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The birds and the cats and the fish and the bees

Recently, our cat, Uno, a kitten herself, learned to multiply. And my little multiples witnessed her mathematical ability. Yet, despite earnest lessons on how such things transpire, my children only heard what they wanted.

My oldest son reads relentlessly about animals and their habits. So I truly thought he would get it and that I would have minimal "splainin" to do. But daddies, don't hide your daughters quite yet.

In his quest to find good homes for the kittens, he told the neighbors about them. The neighbors reacted like most people, horrified, saying, "Oh, no, your cat has kittens?

"Yes ma'am. We got her wormed," he ardently insisted, "but it didn't take."

Fortunately, there's still time to help him work all that out. But I've probably warped my daughter for life. In a moment of misguided wisdom, I set up our female feline and our feral tomcat as role models for a loving relationship.

My innocent princess asked if they were married. Naturally, I told her yes; that they couldn't have kittens otherwise.

Now that the old tom has been a deadbeat dad for four weeks, shoved his "wife" out of the food dish, and hissed wickedly at his own offspring, I'm thinking better of my plan.

Especially since she told her friend's dad, "Uno and Witchy are married. If you get married and you don't have babies, you die." Although, this is the exact reasoning I used with her father when trying to convince him to procreate, it is not what I told her.

She inverted my instructions. I really said, "If you have babies and don't get married, daddy might kill somebody."

My eight-year-old-son seemed to get that part of the reproductive puzzle. Nevertheless, complete understanding of gestation eludes him. When Uno moved her babies to the back porch, she cleared it of vermin and other possible threats to her brood's safety, including two sparrows. In death, the avians left a tidy nest perched on the eave of the roofline.

My son's tender heart sickened over the entire ordeal. He cried, "Mama, mama, we need to check that nest for eggs. One of those birds looked pregnant!"

I really have some splainin to do now.

Yet, after talking with our older neighbors, I don't feel so bad. Years back, their tabby gave birth to kittens much to their young daughters' surprised, questioning delight. During the delivery, however, complications occurred and they rushed the cat to the veterinarian. As the neighbors explained it to me, they used the episode to tell their children, "A little about this. And some about that. And touched on the other."

I should have had them come explain it to my kids, because I obviously was much too direct.

Anyway, the vet removed the cat's uterus.

A few days later, one of the daughters stood in the yard watching her daddy and his long time fishing buddy clean a lunker of a cat fish. She intently observed as they skinned it, eviscerated it, and finally filleted it. "Wait. Stop," she commanded the surprised men. Pointing at the guts spread on the table she demanded to know, "Where is that fish's uterus?"

Embarrassed and beat red, her daddy shook his finger and ordered her, "Go inside and ask your mother."

Generation after generation we fumble through the birds and the cats and the fish and the bees, when we ought to simplify things for ourselves and the children and just tell the plain, honest truth, "Kids, someday you'll figure it out."

Web posted on Thursday, June 1, 2006

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