From Happy Meals to Condoms in 11 Minutes Flat
Early on in our relationship, my husband labeled my keen ability to rapidly jump from one seemingly unrelated topic to the next in the same conversation - sometimes in the same breath – as hyperlinking. And this predates the Internet, terminology-wise. (we’ve known each other for more than 25 years). And yet by the end of the conversation he, and anybody else who can keep up with my rambling, gets to see how it all fits together. Or else, they just shake their heads and head back to the open bar.
It’s part of who I am – I just often think out loud. As a mother of three, this “superpower” of mine has often come in handy whenever I’m trying to turn any conversational opportunity with my kids into a teaching moment. Such was a recent conversation between my 10-year-old son and myself making our way hurriedly one Saturday afternoon between sporting events with no time to stop for lunch.
Mom: Zach, OK if we drive through McDonald’s on the way to your game? I can’t feed you otherwise in time. We’ve got less than 15 minutes to get there before you’ll have to sit the first inning out.
Zach: OK, just this once (my kids actually hate McDonalds’s), but only if I get a Happy Meal. (He would never ask for in front of his little sisters.)
Happy Meal in his lap, we head for the baseball field. I think I can make it in the 11 minutes left with a little luck, a little speeding and a lot of distraction on my part so I don’t get a lecture from my non-rule-breaking son.
Car time for our family is what I call having the perfect captive audience. Sometimes I just listen and hear the most wonderful things coming out of the backseat conversations. Other times, I pounce on the chance to see how my kids’ brains are working.
Mom: So, what’s on the Happy Meal bag? I say glancing in the rear view mirror.
Zach: Looks like a contest. It says I can win $50,000.
Mom: What would you do with $50,000?
Zach: Hmmm. I’d give half to charity. (My heart flutters with pride); then I’d spend the rest on a race car. (Heart now skipping beat for other reasons).
Mom: OK. What would your $25,000 go toward, what kind of charity?
Zach: Africa. I’d give it to Africa.
Mom: The whole country? One person? Tell me why you think Africa needs your $25,000 – what is happening there that makes you say that?
Zach: Water they need. And medicine.
Mom: Yes, that’s true. But are you going to buy and ship water? Are you going to sign over the money to someone who is volunteering there? How do you think you can get water to the people of Africa who need it the most?
Zach: Pause. Mom, this is one of your “think it through” games isn’t it?
Mom: Well, yes. You got me. I’m hoping that you learn about things like water purification tablets, systems and tanks and the need to lay pipes to even get the water to where the people are who need it. Then there’s an option to dig wells, involve the people in the community to help build it and teach them to maintain it which would make it a sustainable project like Habitat for Humanity workers who build alongside of the family who will receive the house. And like when Heiffer International trains its clients to raise and then share the livestock’s offspring it produces with another community member.
Zach: Do you have any more ketchup?
Mom: Zach, focus.
Zach: No, I really need ketchup, I’m listening honestly. Besides, now that I think about it, I’d rather put the money toward medicine, you know for AIDS.
Mom: I see. That’s a good cause. Zach, do you know what AIDS is?
Zach: Yes, it’s a disease.
Mom: Keep going.
Zach: So I’d give the money to help people with AIDS.
Mom: No I mean, what kind of disease is AIDS? What do the letters stand for?
Zach: What letters?
Zach: Oh, Acquired Immune Disease Syndrome.
Close enough, I think to myself. Deficiency. But close enough. To be honest I don’t have all the medical details in my brain so I don’t even go into the difference between HIV, AIDS and more.
Zach: Basically you get sick.
Mom: Yes. Do you know how does a person contracts AIDS?
Zach: Through blood.
Mom: Yes, or bodily fluids.
Zach: Say that again?
Mom: Bodily fluids…like blood, saliva and semen.
Silence. We’ve had “ The Talk” ... at least the initial part, so it’s just probably the re-emergence of the word “semen” that silenced him. Three minutes to go the car’s navigation system says to me … must move fast to wrap up this life lesson.
Mom: So, there are at least three ways to contract AIDS. Can you guess what they are?
Zach: Blood transfusion and needles.
Mom: Yes. And if saliva or blood of an infected person mixes with your blood – that’s why medical and emergency personnel where gloves when giving shots and responding to accidents. But it also can be contracted by having sex with an infected person or an expectant mom can sometimes pass it on to her baby.
Mom: So would you put your money toward treatment or prevention? That’s sometimes a debate.
Zach: I think I would put it toward preventing the disease.
Mom: You mean like educating people about the disease or by providing condoms?
Whoops. In my haste, I realized I skipped right to the condoms – that wasn’t part of our initial sex talk last year … I was saving the condoms for the twice yearly update … you know, a few sips from the water fountain at a time, not a blast from the firehouse of information.
Zach: What’s a condom?
Damn. Less than a minute, we are pulling into the baseball field parking lot.
Mom: They are like a little glove for your penis. They roll on when you are ready to have sex – which you are not – and they are one form of protection from all kinds of potential diseases.
Mom: (Suddenly relieved because even I didn't know where this was heading next.) Oh, look we are here – get your water bottle, glove and hat ... I’ll bring the rest of the gear in after I park … you better hustle.
I’m hearing muffled laughter from the back seat.
Mom: What’s so funny?
Zach: Mom, you are the only person in the whole world I know who could start a conversation about a Happy Meal contest and get all the way to Africa and condoms in 10 minutes.
11 minutes. And you’re welcome. Now go play.
This is an original post by Pamela Weiss to the Silicon Valley Moms Blog.