Monday, November 22, 2010

The Slow Death of Innocence

I believe that children are born innocent. Completely innocent. I also believe that as they grow up, that innocence is slowly and methodically destroyed until they die cynical and bitter. The culprit? Knowledge. Knowledge is to innocence, what water is to rock. A seemingly-innocent, yet corrosive element that leaves nothing but destruction in its wake. They both contribute to creation, yet they both destroy ruthlessly and without prejudice.

As children grow up they are introduced to various experiences and facts about life that shake their little cores. A child will never be the same after he kills his first animal. I don’t mean snails or worms or spiders, but actual relatable animals. Like a bird or a squirrel. Some may enjoy it. Others may be horrified by it. But regardless, that kid will never…ever be the same after extinguishing that life. A little bit of innocence dies.
Similarly, kids are never the same after they learn the truth about Mr. Claus, P. Rabbit, and leprechauns. Those are beautiful, magical things that add an element of happiness and fantasy to life. The destruction of those fantasies can be brutal for some and perfectly logical and normal for others. Yet in either case, knowledge kills the magic and innocence dies.

Chief among such learning experiences is the true nature of birds and bees.

My 8-year old came to me a number of months ago after taking a bath and said, “Dad, what are my balls for?” Naturally my answer was, “they’re for warming your hands on the sideline while the defense is on the field.” His quizzical look let me know he didn’t know what a sideline was, or a defense for that matter, but I shrugged it off with the standard, “I’ll tell you when you’re older.” A few months later the question came again. This time “go ask your mother” bought some time and gave temporary relief. VERY temporary. Minutes later he was right back at it. “I’ll tell you when you’re older. Like 22.” I knew this could only go on so long. Finally, weeks after he came at me again, “Dad, what are my balls for? It’s my body and it’s my right to know.” How in the holy freaking hell can a 9-year-old be that wise in his question phrasing? Is he really mature enough to have this conversation? So I tested the water… “Buddy, tell me what you know about how babies are made.” I was fully expecting an answer like “Well dad, everyone knows that rays of magic sunshine mix with unicorn laughter to make the baby and then the flamingo delivers it to mommy’s tummy.” Which is only half wrong, since there IS magic and there IS laughter involved in the baby-making process. Unfortunately, his answer was smart and linear and logical. Completely wrong, but quite clear and a plausible alternative for the actual method. Bloody hell. He was ready…

Yeah, well I wasn't. Dude is in third grade! If he could just hold on for two more years then I could allow the government to teach him courtesy of the “maturation program” and I could just pick up the pieces with a dry and scientific Q&A. What are we paying these useless teachers for anyhow? With any real luck I could put it off until 8th grade when he gets to watch that revolting video in health class with the detailed description of an erection, complete with thermal imagery. I’ll never forget the afterbirth from that video. Talk about death to innocence.

Alas, it was not to be. It was time. One calm, sunny day coming home from the grocery store, Talmage and I had “the talk.” I have to give him credit. He was pretty calm, albeit shocked. He was having a hard time grasping the fact that it could go there and cause that to happen. I held nothing back. We covered all aspects of “Teh Seks.” The physical. The emotional. The spiritual. I was very detailed in my description and positive in my delivery. We covered parameters and rules. We talked about the importance of it in God’s plan. I have no delusions….that innocence is dead, and that’s a healthy chunk of innocence, but the damage was minimal. It was a clean cut, not the gruesome tear that it could have been.

My favorite of his myriad questions was,“Dad, how long do you have to sex for?” "Well bud, if you’re lucky about 12 seconds. But sometimes it can take hours.” “Ooooo, gross.” Just wait young buddy. Just wait.