Beth Vrabel lives in West Manchester Township with her daughter, Emma, 6, and son, Benny, 3.

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Some Questions Can’t Be Neutered


Smart Mama

Because I’m a stay-at-home parent, when I leave the house, the children come with me. And that includes going to appointments, such as the one with the York County S.P.C.A. this morning.

Poor puppy Jasper is getting a little snip-snip that will hopefully make displaying inappropriate affection for Emma’s stuffed pony but a distant memory of dogs gone wild.

And because I (foolishly) taught my children to be inquisitive beings, there are a lot of questions surrounding this event.

“Why is Jasper going to the dog doctor?” 6-year-old Emma asked.

“Well, we love Jasper very much, but he can be a lot of work.”

“You can say that again,” she says with a sigh. (And I have to wonder, just what is the hard labor on her part? Is it sprinkling choking hazards such as Barbies and Happy Meal toys throughout the house? Is it teaching him to jump on the furniture? Laughing when he lifts his leg to pee? Sneaking him treats? But I let that one slide.)

“So he’s going to have an operation that helps make sure he doesn’t have puppies someday, because we wouldn’t be able to take care of all those puppies.”

“But Jasper is a boy. Boys can’t have babies,” she argues.

“Right. But it takes a woman and man to make a baby. After they’re grown up and married. For puppies, it takes a boy dog and girl dog.”

Silence for a second, while I not-so-subtly turn up the radio. In the past, I’ve been guilty of summing up the “how are babies made” question with “mommies and daddies give each other a very special hug,” but I don’t think she’s going to buy that explanation much longer.

It’s almost a relief to hear the next question. “Where is his surgery?”

I dodge. “At the S.P.C.A.”

“No, where on his body?”

“Oh,” I answer. “On his privates.”

“His penis?”

“I have penis,” 2-year-old Benny announces. This is one of his favorite topics.

“Close by there,” I answer.

Silence. “How does the doctor do it?”

“With a special knife called a scalpel. They remove the part of him that would help him make puppies.”

A quick glance in the rearview mirror shows that I have, in fact, petrified both children.

“I don’t think that’s fair for you to decide to do to Jasper,” Emma says in a whisper.

“It won’t hurt him (lie), but we’ll have to be careful with him while he gets better. That means no picking him up.”

“Penis!” Benny chirps.

“Except if there is an emergency. Like a fire,” Emma clarifies.

“Right, but that won’t happen.”

“But it could. And then it’d be OK.”

“Yes, then it would be OK.”

This reminds me of when I hastily said “yes” to Emma when she asked that if she should ever wake up and find no one in the house and she calls and calls for me and no one answers, she should call 911. I am now afraid to go to the mailbox or take Jasper out without first reminding her that I’m right outside and she should not call 911. But finally we’re at the S.P.C.A., so I let this one slide, too.

“How do babies come out of mommies’ bellies?” Emma asks.

Oh, man. Why didn’t I just say Jasper had a boo-boo and the doctor was going to fix it?

“With a doctor’s help,” I answer.

“Is it through a tube? Because I heard someone say once that they come out through a tube.”

“It’s not a tube.”

“Then how?”

All the words popping in my head will inevitably lead to more questions or other unintended consequences. “I need to think about my answer to that question. It’s complicated, and I want to answer it the right way for you. I’ll need to get back to you once I’ve given it some thought.”



And I’m so going to hire a babysitter before the next exam.


Beth Vrabel lives in West Manchester Township with her children, Emma, 6, and Benny, 2. For more Smart Mama columns, click here.

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