Put Down the Beverage Before Explaining the Five-Legged Elephant

Good grief.

Years ago my mother and I were at the zoo with my kids, watching the elephants amble through their field, when I told her about the time I was at the zoo and one of the elephants appeared to have five legs and I was confused for a moment until I realized:  Oh my gosh!  That is not his leg!

A~, who was probably eight at the time, asked what it was.  I told her to ask me when she turns thirteen, which is what I always say when she asks a question that I don’t want to explain at the time.  That answer, along with a package of M&Ms at the checkout counter bought me quite some time with the whole tampon issue.  Because, you know, they don’t notice them except for when you throw a box in the grocery cart and then they very loudly want to know WHAT ARE YOU BUYING?!?!?!?  WHAT IS IT MOMMY????  WHAT????  WHAT????  WHY WON’T YOU TELL ME?????

So, anyway . . . elephants.

Tonight A~, who is now ten and a half and has the memory of an elephant, was wondering again about the elephant who looked like he had five legs and why I wouldn’t tell her about it.  Her father was standing in the room kind of laughing as I told her I thought she’d be terribly embarrassed if I explained it to her now.  Then he left.

Well, I’ve been badgered about the five-legged elephant long enough, and she is old enough to know, and I guess her eight-year-old sister who is practically her conjoined twin is old enough, too.  So I explained to the girls, who already know the very basics about sex, what happens to a male mammal’s *anatomy* when he is ready to have it, and why it is necessary for this to happen.  I’m not going to tell you how mortifying and awkward it was, because it wasn’t.  At all.  Seriously.

While L~ was silent through most of the conversation, A~ asked some questions, like, “What makes it happen?”  I gave her a very rudimentary “it’s controlled by the brain which sends signals to the body when a male is ready” answer.

“I don’t know why you thought I’d be embarrassed if you told me that now,” A~ said.

“Because your father was in the room at the time,” I said.

“So?  I don’t see why that would make a difference,” she replied nonchalantly.

“Because I just told you what happens to male mammals when they are ready to have sex, and your father is a male mammal.  I thought that might be a little awkward for the two of you.”

“Ahhh . . . ” she said, understanding lighting her eyes.

“But,” she asked thoughtfully, “what if the brain makes that happen and Daddy doesn’t want to have sex?”


And that, my friends, is why you should always put down your beverage before explaining the five-legged elephant.

11 thoughts on “Put Down the Beverage Before Explaining the Five-Legged Elephant

  1. Ah, yeah, good grief about covers it! I think your hubby should have had to stay in the room while you explained it – that’s just too much fun and awkwardness for him to have missed in person…


  2. Too funny! I wonder at what age it’s appropriate to tell the girls the anatomical location of the male brain? Once A~ learns that, she’s certain to understand the humor in daddy not wanting to have sex :).


  3. OK, I really need to … renew my acquaintance with my husband. I immediately thought the 5th leg would be the elephant’s trunk, of course.


  4. Oh my, that is so good. We’ve experience the 5 legged elephant, thankfully the girls were too young to even notice. I know my day is coming.


  5. Carissa

    Wow between you and the Zoe poop story I have been laughing for almost half an hour – it feels so great to laugh!


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