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Birds and bees give way to spiders and katydids

When a young man succumbs to the loony idea of raising children, there are countless scenarios he fails to consider. Some strike instantly, such as the sudden absence of money and free time. Others take shape over years, like the grim realization that by the time the kids have grown enough for him to resume his former life, he'll be too tired to do anything.

Recently, I stumbled into precarious territory I previously had not considered: sex education discussions.

Like many classic stories, this one involves a horny little spider named Harry.

You see, Harry was among a stack of books Amber and the kids checked out this week from our school library. Sky couldn't wait to read, "An Interview with Harry the Tarantula" -- a cool National Geographic children's book wherein Harry explains spider life to a katydid.

But before Sky was allowed to read it, Amber handed it to me. Strange request, I thought, as I took the opened book from her. I soon discovered the reason as I read Harry explain why he had to be quick when mating.

"I have to transfer my web sack of sperm to her," Harry said. "I must be very careful and tap her in all the right places. Tapping puts her in a romantic mood."

Hmmm, tapping you say? Damn, so that's what I've been doing wrong. I carefully constructed a mental note, then returned to the issue at hand. I looked up at Amber.

"So, we've reached that stage, have we?" I said.

"I guess so," she said.

Neither of us had imagined broaching this topic with a 7-year-old, but what the hell. I asked him to read it aloud to us; I wanted to see what the boy knew, if anything. So we sat back and listened to him read. And, after a few minutes, we began to wince as Sky got to the parts about happy, horny Harry's adventures in the back yard.

"I've found quite a lot of females there," Sky read. "It's always a bit scary meeting a female, though. I have to be quick or she'll eat me."

Sky looked up at us with a strange expression.

"She eats him?" he said.

"Yep," I said. "Same thing happens with people, too."

Amber flashed me that you're-so-not-funny look as Sky turned the page -- the one with the web sack of sperm and frantic romantic tapping. Then he stopped reading aloud. A rather interesting expression leapt onto his face as he scanned back-and-forth between the words and the picture of two spiders getting real cozy.

The long pause grew longer. A terrifying thought hit me: Egads, my son is reading spider porn! Amber and I looked at each other, wondering where this would lead.

"How come he got so quiet?" Amber said. "What happened to our story?"

Sky seemed a bit embarrassed. But, after great coaxing, he continued.

"I have to transfer my web sack of sperm to her," Sky read, stopping again.

"What's that?" he said, looking up at me. "Daddy, what is that?"

"That's how babies are made," I said with an overly calm voice.

Sky squinted thoughtfully as he stared at me, wheels turning, but he didn't say anything. Oh no, I thought, here comes the part about the tapping. Anything but the tapping. Luckily, the little man let us off easily. He read through the rest of the book without a hitch. Then he set it on the stack and decided to head outside to play, no doubt to take a closer look at spiders. Amber and I relaxed a bit, dodging that bullet for now.

"See," I said, "that didn't go that bad. Now he knows everything."

"Yeah," she said, "I'm glad we got that talk out of the way."

Bee staff writer Ty Phillips can be reached at tphillips@modbee.com or 874-5716.

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