"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
September 10, 2013
The Birds and the Bees and the Crayfish
by Melissa Howell

Let’s face it: sometimes we make decisions as parents that launch a series of events we never could have seen coming, and had we anticipated the sequence of events we likely would have chosen a different course.

Maybe we buy a daughter some nail polish she wasn’t quite old enough to appreciate, and the only thing wearing the new shade of cotton candy sparkle is the carpeting, or perhaps we register a child for an extra-curricular activity and then spend the next few months cursing the time and energy spent on something he or she despises.

Or maybe we tell our son at the end of fourth grade that yes, he can go ahead and enter his name into a drawing to “win” one of 12 crayfish the class had been studying that subsequently need to find new homes.

“Yes…” just one simple word of acquiescence.

I said “yes,” figuring we’d deal with it if he actually won one of the little creepy crawlies.

His voice at the end of the drawing day gave it all away immediately. We were the proud new owners of a small freshwater crustacean. You’d have thought we won the Powerball. But the odds were probably more in our favor in the crayfish drawing, and now I’m wondering how many parents really agreed to the possibility of taking one home. Heck, I wonder if there really even was a drawing.

We hauled out the old fish tank that once housed Blueberry the Betta fish until he went to that great fish tank in the sky, our son made a cozy little crustacean home, and “Lord Crayfish” settled in.

I figured it would live for a few days, maybe a few weeks.

Imagine my surprise when my son announced after a few months that Lord Crayfish was indeed Lordess Crayfish, made apparent by a massive clutch of eggs nestled under its tail.

My husband and I were surprised, considering it had been close to three months since she’d even possibly been on a date.

Our son was so ecstatic; he started making plans for all the baby crayfish he envisioned in the coming weeks. As we all rode together in the van he started promising his siblings they could each have two of the babies.

“Well, Connor,” my husband said, “there might not be any babies.”

“Why?” Connor asked.

“Well, because, the eggs need to have a ‘special boy crayfish liquid’ to help them grow,” he responded. I gave my husband a look that clearly said, ‘Are you really going to open this can of worms now, with all four children present, on the way to church?’


Upon further research, my husband and I discovered that female crayfish can store “special boy crayfish liquid” for up to six months. Meaning perhaps there would be babies after all.

Many questions ensued, including inquiring young minds asking where they could get some of that “special boy crayfish liquid.”

And that is how we made the foray into talking to our 10-year-old about the birds and the bees… and the crayfish. It was time, and it was a natural segue. And it is important that when our kids first hear about sex, they hear it from us, their parents. It is vital to establish an open line of communication and trust, and we can’t be sure of when the perfect opportunity will present itself.

I come from a generation where it seems a lot of my friends didn’t get “the talk.” Maybe the maturation talk, but not necessarily the sex talk. It can be a really daunting subject, but in this day and age our kids are going to hear of it somewhere — it best be us. If we don’t educate them properly, there are plenty of sources ready and waiting to step in and do it for us.

In the Church Handbook 2, it states, “parents have primary responsibility for the sex education of their children. Teaching this subject honestly and plainly in the home will help young people avoid serious moral transgressions.”

As my husband and I are not remotely experts in this area, we have started down the road; in addition, we have friends who have shared advice and thoughts about this. A few things to consider:

  1. Share age-appropriate information. We want to give children enough to help them understand, but not more than they are ready for.

  2. Don’t joke or make light of the subject. Expect children to be embarrassed, and that’s OK. But treat the subject with maturity and respect, setting an example for them to replicate.

  3. Use correct terminology, including terms they are going to be exposed to in the coming years.

  4. Make use of existing resources to help the discussion. lds.org has resources that can help, and check out bookstores or your local library as well.

  5. Leave an open line of communication; have the initial conversation in a loving and understanding manner, ensuring that your child is comfortable coming to you with additional questions or concerns.

As luck would have it, a few weeks after the discovery of the eggs, one evening my children came shrieking downstairs, so full of excitement I couldn’t at first make out what they were saying. And then it became clear.

“The crayfish eggs hatched! They had the special boy crayfish liquid!”

“Who can believe I got 100 new pets in one day?” Connor exclaimed.

“Not me,” thought I.

I am currently contemplating a crayfish genocide.

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About Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell was born and raised in the woods of northern Minnesota. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

As a single 20-something, she moved to Colorado seeking an adventure. She found one, first in landing her dream job and then in landing her dream husband; four children followed.

Upon becoming a mother, she left her career in healthcare communications to be a stay-at-home mom, and now every day is an adventure with her husband Brian and children Connor (9), Isabel (6), Lucas (5) and Mason (2).

In addition, she is a freelance writer and communications consultant for a variety of organizations.

Melissa serves as Assistant director of media relations for stake public affairs and Webelos den leader

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