I was listening to music the other day and an interesting ad came on. It went something like this…
Girl: “Dad, where do babies come from?”
Dad (embarrassed): “Well you see, honey, uh… There are the birds and the bees…”
Girl: “Yeah, okay…”
Dad: “And well, there are the birds and… uh… a mommy and a daddy and… when they call Geico they could save you 15% or more on car insurance.” (sighs in relief)
Girl: “Oh, okay. And this makes them happy?”
Dad: “Yes, sweetie, it makes them very happy.”
Announcer: “Because saving money on car insurance is always a great answer.”
You have probably all heard some sort of Geico commercial with the same tag line. This one jumped out at me though because it made me realize that this is a conversation that most parents dread. This was reconfirmed a few weeks ago when I went on a weekend camping trip with a group of men, most of whom are fathers. At one point as we were sitting together around one of the picnic tables they started talking about how they first found out about the marital embrace. One guy mentioned he found out from graffiti on bathroom stalls. Then they told about when they had that conversation with their sons, and the varying levels of embarrassment involved. They all found it uncomfortable to have that conversation but saw it as a necessary trial to walk through.
Some may call me crazy, but I think that is a stupid attitude. I am not saying that I will not be embarrassed or uncomfortable when I have that conversation with my children, but that I think there is something beautiful that is being lost there.
When I was younger, before having the “birds and the bees” conversation. One of my soccer friends asked me, “Who explained sex to you? Did you learn in school or did your friends explain it to you?” Even though I didn’t know exactly what he was talking about It made me mad, even then, that he didn’t consider the possibility that my parents would have had that conversation with me.
In the movie Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, there is a scene when Peter Quill’s father is explaining how he got to know Peter’s mother. Peter stops him a bit short saying, “I do not need to hear about how I was conceived.” After hearing that Drax, an big purple and red alien, says, “Why not? My father told the story of how he impregnated my mother every winter solstice.”
“That’s disgusting!” says Quill.
“No,” answers Drax. “It was beautiful… You earthers have serious hang ups!”
I am not saying that fathers should tell the story of their children’s conception every Christmas, but I do think that Drax, through the humor, is on to something.
Sex is, or at least should be, an act of love between a man and a woman. The result of this act of love, and participation in God’s creation, is a child. Children are, in normal circumstances, the result of an act of love. There is something beautiful about that. Sex is, of course, something private and personal between the couple. But it should not be seen as something dark, dirty and disgusting.
Children are affected greatly by divorce precisely because they are the result of the love their parents. Even though most children can’t articulate it that way, a divorce often says to them that they are not wanted, and worse, they are not a result of an act of love.
The libertine culture of the 60’s, and on to our current time, has praised promiscuity and sex with no strings attached. But the opposite end of the pendulum is thinking that sex is evil, even if a necessary unavoidable evil. There is a middle way, a balanced way. The free sex movement of the 60’s has debased the marital act to something brutish. That is not the place it deserves. There needs to be a return to the beauty of marriage and the marital act.
And that is something that should be reflected in the way a husband and wife treat one another so that the beauty of their love is what shines and is expressed to their children. That way, when the conversation about the “birds and the bees” does arise it is part of a dialogue in which the children are learning to see love lived out and it fits as the consummation of that love between a married couple. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the following.
God who created man out of love also calls him to love— the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love. Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator’s eyes. And this love which God blesses is intended to be fruitful and to be realized in the common work of watching over creation: “And God blessed them, and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.’ (CCC 1604)
This is the beauty that should be transmitted to a couple’s children, not the lies and deceit of the pervading worldview on marriage and sex. Man and woman are called to reflect the beauty and truth of God’s love through their marriage and their love for one another. There are beautiful images of how Christ loves his Church like a bridegroom loves his bride. This is what should be transmitted to children in subtle and natural ways so that when the time does come for the talk of the “birds and the bees” it is part of a journey on the path of life and light and not a frantic and embarrassing dash into the dark world of adults.