For a while now we’ve been discussing adopting a second dog for Riley, and this morning the boys were checking out local dogs on Petfinder.com.
“Mom,” said Matt, “it says this dog is neutered. What’s that?”
“That’s when the dog has had surgery to keep it from reproducing.”
‘Oh! That’s what John had!” Exclaimed Matt, referring to a family friend.
“Well, no–” I begin.
“It’s when they cut their nuts off, right? Like Squeak?” Asks Riley.
“In animals, yes, but—”
“THEY CUT JOHN’S NUTS OFF?” Matt is appalled.
“They DID? John doesn’t have NUTS anymore?” Asks Ri.
Both boys are shielding their crotches, in case there are any drive-by denuttings.
“I would NEVER let anyone cut off my nuts, “ declares Matt.
“No. Guys. Wait. When they neuter they DO take the testicles for animals—”
“OOOHHH!” A scream from Riley as he takes every male animal’s loss of testicles personally.
“I’m not letting anyone take my nuts,” repeats Matt.
“BUT!” I say loudly, “that’s neutering. In humans it’s a vasectomy for men, and a tubal ligation for women.” I’m quite pleased when I pronounce ligation correctly. Sometimes I mistakenly call it tubal litigation, which would imply the tubes are arguing it out in court.
“So women have nuts?” Asks Matt, shocked. “I didn’t think girls had nuts. Where are they?”
“Girls don’t have nuts, ” clarifies Riley. “Right?”
“Girls do not have nuts–testicles- they don’t have them. Let me show you, hold on.” And I grab a marker and a piece of paper. I know I’ve explained this to the boys many times before, and I’m not sure why they are acting so surprised. I quickly draw out a simple sketch of the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus.
Matthew acts as if he’s going to vomit and moves away from the drawing, but Riley is attempting to be serious. It’s hard.
I explain how every month one of the ovaries releases an egg, and it goes down through the fallopian tube, where it might be fertilized or not. I show where small cuts are made, and explain how they are cauterized. No egg to fertilize, no baby. Permanent birth control.
“OK,” says Ri, “but what about the man? They don’t really cut his nuts off, do they?”
“No,” I explain, and for this Matt wanders back. Ovaries are boring, but nuts are endlessly fascinating. ” They kind of do the same thing for men. They cut and cauterize.”
I draw a quick sketch of a penis and testicles, and in case you were wondering, this is the funniest thing anyone can ever do. Ever. Riley is making all sort of snorting noises and Matthew is laughing and repeating, “Nuts! Nuts! Mom drew nuts!”
“Do you want me to explain this?” I ask Ri.
“Yes. Yes. I’m listening,” and he bursts out into such laughter his eyes fill with tears. “But, it doesn’t look like that! It doesn’t look like that! ”
“”Well I know, ” I say. ” But I had to draw it from the side so that I could explain–”
“THE SIDE!” And Riley laughs so hard he falls off his chair.
“She drew it from the SIDE!” Matt gasps from the floor. “The side!”
I watch my children, both thrashing around on the floor in laughter, tears pouring down their cheeks. “So yes. There you have it.” I say loudly, “ they cut off the nuts.”
“They aren’t taking my nuts!”
Perhaps this is why they don’t remember having this explained to them before?