Writing about that scene from ‘This is Us’ reconnected me with the real-life mailman who made a difference

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Receiving a letter from our former mailman made by day.

When I wrote a blog post about how the scene with the mailman on “This is Us” touched me, it was personal. I wrote about how my late mom and her mailman, Glenn, became friends, and how he mourned her death along with us. That scene brought it all back.

My dad, who had Glenn’s address because they still exchange Christmas cards 14 years later, wanted to share the post with him. While it – amazingly to me – was being shared thousands of times on Facebook by fans of the show – my dad went the more traditional route.  He printed out a copy of the post I wrote, put it in envelope, and mailed it to Glenn. Which seemed appropriate, of course.

My dad got a letter back a few days later. You know, one of those-handwritten things on lined paper that mailman deliver. My dad sent me the letter, which brought more tears, as Glenn recalled the conversations he and my mom had over the years.

“I believe I learned more about compassion, integrity, politics, and strength of character through adversity than I gave,” his letter said.

Glenn said he watches This is Us and had seen the episode with the mailman. It turns out someone he knows in North Carolina had seen the story I wrote on the Huffington Post, realized it was about him, and forwarded it to him the day before he received my dad’s letter. Of all the people who read that post, knowing that Glenn had seen it meant the most to me. It had never occurred to me that he would.

He remembered with fondness the people he met during his career as a mail carrier.

“I will always cherish my years on my route, with untold memories of the wonderful people who lived there,” he wrote.

Many of those people are my lifelong friends who grew up in the same neighborhood. Several of them commented on Facebook that they remembered Glenn too and recalled kind interactions he’d had with their families.

“I too, had Glenn as my mailman, and FRIEND for years,” one of my good friends commented. “It’s amazing what a difference a seemingly insignificant or random person can make in our lives! He became like family to our family, during a difficult time of life as well.”

Another remembered him making up the difference when a letter arrived with postage due.

I guess it’s not as uncommon for mail carriers to get to know their customers as I thought. Bill Chott, the actor who played the mailman, also quickly learned how much the tender scene meant to people. He was flooded with Facebook and blog messages from people who loved his portrayal, some of whom shared stories about their mail carriers. The Postal Service even interviewed him for a story.

But still, Glenn is special. Though injuries he sustained during years of delivering mail in the rough Alaska weather forced his retirement and move to a warmer climate, he still connected with people. He helped run a food bank, raising as many as 1,000 pounds of organic vegetables per year to feed the hungry. He volunteered at a prison and with a hospice. None of this surprises me.

It’s a gift to have the opportunity to let people know they mattered to you. Now that I had his last name, I wanted to reach out to Glenn personally, tell him why I wrote the post and how he had touched not only our lives, but many others. I thought about looking him up on Facebook or trying to find an email address.

But first, I mailed him a letter.

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My son’s longing for a new pet brought back memories of my own hamster. It’s not a happy story. 

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Coookie, the newest member of the family.

So my son wanted a hamster. I mean like really wanted one.

Over the course of several weeks, my 10-year-old washed the windows and cleaned the litter box to prove his responsibility. He even sold some of his Legos at a kids’ consignment story in our neighborhood to raise money to buy it himself. He wrote me a persuasive letter complete with his own hashtag, which my friends repeated on Facebook when I posted his amusing plea.

This formerly avowed  no-pets mom remembered how much I wanted a hamster when I was his age. But I wasn’t sure I was ready to add one to our existing menagerie of a dog, cat, and fish. Worn down by my son’s unrelenting requests (and those dimples and eyes that work to his benefit) we went to the pet store just to look. We browsed the habitats and toys and asked questions about the different breeds.

“We can’t guarantee their age, but we can guarantee they’re male,” the clerk told us.

You sure about that?

See, I can’t think of hamsters without remembering the dearly departed pet of my childhood. I was a little older than him when I too realized my life would not be complete without a hamster. I begged my parents, worked to earn the privilege, and waited impatiently for my visit to the pet store. My mom insisted on a male, and I fell in love with the cutest caramel-colored critter. I named him Dr. Pepper.

