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Sex Talk, #52

In which my two daughters get to the bottom of the birds and the bees through bewildering big talks with mom and long pauses on the part of their father.

This past school year, my 11-year-old daughter became intrigued by the genetics lessons delivered by her science teacher. She'd come home gabbing about the heritability of eye and hair color, drawing genetic tree charts to show the probability of green eyes vs. brown eyes in our family.

On a walk this past Sunday, my husband overheard our gene-happy daughter trying to describe the genetics of gender to her younger sister and a girlfriend. The man, she told them, is the one who decides the sex of the child.

It is true that men determine the gender of their offspring. When a sperm with a Y chromosome fertilizes an egg, it makes a boy. If the fertilizing sperm carries an X chromosome, it's a girl. But my daughter's explanation made it sound like the penis has a mind of its own (she may be smarter than I thought). As a result, my other daughter and her little friend, who happens to have two brothers, were a bit taken aback.

My youngest daughter, ever the skeptic, turned to my husband and asked, "Papa, is it true that your penis decides whether a baby is a boy or girl?"

To which my husband replied, "Uh, uh, uh ..."

"Wow," their friend said to him. "You wanted two girls?!"