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The Birds and the Bees Are in Reboot

By Renee Burns Lonner

“You couldn’t have!” my daughter-in-law said, as I answered the phone. She sounded out of breath and in what appeared to be total shock. I could not recall any felonies I had committed recently and finally said, “Huh, what?”

“You couldn’t have given Jonathan this book when he was a little kid — it’s obscene!”

“May I ask what book?” (I had no memory of giving him Tropic of Cancer in elementary school, could be wrong.)

“The book about sex — we just found it in the stack of books you saved and there is no way you read that to him!”

Well, actually, believe it or not, I did. . . .He loved that book and took it to his room for safekeeping right after we read it to him for the first time. THE book, incredibly popular at the time, explained sex to little kids using the correct words, accompanied by drawings of round, caricature-like figures with funnily-drawn body parts. Named correctly, I might add — not wee-wee, pee-pee and boobies. Nope, hard core — used the p- and v- words, breasts, too.

THE book was purchased after my first-grade son had made a comment about sex that indicated I had perhaps waited too long to initiate the conversation. In my mind, I had thought that he would ask THE question and I would answer in an enlightened, direct, but age-appropriate way. That made logical sense to me. I was a child therapist, for god’s sake. The problem was he never asked and by the time I realized that, he had turned 6 and made some comment that indicated I was soon to miss the window of opportunity, to say the least.

So I went to the bookstore (remember those?) and the children’s specialist referred me to a short and well-done book on how babies are made. Which is, after all, the question, right?

By now I’m not sure and I think they may be pranking me, so I ask my daughter-in-law if she is kidding. She is not. My grandson is five and they are about to have “the talk” with him. I make a concerted effort to stop laughing. This child is their firstborn, and they are taking this part of parenting quite seriously. I need to get a grip.

Always the problem-solver, I offer to bring them the book about the birds and the bees that I was given as a child. I still have it, it’s in mint condition, and it is, truly, about the birds and the bees. That book contributed both to the fact that I love and appreciate flowers and to the fact that my best friend in junior high school had to explain sex to me because I had absolutely no idea.

In my childhood home, it was easy to think that the common joke about parents having sex once per child was, in fact, a fact. If I had been Catholic, virgin birth would have also been a solid hypothesis. I have no younger siblings and somehow the door to my parents’ bedroom was always open, except when my father was dressing for work in the early morning. If they ever had sex during my entire childhood and adolescence, I have no clue how they did it. Not like their bedroom door even had a lock on it. Oh — and add the fact that, as a child, I rarely slept over at friends’ homes and refused to ever go to sleep-away camp. I mean refused — I was far too prissy for dirt and makeshift meals.

So I ask, since both my son and daughter-in-law are quite artistic, how about you draw him a picture of the subject at hand? Of course, at this point, they think I’ve lost my mind, decide they will muddle through themselves and hang up. What a relief.

My second grandson is just past the we-need-to-tell-him stage and voila, no phone call from his parents. I think I know why. My older grandson must have said, “I’ve got this!” and gave his brother THE BOOK.

— Renee Burns Lonner

Renee Burns Lonner is a consultant for television newsrooms and a licensed therapist based in Los Angeles. Prior to the pandemic, her published work was serious; the pandemic created the need for comic relief and last fall she published her first humor book, If You Give A Man a Tesla: A Parody

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