A few days later, I noticed these tiny hairless little nubs all around him and promptly freaked out. My parents confirmed that indeed Dr. Pepper – or Mrs. Pepper as perhaps he/she should have been known – had given birth to a litter of pups.

I was more thrilled than my parents with this happy surprise. I instantly started naming them – Pepsi, Coca Cola, Tab,7-UP —  (you get the idea) and promising them to my friends and cousins, who immediately started lobbying their parents for hamsters too.

We didn’t know a thing about raising a litter of hamster babies (no Google back then), but I thought the whole thing was pretty exciting and we did the best we could. A few days later I went into my room to check on the new little family and discovered there were no longer any live offspring in the cage. Turns out, hamster mamas sometimes eat their young, usually because she doesn’t have an adequate food supply to nourish them or she senses something is wrong.

Since we had no idea Dr. Pepper was expecting (the whole “it’s a male” thing, you know) we didn’t provide the kind of prenatal care that she needed, and nursing all those pups was too much for her. We laugh about it now, but it was traumatic at the time. And I was dramatic. “What kind of mother would do that?” I wailed.

It wasn’t the last weird pet experience I had.

When I was in college, I had a cute little goldfish my dad bought me during a visit. Little Nermal swam happily in his glass bowl in my dorm room for most of the school year. When it was time to fly home for the summer, I asked one of my aforementioned cousins who lived near campus to keep him over the break. When I picked him up in the fall, I thought he looked a little different, but didn’t give it much thought, until he turned around that it became obvious that this fish only had ONE EYE.

I wouldn’t have blamed her had she just told me he didn’t survive the summer, but in her haste to replace my late fish, she somehow overlooked this little detail. We still laugh about it, and it made for a good story.

Just like the tale of Dr. Pepper’s unplanned pregnancy. I don’t remember how Dr./Mrs. Pepper  went to hamster Heaven – I must have blocked that out after the miracle birth and subsequent infanticide – but he/she was not with us for long. But I do remember how happy I was to have that cuddly companion while I did.

So of course I relented and took my son back to the pet store to choose his hamster. After much consideration, he settled on a friendly dark brown and white one he named Cookie. It has been fun watching him play with his “very own pet.” We lie on his bed and laugh as Cookie’s tiny feet scramble on his wheel, and my son cuddles him in his arms and talks to him.

“He’s kind of chubby,” he said. last night. “You don’t think there are any babies in there, do you?”

Of course not, I said. He’s just fluffy.

Right?

‘This is Us’ mailman stars in heartwarming anti-bullying film about miracle dog

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Bill Chott plays an unlikeable character who finds redemption in Marshall’s Miracle.

Fans of the Bill Chott’s mailman on This is Us hope he’ll back on the show in the future. But those who can’t wait for that to happen can check him out in the heartwarming but lesser-known movie Marshall’s Miracle.

After getting to know Bill a little through a previous post and subsequent interview, I wanted to see more of him, so my 10-year-old son and I rented this sweet family movie. (It’s available on Demand and on Amazon.)

Inspired by a true story, Marshall’s Miracle shares the adventure of Finn, a 13-year-old boy who has become the target of bullies at his new school. Finn feels hopeless and lonely until he discovers the injured Marshall being held by a dog-hoarder in deplorable conditions and makes it his mission to rescue him. In the end, Marshall leads everyone to a place of change, forgiveness, and friendship,

The uplifting movie teaches important lessons about bullying and animal cruelty, and it’s great for families and kids. (The worst word in it is “darn.”) Some might find it a little schmaltzy, but I’m a sucker for sentimental and sappy, so I loved it.

Chott captured the hearts of America with his brief but deeply affecting scene on This is Us as the mailman who holds back tears when he learns his friend William had died. Since the episode aired a week ago, he’s been overwhelmed by the response and deep affection millions had for his character. Fans have started a campaign to bring him back to the show.

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“You going to be OK?” Chott’s Gary asks in this touching scene from Marshall’s Miracle.

