Sunday, June 10, 2012
Mulan, the Egg Baby
We've been waiting all trimester for sex education to begin at my sons' school. When I say waiting, I don't mean in some kind of suspended titillation. I mean that both boys have been aware that it's coming up -- Oliver, who is in fifth grade has had a sort of excited dread about it, and Henry, who is in seventh grade, an affected nonchalance. So, now that we're about a week and a half away from the end of school, it begins, and this is how it goes when you're two boys attending a progressive public school in Los Angeles, California.
Oliver came home yesterday afternoon requesting deodorant.
You have deodorant, I said, patiently.
Does it have aluminum in it, Mom?
Uh, no. That's why you have the Tom's stuff, Oliver.
Oh, so you know about the aluminum?
Yes, Oliver. I know about the aluminum.
I refrained from adding that I know everything, and then the conversation veered toward the various things that were going to happen to Oliver's body as he grew into an older boy and then man.
Henry came home on Thursday and told me that he needed a boiled egg to bring to school on Friday for their health and sex education project. Evidently, the egg was going to represent a baby and would be squired around school for the week, a centerpiece of a larger project that included budgeting for a child, health insurance, negotiating childcare contracts and a myriad of responsibilities pertaining to having a baby. The project is worth 500 points, a significant part of one's final science grade, and rules include a "O" if you break your egg. If a caregiver breaks your egg and hasn't signed a liability contract before said sitting, you get 150 points deducted. Don't quote me on that, though, as parenting an egg makes my head spin. Henry asked me to boil an egg for him, and I told him to boil it yourself. When the timer went off, he asked me to remove it from the heat, and I said You're going to have to take that egg off the heat yourself.
And so on.
Now, you might roll your eyes (I did) because, honestly, an egg doesn't come close to representing a baby when you're thirteen and fourteen years old. On one level, it reminds me of a disability awareness project that I heard about where the kids are asked to walk around blindfolded to get a sense of what it's like to be blind. Right, I thought, caustically, being blind for a day is a real hardship. But I digress. I've heard that areas with better school budgets -- ahem -- have real baby dolls that poop and pee and cry for these projects, but keeping an egg safe, dry and clothed is evidently a substitute, and Henry was pretty excited about the whole thing. Maybe too excited.
In the morning we placed the little brown egg in a tiny shopping bag that we lined with paper shreds, while Oliver chattered nervously about his upcoming health and hygiene class. I said good-bye to my two sons and my grandegg and tended to Sophie who in a weird twist of fate wears deodorant (non-aluminum), a bra and diapers, which made me wonder about a disability project that might include caring for an ostrich egg, perhaps? -- caring for an ostrich egg for more than a week, though, and maybe the ostrich egg would be barely shattered and dripping protein and points would be taken off if you missed therapy or threatened to kill someone at your insurance company or spoke rudely to the little girl staring at your over-large egg in its stroller -- But I digress, again.
Henry got into the car with his friend Noah (also an egg father) on Friday afternoon and enthusiastically told me what had happened that day. Evidently, each student was required to pick a partner for the egg-rearing and was also given a random job or career. Noah had decided to be a single father and carried his egg in a neatly designed box. When he got into the car, he placed it carefully in his lap. Henry and his friend S decided to co-egg.
S and I are gay parents, Mom, Henry said.
We went to China to adopt an egg and named her Mulan. I'm a veterinarian with health insurance, and S is a hairdresser with none. Right now we're a little bit in debt which we have to get out of to earn back points.
Evidently, other occupations included McDonald's cashier, doctor, movie producer, unemployed, and Noah is a salesman. Each egg parent was given a salary, commensurate with their experience, and had to budget accordingly. Oliver listened to all of this avidly, shaken out of his former foul humor (he'd lost a file on his lap-top for a science project and had gotten into the car completely enveloped in a cloud of Oliver rage that I've learned to endure, if not ignore completely).
Henry was not in possession of his egg because his partner had volunteered to watch and take care of Mulan over the weekend, so we're egg-free today.
That's what's going down out here in La-La Land. My son is the proud gay father of a little brown Chinese egg named Mulan, and I'm a grandmother. And everyone smells nice and is aluminum-free.