Learning about mammals

"Safe sex," my ex told our sons, "is the same as scanning floppy disks for viruses before opening them." So much for birds and bees. Sex ed for boys is about technology.

When we divorced our first child custody arrangements divided the important holidays based on educational opportunities. I had the boys every Valentines Day so they could learn that ladies like flowers, chocolate, and men who don't chew toothpicks. The guys spent every Super Bowl weekend with their father for obvious reasons relating to the proper use of the remote control. July fourth was an assigned pyrotechnic internship with Dad, while Thanksgiving was spent with me celebrating old recipes and new traditions.

"Human beings were invented by water as a means of transporting itself from one place to another," wrote Tom Robbins in his first novel, Another Roadside Attraction. And so the story of gender differences for girls is about plumbing. The females are drinking cranberry juice and covering gas station toilet seats with tp while the guys scan their floppies and play WWI dogfight simulation games.

The preschoolers are studying mammals: Kitty cats are mammals. Are you a mammal, too? Write a mammal you know.

A little guy doesn't know how to spell his favorite mammal. He tells me the word he needs to spell. He tells me again. I still don't understand. He tells me AGAIN. Nipple!? Did he say nipple? He knows way more about mammals than I thought! He waits expectantly for me to spell his word, and says it one last time. LEOPARD! Thank heaven his favorite mammal is a leopard.
L-E-O-P-A-R-D, phew!

Meantime, the girls are playing babies with the Raggedy Anns and Andys. Four girls ask me if babies come out of your bottom or your tummy. ACK! Can I run screaming from the building? What if my answer warps them for life? "Babies," I say, " come out between your legs."

Mammals have hair. Their babies are born alive and drink milk from their mothers' nipples. Smart mammals back up their computer files and keep a separate checking account. Brilliant ones keep their phones charged in case their mommy calls.

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