The questions that parenting books don't prepare you for - Macleans.ca

The questions that parenting books don’t prepare you for

Game’s on. What better time for ads offering to cure a parade of sexual dysfunctions?

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Our two sons, 11 and 9 years old, aren’t sure what Cialis and Viagra are for—but dammit, they’re starting to ask questions. They’re maturing as young men. Clearly the time has come to sit each boy down, put an arm around his shoulder and continue to lie like hell. Viagra? Well, son, it’s uhhh . . . it’s basically a Flintstones vitamin for grown-ups. And Cialis? That one prevents older gentlemen from growing a third arm out of their backs. Now go to bed.

There was a commercial for one of the erectile dysfunction pills before the screening of Iron Man 2. The older boy turned to me and said: “I don’t get it—does that stuff make you happy?” I briefly considered an experiment in honesty: Well, that dude there couldn’t get it up to pleasure his wife. Now he can. So she’s singing and playing the lute or whatever. Instead I fell back on the time-tested response of pretending to choke to death on my popcorn. Terrifying for the kids, but a real conversation shifter.

My boys love playing sports and watching them on TV. I was the same. Back in my day, that meant exposure to commercials that emphasized the virility of men: sports cars, power tools, beers that actually had alcohol and calories. Now a single football game can bring drug ads promising relief from an enlarged prostate, a feeble heart, clogged arteries and—especially—a quiet, unresponsive penis. To judge from all our failing parts, kids today must grow up thinking the human body was designed by Toyota.

Distracting our children from the sexual themes in TV advertising isn’t a new challenge. Neither my wife nor I will soon forget how hard it was to encourage our youngest to abandon his habit of running through the house singing, “Vivaaaaaaaa Viagra!”

And it’s not just the ED commercials. One afternoon during the 2008 Summer Olympics on CBC, they actually cut to a commercial for . . . K-Y Touch Massage and Personal Lubricant. It featured a fella in bed who gets all hot and eyebrow-archy when his wife mentions the words “personal” and “lubricant.” The product’s slogan: See what happens!

Well, here’s what happened: “Daddy, what’s a personal lubricant?”

Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip: there must be an answer to this question somewhere in this damn parenting book. As I sped toward Mexico that night, I remember thinking, “Thanks, CBC people. Thanks for running that personal lubricant ad at 4 p.m. during coverage of a major global sporting event. Remind me to drop by your homes around dinnertime and kick off a fun conversation with your kids about threesomes.”

I was so unprepared back then—a novice at changing the channel and the subject. But I’ve since achieved a level of Jedi mastery to rival Yoda himself. Talk about this man’s limp business we will not.

If I’m really on my game, I can spot the very start of an ED commercial and flip away from it instantly. Less than a second. It doesn’t matter where I flip to. A baseball game. A Murder, She Wrote rerun. Uhh, yeah, kids—I just want to check how many of these delicate porcelain figurines are left for sale here on the home shopping channel. We can turn it back to hockey in 23 seconds.

Otherwise it’s all about the science of interruption. You observe the child watching the TV screen. You see him trying to process why a fiftyish man is telling us about his “strolling problem.” You begin to sense a question being formulated in this young and confused mind. And then it’s go time.

“Daddy, I don’t understand what he means about his—”

“CAKE!! LET’S GET CAKE!!!”

“Yay, Daddy!”

I don’t think of myself as overprotective, but maybe that’s what I am. I try to distract my kids from those over-the-top promos for the various CSI shows. I don’t like them being exposed to that much violence, gore and terrible acting. I’m constantly hovering over them as they work on the computer, especially since that one morning we tried to upload some photos to Black’s and typed “.com” instead of “.ca”. Long story short: I sincerely doubt the people at Blacks.com would have any use for my pictures.

It’s not that I’m not ready to give my boys The Talk. Believe me: I am ready to give The Talk. I’ve prepared the speech draft, the PowerPoint and the puppet show. My Talk will be so good that there will be demand for it from the neighbours’ kids. I’ll take it on the road. It will play a series of increasingly large venues, be filmed and ultimately premiere at Cannes. It will be adored by the French, and not just because I spend most of The Talk dressed as a baguette.

But I’d prefer to give The Talk when my wife and I think our kids are ready. And I’m still not sure any kid needs to know that one day he may need to pop a pill to perform. That would to be tough to take—especially when he’s young enough to be cranky that he can’t have his bath out in the middle of a cornfield like the Cialis people.

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