Sunday, March 16, 2008

Have I been asleep at the wheel, or what?

With Miss Olivia's 9th birthday fast approaching, I’ve been feeling the need to initiate a conversation about the impending bodily changes she’ll be facing over the next few years. Yup, as much as I still see her as my baby, it’s time for "the talk."

I know some may say that I’m late to the game, but Loverman and I are constantly struggling to strike the right balance between what’s age-appropriate in today’s over-exposed, TMI society and not living with our heads in the sand, trying not to acknowledge that our babies are growing up. Let’s just say it’s not easy.

So yesterday, while Olivia and I were alone in the car on our way to her art class, I decided it was the right time to start the conversation.

Mango Mama (MM): Olivia, are you excited about turning 9 next month?
Olivia: I sure am and next year I’m hitting the double digits.
MM: That’s right baby, you are growing up and before you know it, you’ll be 10
Olivia: Yup, I can’t wait. Can I get a cell phone when I’m 10?
MM: I don’t know about that, but that’s not want I want to talk about right now. I want to talk about all the changes your body will be going through now that you’re getting older.
Olivia: Oh, you want to talk about PUBERTY?
MM: (gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles) Yes, I’m talking about puberty. What do you know about it?
Olivia: Well, Kai (Olivia’s best friend and also 8 yrs. old) and I have been reading a book in our class about puberty, so we know all about padded and under wire bras.
MM: What book? Do you remember the title? Does it talk about the changes in your body, or just what you wear and the necessary accessories you’ll need when your body changes?
Olivia: It talks about everything, but you wear an under wire bra don’t you mommy? Oh, and it talks about having to take really special care of your body once it starts changing.
MM: Olivia, what’s the title of this book again? Maybe we can buy a copy so we’ll have it at home.
Olivia: I don’t remember the title, but I can bring it home for a few days when we go back to school after our spring break.
MM: That’s a good idea, because I’d like to see if the book talks about your period and getting your menstrual cycle.
Olivia: Yeah mommy, it talks about that and whether you should use tampons or pads. I don’t think I want to use tampons. I mean sticking something in your vagina with a string hanging out sounds weird. What do you use mommy?
MM: Well, I use tampons, but you can use whatever works for you. When I first got my period I used sanitary napkins too. Did this book explain why you get your period and what getting your period means?
Olivia: It did show pictures of an egg and since there’s no baby in your belly your body gets rid of the extra blood. Is that right?
MM: Basically, it’s pretty much on point, but there’s a bit more to it. Did the book tell you that once you start getting your period your body can make and carry a baby?
Olivia: (stuttering a bit) No, I don’t think we got to that part yet.
MM: (I’m now parking the car in front of the building which houses her art class) Well, this is what it means, and we can talk more about this later today after your class. And Olivia, I’m happy you and Kai have a book at school, but remember that either of you can come to either me or Miss Leslie (Kai’s mom) to talk or ask questions at any time. In fact, let’s make a point to have these talks every time we take this ride to your art class, especially because it’s usually just you and me and Yannick’s not here to distract us.
Olivia: That sounds good and mommy?
MM: Yes, baby?
Olivia: (in an ever-so-slightly condescending, maybe mocking tone) Thanks for FINALLY having this conversation with me. I’m happy to know we’ll be talking about this stuff.

I cannot tell you how relieved I am that we at least started this discussion, but I’m also blown away that she and Kai have been reading this book on the regular, trying to sort things out for themselves and she hadn’t yet mentioned one word to me. To be honest, her tone towards the end of this discussion, sort of confirmed that I’m a bit late in getting to the game. Maybe I’ve been asleep at the wheel in this regard, trying to see her as a little girl for as long as possible.

This episode reinforces the fact that if our kids aren’t getting the information from us, they most certainly will get it from somewhere else, and the source may be questionable. We’ve got to be proactive with our children and let them know it’s cool to come to us with any questions or concerns. Again, there is no bad or stupid question. We’re the stupid ones if we think we are the depositors of all the “important” information they need to be both informed and prepared as they face the unending physical and emotional changes they’ll go through as they grow up.


Nerd Girl said...

You are so on point with this entry. I try to make a practice of answering all of Lovegirl's questions in an age appropriate manner - she's only 3 after all - in the hopes that these conversations will be as comfortable for both of us as possible as she continues to grow and change.

My Mom had "the talk" with me when I was 16. Ummm, Mother, I'm a high school senior, what about this do you think I'm not aware of?!? I always vowed that I'd bite the bullet and be proactive when it came to my own child(ren).

Los Angelista said...

Oh my goodness, I didn't know all that stuff till I was like 12!!! Whew, that's only 2 years away for my eldest. He comes and out of the blue asks me stuff like, "When is hair going to start growing on my penis?" LOL! But I do need to get a hold of a book like your daughter is reading! I need to read it to get some ideas on how to talk to my boys about that.

Anonymous said...

OMG!!! I, the gynecologist, am also BLOWN AWAY that you were seemingly behind the eight ball on this one. I mean, she's EIGHT!!! I don't think my mother had "the talk" with me until I was 10. This really speaks to the degree to which our kid's exposure to life/the media/etc.. is so much different than ours was. Anyway, it sounds like you did a great job of staying even keel, white knuckles and all...