An uncomfortable conversation with my son about…
Chase and I are driving home from his baseball game. It is a warm March afternoon. Blue skies, no clouds, and a high sun. The kind of day you don’t think about wearing sunscreen until later that day, when your nose and cheeks and neck are tinted red, and someone tells you should’ve worn sunscreen. The windows were halfway down and the radio was on. Things were going just fine, until from the back seat, Chase asks, “Hey dad, what is semen?”
I do, what I assume, all unqualified parents do in such situations—I turn up the radio. I whistle. I drum on the steering wheel. I inch down the window a bit more. I keep my eyes locked on the unfurling road ahead. I let the sunshine and ignorance and fear bathe over me.
I stop whistling and drumming. I hold my breath. Maybe if I stay very still he will forget about me. About the question.
“Dad. I know you can hear me. What is semen?”
“Um, there’s a lot of deer around here. Help me look for deer.”
“Dad, is semen a bad word?”
“No, it’s not a bad word.”
“So what is semen?”
I glance at the rear-view mirror. Chase stares back at me with a pair of big blue eyes. I wish Cindy was here or Dr. Oz or my high school Phys Ed teacher, Mr. Klebe, with his poster of the male reproductive system to coach me through this answer.
An ancient biochemical reaction stirs inside of me. My nervous system releases adrenalin and cortisol. My heart quickens. My muscles tense. My face warms. I can feel the sun burn now. The logical, mature thing would be to clear my throat and give my son a measured response but what I want to do is unbuckle the seat-belt, toss open the door, jump out, spend a week in the hospital, and let Cindy answer this one. Before I can calculate the trajectory of a 180 pound man exiting a car travelling east at 40 mph, I’m interrupted again.
“C’mon dad, tell me.”
I should be honest with him. I should tell him I’m a product of semen. So is he. So is Plato, Joan of Arc, Sitting Bull, Thomas Jefferson, Anne Frank, Winston Churchill, President Biden, and Cardi B. No other resource, in evolutionary history, has shaped the world more than semen. The wheel, The Roman Empire, Buddhism, the cotton gin, indoor plumbing, Wrigley Field, and the iphone would not exist if semen didn’t exist. I should tell him the world is utterly semen dependent. I should tell him for over 300,000 years, semen has been, and remains, the most vital currency in the world. Humanity’s fate hinges solely on rightful deposits of semen. Without it, the human race faces extinction. I should brave up and tell him the truth.
Something inside of me turns. And so, in a calm, masculine voice, I ask, “Do you want to stop and get something to eat?”
Sheer ignorance, the-spy-deer game, and my attempt to distract him with food are foiled. The kid wants an answer.
With the radio on, the four windows all the way down—a 6-cylinder, luxury wind-tunnel—I shout, “Semen is…”
“I can’t hear you. Can you put up the windows and turn down the radio?”
I listen to my 10-year-old son. I turn down the radio, put up the windows, take a deep breath, and clear my throat.
“Semen is the stuff in your testicles.”
“You mean the stuff your balls float in.”
He thinks. “Like balloons in a bathtub?”
I look into the rear-view mirror and Chase is staring out the window. I feel bad. A stronger dad would have told the truth. About how babies are born. About semen and ovaries and eggs and sex and storks. This could have been one of those tender father-son moments. The fabled birds and the bees talk. Maybe I can tactfully resuscitate the conversation. Maybe I can rectify my cowardice.
I clear my throat again, brave up again and say, “Now, let’s see if we can find some deer.”
PS: Thank you to everyone who reached out to me about the passing of Cindy’s grandfather. Your thoughts and prayers were deeply appreciated.
If you like this post, you may also like:
Need some encouragement? Some perspective? This hardworking, almost-handsome, suburban soccer dad can help. Subscribe and, like a pizza, get my posts delivered to your door (your email inbox). No spam. Just posts.