In the movie, Chott plays a totally different character, gruff and grumpy, stuck in bad situation as his wife keeps bringing home dogs they can’t properly care for. But he shows the same tenderness This is Us fans fell in love with when he worries about the injured dog, Marshall, then defies his wife and lets Marshall go.

“I enjoyed the chance to get a bit gruff and play Gary,” Chott said. “I’m usually the nice guy, and he is a mostly unlikeable guy with a moment of redemption. It’s also my only role with a beard. I grew it to look a bit less like a baby-face and a bit more rough around the edges. I kept the beard for a year, so Gary stuck around with me a while after the role ended.”

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Lauren Holly and Bill Chott face reality in Marshall’s Miracle.

Lauren Holly, perhaps best known for Picket Fences, NCIS and Dumb and Dumber, plays his wife.

“That was a really unique opportunity,” Chott said. “She doesn’t often play that kind of character either, so we both had a chance to stretch a bit.”

The disturbing topic of animal abuse is well-handled, and how Finn and others respond to Marshall reinforce the movie’s theme: Don’t give in to bullying. Be strong, be courageous, and be kind.

That message resonated with Chott.

“I grew up being bullied from time to time, since my family moved a lot,” he said. ” I was always the new kid. I like the way Finn’s story echoes Marshall’s story. They’re both victims of bullying and they’re both able to overcome that adversity.”

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The real Marshall

Chott filmed near his hometown of St. Louis, and he joined the real-life Marshall and his owner, Cynthia Willenbrock, who wrote the book “Marshall the Miracle Dog,”  at a Special Olympics event. In real-life, the three-legged Marshall and Cynthia have visited more than 1,200 schools, nursing homes, and children’s hospitals to share his story of courage and the will to overcome. He also encourages people to see beyond a person’s disability to what they are capable of accomplishing.

“Marshall immediately inspires empathy because he wears the scars of his former abuse and neglect on the outside,” Willenbrock told me. “When Marshall so lovingly hops right up to every stranger, he has this way of busting open those internal wounds in all of us. Without words, Marshall lets us know we are all enough, exactly as we are.”

Willenbrock is pleased the book and movie helped spread the anti-bullying message, and she partnered with 4-H to make the Marshall Mentor Program available to schools. You can learn more about Marshall’s impact in this video.

“I’ve been fortunate to never see an animal who was abused,” Chott said. “I have a real soft spot for pets, especially dogs. My wife, Sam, and I lost our dog Wally shortly before we found out we were expecting our daughter Isabella. A puppy is in our future, I’m sure.”
Those who love dogs, love Bill and want to see a wholesome film with an important message, should definitely give it a try. It encourages perseverance and standing up for what you believe in.“Sometimes life seems pretty hard,” Finn says in a speech. “Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle happens.”

That’s a message we should all remember.

Watch for Bill’s next guest appearance March 28 on Trial and Error, and read more about him here:

Why the mailman on This is Us brought me to tears

Everyone’s favorite mailman Bill Chott tells us about the man behind the This is Us scene that broke America’s heart 

Everyone’s favorite mailman Bill Chott tells us about the man behind the ‘This is Us’ scene that broke America’s heart

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Bill Chott will appear next on NBC’s Trial and Error starring John Lithgow. Photo courtesy Bill Chott

 In this first interview since his breakout role, Bill Chott tells us more about his career – and the big secret he had to keep about This is Us. Find out what’s next for him.

After watching this week’s devastating episode of This is Us I wrote a blog post about how much I loved the scene with the mailman. It struck me personally, and I loved the actor’s tender portrayal.

Just a few minutes later, I was thrilled to get a message from the mailman himself, actor Bill Chott. I quickly realized I was far from the only one who was touched by his sensitive performance. Bill and I traded some messages, as our social media exploded with love for the scene and the nameless mailman.

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Those tears got to us all.

