The birds, the bees, the sperm donors...

Parents are finding that "The Talk" has gotten really, really complicated.

By Lynn Harris

Published April 16, 2008 11:30PM (EDT)

So my friend's friend's kid somehow overhears the term "blow job" on TV. (Cable, I'm guessing.) Cut to: Dad holding his breath, praying the the moment will pass. But no.

"Daddy?" Here it comes. "What's a blow job?"

An explanation is offered, in clear, forthright detail, just like the experts say. The child ponders, then shakes his head.

"That's a job?"

I offer this anecdote because I'll take any excuse to retell it. The excuse at hand: the Washington Post's (I love them today!) story yesterday detailing the ways in which parents are finding that "The Talk" about sex has gotten really, really complicated. Back in my day, we were told that "when a man and a woman love each other very much, they lie very close together," or we simply (as my best friend recalls) came home one day to an Ask Beth book lying on our bed. And for us, this was enough. I simply accepted that our neighbors Michael and Dale were, like Ernie and Bert, just really good friends. No questions asked.

But today, the Post reports, parents are hit with queries such as "Mommy, how does the sperm get from the donor to the doctor?" Or "Why is that man on Oprah pregnant?" ("And why are those people on MSNBC being such shitheads?")

Some parents, perhaps more red-faced than ever, procrastinate. Not the best approach, say experts. "You could do a real disservice with this assumption that you wait until the child asks," said Baltimore sex educator Deborah Roffman, author of "Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent's Guide to Talking Sense About Sex." "The truth is that we've left our children in a vacuum around these topics, and popular culture has just waltzed into this vacuum." Waltzed? If only. More like pole-danced.

Some fairly sound-sounding, if challenging, advice follows. ("You should start talking to children about sex from the day they can talk," said Maureen Lyon, a clinical psychologist at Children's National Medical Center. Whoa. Mommy is way behind.)

So I'm curious. Just for fun: What about you? What darnedest things have your kids asked? And how have you responded?

Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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