This Conversation Went Deep Fast

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It all started out with an innocent seeming question.

“Dad,” Miss9 asked in the car back from her auntie’s this morning, “why do boys grow beards?”

Her and Master11 had spent a couple of nights keeping their cousins company, so you never quite know where a conversation is going. Or coming from.

“Some men grow facial hair as a fashion statement,” I told her. “They like how they look with a Tom Sellick or a Grizzly Adams.” Or a Mr Miyagi or a Merv Hughes or a Zach Gilifianakis or a Chad Kroeger or a Seneca Crane or a Mr T or a Captain Jack Sparrow or a Rubeus Hagrid or an Obi-Wan or a Ming The Merciless. “Some men just don’t like to shave. Some men are too lazy to shave.” My hand instinctively raised itself to the whiskers on my chin. Tracey was going to start hassling me if I didn’t do something about that tomorrow. For some reason she doesn’t like using me to exfoliate. “Like me at the moment. I hate shaving. Some men just grow them because they can. Just like women don’t grow them because they can’t.”

Clear as mud. And that was when the conversation kind of got away on me.

“Unless they’re bisexual,” said Miss9.

“Wha…?” I stammered, forgetting the road for a second and trying to find her in the rear vision mirror. “Did you say bisexual?” I asked over my shoulder.

“Yeah.”

“Well…then, no,” I said, trying to focus on the road again and simultaneously round up my thoughts, which she’d just spooked so bad they were running all over the place, and work out how this fit into the scheme of things. “Being bisexual doesn’t mean you can grow a beard. Bisexual is about who you like, boys or girls. Beards are about hormones.” I was guessing here, having never done any beard related research. It was sounding reasonable though, I thought. “Men have the hormones which allow them to grow beards, and women don’t.” And because I was losing ground in this argument anyway, I added, “Most women.” Then I asked the question I should have perhaps started with. “Why all this sudden interest in bisexuals? What do you know about it?”

“Nothing,” said Miss9.

“Really?” I asked doubtfully.

“It’s just we were watching a film last night and it didn’t end the way we thought it would.”

“That’s right,” said Master11, entering the conversation. “You think the boy and the girl are going to kiss, but she kisses a girl instead.”

“And a guy says, ‘I told you she was a lesbian,'” added Miss9.

“And then she says, ‘No, I’m not. I’m bisexual,'” continued Master11.

“And then they all end up kissing each other.”

“The three of them,” said Master11 in a tone which said he didn’t think this was on at all.

And to be fair, Disney doesn’t prepare young kids for this stuff. Which sort of begged the question…

“What the hell movie were you watching?” I wanted to know.

“Dodgeball,” they answered in unison.

Bearing in mind this was a movie they’d watched the previous night, it was obviously something which was playing on their minds.

I tried to remember something from the film. I couldn’t recall overly enjoying it, although I knew it was supposed to be a comedy.

“The one with a pirate?” I asked.

“Yeah,” said Master11.

“And the bisexuals,” added Miss9.

So for the remainder of our drive home the conversation was about as far from ‘did you have fun on the trampoline?’ and ‘did you swim in the pool?’ as I could have predicted when I’d left the house to go pick them up. I’m not recommending you do a search on Presto or Netflix and break out the popcorn, but as parents we don’t always get to choose when we talk about these things with our children. Sometimes you just have to roll with it.

So we discussed the idea of attraction between boys & girls, and boys & boys, and girls & girls, and boys & girls with both boys & girls. Not that we haven’t been there before on much of this – Miss9 & Master11 both took it upon themselves to write to the Prime Minister last year about marriage equality – but as they get older there’s bound to be more and more questions which need answering. Our position is you answer them when they’re asking, and you answer honestly. And the honest answer is, it’s up to the individual to decide who they like. Most boys like girls. Most girls like boys. But that doesn’t hold true for everyone. I even touched on transgender issues, partly because once I start I struggle to stop, but mostly because they need to know this isn’t something to fear or balk at or point at. It’s just the way some people are.

Five minutes later we arrived home, and they seemed fine with the world again.

“Anything else you want to ask?” I said as I prepared to open the car door. I’m not saying I was traumatised or anything silly, but I was suddenly keen to race upstairs and strike up a conversation with the four or six year olds about Barbie.

“Just one thing,” said Miss9, and I stopped with one foot out the door.

“Go on,” I sighed, resigning myself to what was coming.

“Why do some men grow those really thin moustaches under their noses?” she asked. The classic Bryan Ferry or Errol Flynn.

Finally, something I felt totally qualified to comment on. Only…

“I’m sorry, love,” I told her, suddenly having an epiphany right there on Gympie Connection Rd and realising it isn’t any of my business why guys would choose to have that awful bit of pencil-line facial hair above their lip. “I don’t know. I guess they just like what they like.”

And as I told my kids, there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Raising a family on little more than laughs.

15 Comments

  • Well played Bruce. U rock. Wait till your kids meet me i have wiskers some times and my love has a hair growing on top of one ear lol

  • I have always admired your ability to roll with any opportunity – I now see it comes from many years of practice with kids as unpredictable as yourself.

    For the record: Well done, oh wise old master.

  • I believe in answering questions honestly also. I was once told “they’re to young to hear that” when I was taking about how babies are made yo my six year old , years ago now. I said of course they’re not they asked a question I answered it.
    Obviously I didn’t go into extreme detail but the basics were there. The real names for the body parts too. Oh the horror! It is not a big deal unless you make it one is my moto.
    I always give my opinion then examples of other peoples opinions as well (well, not when they are six and topic isn’t age appropriate of course) saying why someone wouldn’t agree with my opinion and the others. I am also very vigilant in adding to my “lectures” as the kids call them the words “Do not just take my word or your teachers and friends word for it, find out for yourself!”
    I think that is very important. It encourages them to THINK about it and if interested learn about it and either way come to their own conclusion.
    I really believe people knowing there are many different ways to look at something is very important and allows for people to have opinions and acknowledge others have a different one. As well as not get on their soapbox / discriminate. I think if everyone did that the world world be a better place.
    Sorry about the novel!

    • Answering questions honesty is important. Teaching kids to think for themselves is an important lesson. Making an argument to voice your opinion is important. Not hating people because they’re different is important. So much work to do 😀

  • Agree, kids are taught to hate. Being able to think is more important. We should concentrate on the thinking not the hating. One day, I like to delude myself, we will get to that “golden age” where we can all ‘just get along’ without the hate.

  • Hahaha gotta love the unpredictability of kids! I think you handled it just well. Although, nothing beats the feeling of knowing the conversation is over! It’s like you have to literally breathe out and pour a stiff drink haha.

  • Love how you handled that. And so clear that once the question was answered, they moved on. Kid minds take in as much as they are developmentally ready to hear and the rest flows over the top, much like a bucket of water once it is full.

    Last year Ms 10 asked me if a person could be both a girl and a boy at the same time. A bit of discussion uncovered that in her new school there was a girl who identified as boy, and the school was fully supportive and so were the kids. He was well liked and comfortable in his skin, was referred to in male pronouns and was called by a gender neutral nickname, at his request. Ms 10 and I had a bit of a chat about gender identity and pronouns and she moved on. Pronouns were the hardest part 🙂 Now at age11 it’s a non issue.

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