I wanted to know more about the man who apparently became an overnight sensation (and who I kind of want to be my new best friend.) He’s humble, funny, and kind. He acknowledges people might recognize his as ‘that guy” who has been on a lot of shows. I’m sorry to say I didn’t know his name before he became America’s favorite mailman, but I’ll be watching his career from now on. He’ll appear next on NBC’s new show Trial and Error – and he sent me a photo of him with John Lithgow as a sneak preview.

He was kind enough to talk with me about his wide-ranging career, from campy commercials to inventive improv – and how he feels about being “discovered” after a lifetime in the business.

“This is my first national attention for such a small role,” he said. “I’ve been very humbled by comments from fellow actors saying there are ‘no small roles, only small actors.’”

You’ve probably seen Bill a lot of things – from CSI and ER to Third Rock from the Sun. He appeared for five years on Disney’s “The Wizards of Waverly Place” starring a young Selena Gomez, and was in the 2016 film Marshall’s Miracle”opposite Lauren Holly.

You’ve undoubtedly heard his voice. He voiced cartoons on Saturday Night Live for years, including the announcer and a lot of supporting characters such as the Ambiguously Gay Duo, and X-President. He even voices the doorman and Hundley the dog on Curious George.

He also played Thomas in the Farrelly Brothers film The Ringer and  had a bit of a cult following from a sci-fi film.

“Nerds know me best from my appearance in Galaxy Quest,” Bill said.

It was his first big-budget movie, and he played a very small role, a nerd at a convention who gets the autograph of Alan Rickman’s character Sir Alexander Dane and proudly announces, “By Grabthar’s Hammer! By the Sons of Warvan! I shall avenge you!” The line became a catch phrase.

“To many audiences, the one line I had in that film has been more memorable than many larger roles I’ve played to this day,” he said. (Read the touching article he wrote when Rickman died.)

Until the mailman came along, that is.

The 47-year-old caught the acting bug in elementary school in St. Louis and hasn’t stopped since. He joined an improv troupe right out of college called The Network  at Catch A Rising Star Comedy Club in St. Louis. He moved to Chicago to study improv at The Second City, where Stephen Colbert was his first teacher. He toured the country with comedic powerhouses including  Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Rachel Dratch, and he still performs and teaches at his improv school, The Improv Trick.

I loved hearing about his work, his passion, and his dreams for the future. Do they include a reprisal of his mailman role? Read on to find out – and learn about the big secret he kept for months.

Did you know when you were filming the mailman scene it was special?

To be honest, when I film a scene, I’m just thinking about that moment, and not necessarily what’s going to happen with it after it’s in the can. My first hint that this could be something big was the Entertainment Weekly article that had my picture in it. That doesn’t always happen to a supporting character actor like myself. I also knew this was a very important scene because I watch the show, and when I read for the audition, the script did not include the fact that William had died. They changed the script on me, so I was sitting on some top-secret information for a long time.

Though your background is in comedy, your emotional scene was so compelling. What’s the difference for you between comedy and drama? Do you have a preference?

I love doing both equally. I think good comedy is drama and good drama needs to have some good comedy with it. That’s one thing I love about This is Us. There’s such dark humor there. The good thing about drama is that if it seems like it’s done well it doesn’t matter what your tastes are, it’s compelling. People can run hot and cold on comedy – everybody has different tastes. But when something’s sad you just know it. I’m trained in both comedic and dramatic acting as well as musical theater. I won a Broadway World Award for my portrayal of Fred Mertz in “I Love Lucy Live on Stage.”

Were you surprised by the attention you received for this guest role?

I’ve been amazed at the response! Social media blew up for me that night, and it keeps growing. Obviously there was a lot of attention from teen fans for Wizards and The Ringer, but that was foreseeable. I was on the poster and had a lot of screen time in The Ringer. I got a lot of attention for my line in Galaxy Quest, and I did an Entertainment Tonight interview for a smaller role on CSI, but nothing like this. I hope it will lead to more dramatic opportunities.

Your growing fan base has lobbied for you to return to This is Us.  Will we see the mailman again?

