The allegorical story of the birds and the bees has been handed down from generation to generation for almost 200 years. It has been attributed to lines from a poem by Samuel Coleridge: “All nature seems to work … the bees are stirring … birds are on the wing … and I the while, the sole unbusy thing, not honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.”
Sounding a little sorry for himself, the poem could well have been titled: “Ode To A Horny Old Man Alone In A Hut.” (Making honey? So that’s what they called it back in 1823.)
In order to avoid an open and technical explanation of the mechanics of sex and pregnancy, we use the birds and bees stories as metaphors to better explain to children the facts of life. Bees deposit pollen into flowers, the male bird fertilizes the eggs, Mommy has eggs and on and on.
And let’s face it, we do need something warm and fuzzy to tell kids at approximately seven years of age. The hard truth that children are the high price adults pay for having unprotected sex is just too much for them to process at that tender age.
Mothers are the best at delivering the birds and bees talk to children because when the question comes up “Where did I come from?” quite often fathers don’t know.
When confronted with “Where is my new baby brother coming from?” men generally resort to the story of the stork. It usually ends with: “Quit your crying. I told you, they’re not allowed to shoot storks!”
There are likely millions of versions of the birds and bees talk in every language known to man and they all serve one purpose — delaying the inevitable.
Kids almost always know more than the parent gives them credit for when they sit down for “the talk.” Like when Dad sat little Jimmy down to homeschool him in sex education, the kid just burst out crying. He told his father flat out he would not listen to a word he had to say. But why?
“Because when I was six, I got the ‘there’s no Santa Claus’ speech and then when I was seven I got the ‘there’s no Easter Bunny’ speech and then when I was eight you hit me with the ‘there’s no tooth fairy’ speech. So if you’re going to tell me that grown-ups don’t have sex, what do I have to live for?!?”
You know you’re behind the curve when you think it’s time you told your child about the birds and the bees and he thinks it’s time you told him about Snooky. Also, when the older one says to the younger one: “You gotta get Dad to tell you about the birds and the bees. It’s just too damn funny!” you know you’re a little late in addressing the problem.
I tell you all this because last month Monica was housesitting her niece and nephew in London, Ontario, and narrowly avoided being dragged into this tricky but time-honoured story of the birds and the bees.
As the three of them were driving down a quiet suburban street, little Sophia says: “Oh look at those two birds over there Aunty Monica.” They were clearly mating.
Smart woman that she is, Monica said nothing. Gripping the steering wheel a little tighter, she was about to point out that the birds were in fact robins and that they were fighting. Friendly fighting. But before she could break the awkward silence, Sophia did.
“And the one on the top,” said the eight year old, “is giving the one on the bottom CPR.”
From the back she heard her nephew repeat in a high, skeptical voice: “CPR?”
“Yup,” said Sophia, “he’s just peck, peck, pecking away.”
Steering the car and the discussion away from the two flapping birds, Monica asked Michael when his next martial arts class was. He didn’t answer. We think he was too busy trying to figure out how robins learned CPR.
And for the record, that’s what kids call it in London, Ontario — CPR!