it and then walked away having already lost interest. I had finally done something right as a parent!
image: Grey Line with Black, Blue and Yellow by Georgia O’Keeffe (1923)