If people want to find out, I suggest they subscribe to my blog at www.billchott.wordpress.com and keep those emails and social media posts and letters to NBC coming! The more they get, the more potential there is for me to appear again if it makes sense for the show’s plot lines. Even if I do get it, I’ll probably have to keep it secret like last time.

What’s your dream role?

Ask Ron Howard! I’m looking forward to a late night call from him. (This happened to Kevin after the opening night of his play in the same episode of This is Us.) Seriously? This role and the way it was received could open up a lot more dramatic roles for me. And I’d be just as happy doing more comedic roles. I’m also having the time of my life teaching improvisation. My dream role would be a dramatic show like Breaking Bad, or my own variety show. Or a long-running stage production.

Tell me a little more about Bill Chott.

I’m also a magician. I’m performing this month at the World Famous Magic Castle in an improvised musical magic show with my magic partner Dave Cox called The Charlatans. And I do a two-man long form improv show with my improv partner Jay Sukow called Zer0 H0ur directed by Jeff Michalski. I teach monthly improv classes in LA for beginners and experts, but I love teaching beginners the most. I just finished a three-week workshop and a weekend of shows at Central Methodist University, where I went to school and met my wife, Samantha Chott. She also taught and performed with me there last week. We have a daughter named Isabella who has already appeared in an improv show. When I shot This Is Us she was on my mind, as well as my father, who passed away recently.

I know this sweet and versatile actor will continue to charm audiences. Learn more about Bill and his wide-ranging work at www.billchott.wordpress.com or follow him on Facebook (where you can see his “Live Jive” videos) and on Twitter @billchott.

Why the mailman on ‘This is Us’ brought me to tears

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I’m sure a lot of people cried through the last few episodes of “This is Us.” (Don’t read any further if you’re not caught up.)

Like millions of us, I’m obsessed with this show, although it destroys me week after week. I was still recovering from the beautifully painful goodbye between William and Randall two weeks ago, and then last night was a whole new torture. Watching the family grieve evoked such familiar emotions and memories and brought fresh pain from long-ago losses right to the surface.

But the part that hit me the hardest wasn’t Kate breaking down, or watching Randall and his mom talk about how much time he lost with William, or even seeing the cracks in Jack and Rebecca’s marriage knowing more tragedy is ahead.

It was the mailman.

In a brief but poignant scene, a mailman – played with such tenderness by  Bill Chott – stopped in to deliver a package and asked Randall how William was doing because he hadn’t seen him and was worried. He teared up when he heard the news that William he had died. Randall didn’t realize the two had gotten to know each other, but learned they had met during William’s morning walks.

“People don’t stop just to talk anymore, you know,” the mailman said. “We became friends. He always asked about my daughter.”

I sobbed, alone on my couch, because my mom had a mailman like that. She was often home alone in the afternoons, sitting in her wheelchair watching life through the windows that lined the living room.

On one of my visits home, my mom started telling me about her friend, Glen, who had confided some secrets to her. Who’s that? I asked.

“You know Glenn,” she said. “Our mailman. We’re friends.”

He had been delivering mail in our Anchorage neighborhood for years. Everyone knew him. He’d wave and smile when he walked up to the drop letters in the box next to the front door. Turns out one day, he popped in to say hi to my mom, and they struck up a friendship. From then on, he’d just let himself into the house and deliver the mail directly to her. He must have been in a hurry to finish his route, but you’d never have known it. He stopped just to talk to her. They became friends.

Whenever I came to town, he knew everything that was going on with me, and what I’d been working on. He always asked about her daughters and son. He shared details of his life with her too. It made her happy when a card from me arrived, Glenn told me. He recognized my handwriting.

When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, Glenn’s visits lasted longer. He noticed when she wasn’t home, worried when he hadn’t seen her.

She died on a Sunday. I saw Glenn coming up to the house on Monday and went outside to tell him the news. But he already knew. He said he had been to the hospital the day before but arrived just after she’d left us. He hugged me tightly, and told me through tears he wished he could have seen her once more.

