It started innocently enough. Krista, the amigos, Graystripe (our cat), and I were gathered in the boys’ bedroom at the end of the day, as we always do. We quickly assessed the day’s important events together, issued a family prayer, and said our “good nights.” Krista had some end-of-the-day business to attend to downstairs, so she shuffled away. I lingered a moment to insure that Abby made it to her bedroom in a timely fashion instead of harassing the cat or otherwise bothering the boys for an additional half-hour. Big mistake.
I never did learn what stimulated the first question in the grilling that followed, but that question was this and it was delivered by the eldest amigo, Abby: “Dad, how old were you the first time you had sex?”
What ensued was a veritable maelstrom of questions (theirs), inarticulate responses (mine), disturbingly probing follow up questions (theirs), slightly more coherent/honest/forthcoming answers (mine), screams borne of embarrassment and incredulity (theirs), attempts to clarify previous replies and emphasize the spiritual elements of the subject at hand and discredit the juvenile and vulgar (mine), and then—as best I can recall the details of this parental train wreck—a repeat of the cycle.
As the interrogation unfolded, I vaguely remember wondering, “Where the heck is Krista?!? Can’t I tag her or something so she can relieve me?” The three-headed hydra (aka “the amigos”) peppered me with queries so rapidly and intensely that I never had an appropriate opportunity to holler downstairs for back-up. Strolling through this land-mine-filled topic is difficult enough when addressed with just one of the kids; doing so with all three at the same time proved disastrous.
As I reflect on those 20 excruciating minutes (it seemed a lot longer), I am certain of the following: (1) Abby emerged even more confused and frightened about such matters than she was before the discussion; (2) Daniel was not more confused and frightened, but not less so, either, and his hunch that his father is one weird dude was confirmed; and (3) there is ZERO chance that Luke will keep some of the particulars discussed confidential. There is also ZERO chance that he will get all the, ahem, “details” correct. Ergo, it’s impossible to predict what, precisely, he will share with his buddies and, ergo, what sorts of phone calls we’ll field from his buddies’ parents.
With regard to that last point, I’ve fantasized about issuing my own version of a “302 Report,” analogous to the FBI summaries of its investigation interviews (a form that’s become somewhat famous recently in the wake of recent events surrounding Hillary Clinton’s private email server).
Mine might look a little like this: “INVESTIGATION OF TIM SWENSEN’S BIRDS & BEES CONVERSATION WITH OFFSPRING, OCTOBER, 2016: Subject, Tim Swensen (hereinafter
“TS”), conducted private conversation with his children, Abby, Daniel, and Luke (hereinafter “A,” “D,” and “L,” respectively, or collectively “Amigos”) on or about the evening of October 20, 2016.
At approximately 21:30 hours on the evening in question, TS was asked by A, “Dad, I’ve been wondering. I understand this is personal and all, but I want to know something. When was the first time you [redacted]?”
TS replied, “Ummmmm…,” followed by “Well, I believe I was [redacted]. And back then, you see, [lengthy redaction]. Why on earth do you ask?”
At this point L interjected, “Wait a minute. That doesn’t make sense. I thought…[extensive redaction]. So…?”
TS responded, “Well, L, let me explain. You see, [redacted]. I mean, I’m not happy or proud about this, but I feel, on balance, it’s best to be honest with you. At least, errrr, up to a point.”
TS reports that at this point A’s eyes became abnormally large and he was concerned she might be under the influence of some kind of narcotic. L squirmed in his blanket on his bed. D appeared completely unaffected. His eyes were closed and he might have already been asleep. A and L regained (temporarily) their composure, however, and the conversation continued.
TS continued. “Let me explain something very, very important. Mom and I love each other very much, and have for many years. [Extensive redaction of sermon on spiritual facets of the topic at hand, followed by mini-dissertation on physical/medical ramifications, both of which surely orbited miles above their heads].”
TS reports that L was thoroughly bored by this portion of his response and, as TS put it, “wanted to get down to a few brass tacks.”
Thus, at this juncture L asked, “So, dad. Tell me truthfully: Have you ever [redacted]?” TS hesitated to respond. L and A interpreted (correctly, as it happens) TS’s hesitation as a reply in the affirmative. L thrashed wildly in his blanket and guffawed. A screeched like a banshee. D awoke from his semi-slumber to interject, “Wait. What?? Are you serious? You’re kidding, dad. Right? Right?!! Please tell me you’re joking.”
At this point T commanded A to go to her room to sleep, informed the Amigos they’d talk more about the topic at a later date, told them he loved them and that he was sorry if he had traumatized them, beat a hasty retreat to his bedroom, and curled up in the fetal position for the next eight hours. END OF 302 REPORT.”
Timothy Swensen is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.