Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Turtles are Mating: A Very Short Answer to an Unexpected Question

If I knew anything about the turtle mating season, I could tell you the exact month of the school year that this discussion took place.  I do know that Bryce was in the fourth grade because he was in Mrs. Smither's homeroom class.  Mrs. Smither was the enthusiastic science teacher with a room filled with critters.  Exploring her cluttered classroom, you might find a cross-sectioned, "newsy" owl pellet, a dead baby bird floating in formaldehyde, or a crunchy wasp's nest with "unpopped bubbles" amidst the cages and aquariums.  For a 9 year old boy, being in her homeroom was a dream come true.  To Bryce, Mrs. Smither was one of the great scientific minds of the world, if not the universe.

One afternoon on the short drive home from school, Bryce, who was riding "shotgun," said, "Hey, Mom!  Guess what!?"  "What Brycie?!'  "The turtles in our classroom are MATING!"   Mating.  He just had to say the word "mating."  "Interesting," I replied as I winced and turned up the radio hoping that Reed was lost in his own thoughts in the middle seat.  No such luck.

A minute passed during which I was trying to envision the logistics of turtle love, and then, from the middle seat, Reed piped, "Mom, what is 'mating?'"  I shot a withering look at Bryce who flashed a "knowing" grin back at me.  "Knowing" grin?!  Exactly what did Mr. Bryce think he knew about the World of Mating?  Turning down the radio, I jumped into the proverbial age appropriate explanation.  "Well, Reed, mating is what mommy and daddy turtles do when they want to make a baby turtle.  They love on each other and out of their love a baby turtle is born."  (I chose the words "mommy and daddy" over "male and female" to water down the overall concept of "mating.")  I quickly turned the radio up really loud and held my breath hoping that the flowery explanation would pacify his first grade curiosity.  No such luck.

"Oooooh, I see," he thoughtfully replied.  I quickly turned the radio off completely.  I surely didn't want to miss what he "saw."  He continued, "You and Dad have three kids, so you have mated three times.  Right?"  I quickly scoured my brain for a veiled, albeit, true response.  "Hmm.  I guess you could say that," was all I could muster off the cuff.

From the all-powerful shotgun throne of the Suburban, Bryce corrected Reed's logic.  "Well, duh, Reed!  Jonathan is adopted.  Mom and Dad have only mated TWICE."  I held my breath.  "Oh, yeah.  That's right.  They have only mated twice," Reed quickly nodded with apparent understanding.

I decided to leave it at that.  I drove into the driveway thankful that Jonathan had to stay after school for some sort of practice.  His sixth grade quick wit may have perpetuated the conversation all the way through our dinner of pork chops, rice and green beans.

"Mom and Dad have only mated twice."  Who knew that during all the years of infertility and then the adoption of our first born, all we would have had to do was mate that one extra time.  

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