I don’t know my postal carrier’s name. He or she stretches an arm from the mail truck to slide bills and ads and the occasional letter into the slot on our locked box on the street. My dad still gets Christmas cards from Glenn, sent from his new home in a warmer southern climate, where he moved with his husband.

But I have no idea who delivers them.

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Our mishmash Christmas tree is full of memories

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What mom could resist?

As we were decorating our tree this year, my son held up two of his handmade ornaments — jaggedly cut pieces of construction paper with black marker scrawled on them.

“Do we have to put these up this year?” he groaned.

The date on the back shows he was nearly 3 when he wrote “Mom” and “Dad” and drew stick figures on them. Of course those are going on the tree, I told him .And so are the wooden ornaments you colored over the years with babysitter, even the one with the crooked googly eyes you made when you were 4.

And the Popsicle stick Gods eye your sister made, and all the other ornaments we’ve accumulated over the years.
I have friends whose Christmas trees are works of art, with impeccable arrangements of elegant ornaments, worthy of the oohs and aahs. One couple we know buys chic new ornaments every year to create a different theme for every season. Some of my friends don’t allow anyone else to help decorate tree, lest they interfere with perfection.

Not me. I’m all about the color, all about the memories.

Christmas deepens my already sentimental, nostalgic side. I love the annual tradition of choosing the tree, hauling out the boxes, then carefully unwrapping our ornaments and decorations. I remember where just about every one of them came from. There are “baby’s first Christmas” ornaments, faux wine bottles given to me by friends, and decorations we have picked out as a family on vacations. There are trinkets I bought the first year I lived alone and put up a tree by myself in my tiny apartment. They remind me how far I’ve come.

I have lots ornaments with my daughter’s name on them. She has a daughter of our own now. I suppose I should pass them on to her, but I love having her name hang in our house on soccer balls and sleds and candy canes. And besides the Shrinky Dinks my sister, brother, and I made still hang on my dad’s tree, along with the other prized possessions he and my late mom collected over the years. I like seeing them there when we visit at Christmas.

Our decorating doesn’t end with the tree. On the mantle over the fireplace, we arrange the beautiful Nativity scene three of my oldest friends gave us for a wedding gift, and in the hall, we hang the Christmas prints my mom gave me years ago.

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The peanut savior

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The rocker angel

And on the piano, we place the tiny manger that holds baby Jesus in the form of a peanut with a smiley face and the pine cone angel with haphazardly placed glitter and a shock of curly blonde hair that gives her a decidedly less than angelic look. My son brought them home from his church preschool. I can’t find the tape of the gift tags, but I’ve manged to hold onto that peanut for the last six years. I thought it was ridiculous when I first saw it, but I adore it.

And our centerpiece, our tree, will be covered in hundreds of colored lights and that glorious array of old and new. The are crystal stars next to Seahawks Santa hats, and a sock monkey ornament near a glittery glass heart. There will be no rhyme nor reason to the placement, except for the antique angel always that goes on top.

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Grandma’s angel watches over us all.

My beloved grandma passed her down to me years ago, and I cherish it. She has a painted porcelain face and dainty ceramic hands and feet peeking out from her delicate lace dress, her satin wings outstretched behind her. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and I have no idea why I was the lucky grandchild to inherit this beauty.

My kids have asked over the years to instead put up a star, or something with more bling or shine, but I hold fast to this tradition. She’s the last thing we take out, and the last thing we pack away, encased in bubble wrap and cardboard to preserve her for next year.

Our tree is not color-coordinated nor stylish. It’s far from flawless. It’s not picture-perfect. It’s just perfect.

I hope however you celebrate the holidays, they are full of memories you will cherish.

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Why I won’t have “The Talk” with my preteen son

During a family Scattergories game a few years ago, the category was parts of the body. The letter was F. You know the drill – you have to come up with an answer no one else writes down in order to get a point. Finger, foot, femur. They were all repeated.

My son – who was about 6 and insisted on playing by himself, without a partner, for the first time – proudly announced that he had a word no one else had thought of.

“Fagina!” he exclaimed, sending his parents, sister, cousins, and grandpa into gales of laughter.

