We’d just returned from an extended family vacation — the last time we’d see a number of family members for a while unless they decided to visit us in Costa Rica. The odds of that appeared small as one family member was very personally concerned about the poor ratings of Costa Rican government debt while another kept confusing it with Chile.
After eight days in close quarters with my extended and immediate family I was ready for a break. You often read about an executive who leaves a position to, “Spend more time with his family.” Very often this same executive immediately appears at a new employer or starts playing a lot of golf — or both. I was apparently the exception as I walked away from my career to spend more time with my family, but then actually did so.
That doesn’t mean that I didn’t harbor secret thoughts about taking up golf or returning to the ranks of the gainfully employed (writing definitely counts as an activity but the idea that it produces income is likely a great work of fiction). I love my family but at times found myself longing for the days I used to spend, alone, poring through spreadsheets and attribution analysis. I suspected that the other family members occasionally pined for the era when I disappeared for a few weeks at a time and wasn’t perpetually available to offer my input.
So, 36 hours after our return I loaded up my truck and headed out to our farm — where nothing but grass and fire ants grew — for another round of mowing. I was gone just a few hours when I began receiving a series of odd texts from my bride. What follows is a recap of those texts as well as a summary conveyed by my bride that evening post bed-time for our boys.
In my brief absence, apropos of nothing, #2 began asking questions about the finer points of the human body. My bride directed him to a large book specifically designed to answer those questions for kids. The book had been sitting undisturbed on our coffee table for some time and I viewed it as a large, expensive coaster.
My bride had purchased the book based on its reviews from other parents and had given it a cursory look. In normal times when she too wasn’t exhausted from the extended period of family time she likely would’ve sat down with #2 to review the particular pages. In this instance, however, she too had hit her limit and was still trying to get through the massive amount of dirty clothes we’d produced on our trip.
While she was upstairs in the laundry room she heard #2 exclaim, “Now I finally know what a naked girl looks like!”
A quiet pause then ensued as my bride tried to figure out where this was headed. She heard the sound of pages turning, followed immediately by more commentary.
“That’s crazy — where’s the peenee?”
“How does the boy give the girl his cells?”
My bride came downstairs and did her best to answer his questions in a calm, respectful way. #2 didn’t make it easy on her.
“So the boy plugs the girl up with his peenee?”
“I want a baby Mommy!”
#2 then called out to #1, who was reading a book in his room. “Did you know we use our peenees to plug up a girl?”
#1 apparently acknowledged this information with a grunt but had no strong feelings about it.
Since the previously private parts were now very publicly out of the proverbial bag my bride then attempted to have a respectful conversation with #2 about how the birds and bees made more birds and bees — but was immediately derailed by his very specific, insightful questions about how eggs, honey and a queen that rules millions of drones fit into the narrative. There really should be another go-to phrase for this process that involves the live birth of mammals.
I digested the texts during intermittent breaks in my weed-whacking. With sweat pouring off my face and down onto the phone I wondered why it was that these conversations always seemed to take place in my absence. I also pondered how #1 was apparently completely comfortable with all of this biologically accurate information whilst still a staunch believer of both Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. More than anything, I experienced the cowardly thrill of not being present to spend more time with my family this particular afternoon.