Be honest….who has put this off for as long as possible?
That’s right. I am talking about the “talk”. You know, the one about the birds and the bees. The one that every parent faces at one point. The one where we have to explain what makes girls and boys so special.
I know I put it off for as long as possible. My reason behind delaying this discussion is simple. In order to have this talk with my daughter I would, then, be forced to explain to her that the world is not innocent and that there are bad people in this world. I would have to taint the good world she thinks she is living in. When I did decide to finally do it–well, lets just say it was not my finest moment.
***I feel a duty to warn you of some TMI moments in this blog post***
This was one for the books! I woke up to my 11-year-old saying “Mom, I wiped three times and there was blood every time and we have no pads.” If that statement doesn’t wake you up and make you want to crawl under the covers at the exact same time nothing will. We had been through this before but it was light spotting and we didn’t require pads. I remember the day I realized that I was entering into this terrifying transition as a parent…
I took her in for her yearly sports physical—as I do every year—and the doctor asked (with no expression, no excitement, just asked it as if it was NO BIG DEAL) “has she started her period?” I left my body for a few seconds and when I returned, this calm panic came over me. I didn’t want to look like that crazy mother who had never thought about this possibility before but I definitely needed a moment to process what he was asking. I looked over at my 9-year-old and flashbacks of her walking and talking and pigtails came rushing in. As the exam room came back into focus I was able to ask one question “is that really something we need to think about at this age?” His answer was clear. Y-E-S. I refused to acknowledge this. It was at this point that I realized that I was behind. I had not had the “talk” with her yet. I mean, she still believes in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. The world was still innocent and, as far she knew, women swallowed watermelon looking seeds in order to have babies. Up to this point I was proud that I had preserved this innocence in her. I did not see any point in rushing her into being older than she is. Our society pushes our youth into acting older than they are. The push for the “perfect” body image and being “sexy” at a very early age has become an epidemic. Even my 6-year-old talks about being “sexy” and it is disturbing. I correct her for it and get the response “my friends dress sexy.” I cannot compete with her peers and there is no point in trying. I can only influence through example and explain to both of my girls what it means to have self-respect.
So, it still took me until recently to take the plunge and talk to my oldest about the ole birds and bees. I was sure I did not want her to hear these things from the internet or from her friends. I certainly never expected the school to do my job for me but I was shocked when I learned that she had never been exposed to any hygiene class or health class. She only knew what we had discussed about puberty. I decided to take the plunge while we were driving down the road. I rarely get a moment alone with her and she was sitting in the front seat with me and I felt the topic just lingering in front of me. It was like a weight on me. She is going into 6th grade in the Fall and I remember what Middle School is like. Girls are mean, boys are curious, and the teachers give awkward lectures about what a sperm looks like. Little did I know that having this talk with her would trigger her period (I don’t honestly think that is what brought it on but it sure is a coincidence).
My talk was not smooth. I was nervous and I didn’t plan it out but I knew what needed to be discussed. I had thought about this moment for quite some time but words were lost right in that moment. I blurted out “Athena, do you know what sex is?” That inner-self that thinks she is the perfect mom went from patting me on the back to giving me that “are you serious?!” look really quickly! I had little voices in my head yelling “RECOVER! RECOVER! You can do this just pick your words better.” So I went on to give her a very choppy explanation about what sex is. I was trying to use all the right terminology but she was just looking at me from the passenger seat…terrified and maybe a sliver traumatized.
In my mind I didn’t think this was going to be a hard concept to explain because I do have a son and he really likes his boy parts. He prances around the house naked despite my plea for him to show some decency. She knows that boys and girls are not the same. My recovery went like this:
Me: “Have you ever heard of a penis?”
My inner-self: Jaw dropped
Little voices in my head: “MAYDAY, MAYDAY! Someone get her some help!!”
Athena: “I only heard of it from the shows you and Lee watch.”
Me, my inner-self, and the little voices in my head: *Simultaneous face palm.*
The only thing left to do at this point is to regroup and start from the very beginning. I gave myself a quick pep talk and continued. I won’t bore you with the exact dialogue but I felt good about my talk from that point on. I explained some very grown up things. I explained about love and mistakes. I explained that we learn from mistakes and clearly let her in on the difference between girls and boys as well as the reason for those differences. She asked a few questions and I answered them the best I could. The number one thing I told her was that she could talk to me about anything at ANY time. I explained why women have periods and all that. So we got home and we sat in the car talking for a few minutes. She was taking everything really well and I was shocked. I expected her to be totally traumatized and disappointed in me for not letting her in on this topic before. She just would ask short-ended questions and rush me through my answers. So finally….the end of the most awkward moment of my life was ending so I asked her if she had any questions for me. She said “yeah. I have a question. Can I go to the bathroom now?”
Fast forward a few weeks to the second day of her period. She just came to me and asked me “so now that I am bleeding into a pad…how long until I start my period?” Yes, I have failed her for the moment. But, she is my experimental child and I can only hope that I am learning and retaining the lessons I am learning from this experience because I have just a few years to pull my big girl britches up and do this all over again with my middle child (also a girl).