“It’s a word!” he said.

“Yes, but it starts with a V,” I told him, stifling my giggles at his innocent spelling mistake. “The word is vagina.”

Which sort of embarrassed some people at the table, but I figure you have to take those moments when they come. We’ve been doing that for the past few years, answering questions, sometimes honestly, sometimes with those kid-friendly explanations that don’t tell the whole story.

My son kind of knew what sex was. Sort of knew where babies come from. I didn’t really think he needed to know, you know, everything. But now that he’s approaching 10, topics related to sex and puberty are coming up more often, so I thought we’d better prepare for “The Talk.” It seems a little trickier with my son than my older daughter, so I signed up for a “Moms of Boys” workshop with some friends. And I bought him a book, of course. I figured my husband and/or I would read it with him, then we’d sit down and answer all his questions and that would be it.

It didn’t quite go as planned.

He wanted to read the book. Alone. And then he didn’t say a word about it. I asked later what he thought and tried to start a conversation.

“That book is NOT just about puberty,” he said. “And I do NOT want to talk about it.”

I know a lot of parents struggle with how to have these uncomfortable conversations. My friends and I have talked – and laughed – about our boys’ questions and the approaches to them. Some of them laid it all out there for their sons early on. Others insist their sons still don’t know the difference between boys and girls. (Love you, ladies, but give me a break.)

So when I was asked to write an article about how to talk to your kids about sex, I jumped at the chance. Here are some of the main points all the experts told me:

  • Talk about it early and often. One sex ed expert recommends children know the usual way babies are made by the time they’re 5. You decide if your kids are ready for that.
  • Use anatomical terms for body parts. Penis and vagina are just words, like eyelash and belly button.
  • Reinforce respect: for your own body, and for others. Teach them that our bodies are our own, and no one should touch them without permission.
  • You, parents and guardians, are the primary sex health educator of your children. Not the school health teacher, not a book or a class you attend. There are lots of great resources out there you can rely on, but it’s our responsibility to make sure our kids are educated.
  • Don’t take this so seriously. Use humor if it helps (always does for me). I mean fagina, that’s funny. And we tell that story a lot.
  • Don’t assume you kids are clueless. You don’t know what they know unless you tell them. (And trust me, they know more than you think.—some of it completely wrong.)
  • Don’t wait for questions to arise, but answer them – succinctly — when they do. You don’t have to spend hours on the question “What is French kissing?” Just answer the question, and move on.
  • Number one? Don’t save it all up for a huge sit-down. Have lots of small conversations when life presents opportunities for them. Keep that conversation going over time.

All this expert advice in hand, I casually brought up the book again. I told my son we didn’t need to have some big talk, but I needed to make sure he understood what he had read and see if he had any questions. I told him he could always ask us anything – even if it seems embarrassing. He assured me he’d let me know. (I also told my husband he’ll talk about wet dreams and spontaneous erections, because I seriously don’t get how those things have a mind of their own.)

So when my son found an in-case-of-emergency tampon in middle console of the car and asked what exactly women use those things for anyway, I didn’t put him off. I gave him a straightforward answer about periods and how all girls and women have them.

“Ewwww,” he said, his hands flying up to cover his reddened face. “I was afraid it had something to do with blood.”

“Well, now you know for sure,” I said matter-of-factly. “Just let me know if you have any other questions.”

And we moved on.

There are so many chances to introduce such brief but educational conversations, like when you hear suggestive lyrics on pop radio, or see grownups kissing on TV, or someone becomes pregnant or gives birth. Or when you’re playing a game.

Like our latest round of Scattergories the other day.  (Yeah, we like that game.) The category was toiletries or cosmetics. The letter was C.

Again, my son came up with an answer unlike anyone else’s: Condom. My husband I looked at each other with raised eyebrows, then asked if he knew what those were for.

“Yep, it’s in that book you gave me,” he said with a shrug.

Perfect opportunity for another quick conversation.

We don’t need The Talk. Because we’re talking all the time.

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