Sunday, April 3, 2011

That talk!

It's time, but Earbaby wants nothing to do with it. She needs to know the facts of life, birds and bees, whatever euphemism we use that adds up to the truth about sex. And she doesn't want to know anything about it.

I grew up before there was sex education in the schools. In the fifth or sixth grade, you may have gotten the puberty lesson, when the boys and girls were separated and you got to watch a cartoon movie. Most of us by that time had already been clued in by our mothers, and I still remember in sixth grade the one girl who had already gotten her period. This subject wasn't revisited in the school system again until we were high school freshmen, under the auspices of health class.

In my own house, my mother always had medical books around explaining sex and while she never encouraged us, she never discouraged us from reading or even asking questions. She didn't volunteer much, but a direct question was responded to with a direct answer. Around the time I was 12 or so, the groundbreaking book (at the time) came out, Everything you always wanted to know about sex, (but were afraid to ask). It was purchased and we read it. Of course it was groundbreaking because it dealt with all kinds of sex, including homosexuality, fetishes, prostitution, and all sorts of anomalies. We could read it and didn't have to ask our parents any embarrassing questions.

I tried a little different way with EB. For one thing, I started the talk of puberty early, a little at a time when she was about five. They were casual conversations about how her body would change as she grew. As she got a little older, the excellent American Girl body book gave her a little more information.

But last year, at her 11th year checkup, her pediatrician asked how much she knew about where babies came from. Truth was, she not only didn't know, she didn't want to know. She knows her dad is her dad, she came from inside her mom, and she's part of both of us. But she's had no interest in finding out how any of that came about. Any question of a show she couldn't watch because of sexual content was met with a hurried, "Oh, OK, never mind!"

This year, right before her 12th year checkup, I bit the bullet. I bought her an updated copy of  Our Bodies, Ourselves (I had a copy in college, but was reminded of it during an episode of HBO's Big Love), and then ordered a copy of  Where Did I Come From?

I gave her the first book and she looked at it and said she didn't need it, she already knew about her body and puberty. With the second one, I put it on her bed and just told her to read it at her leisure. I said, yes, you may think it's gross, but if you have any questions at all, you can come and talk to me about it. I'm not giving up on my parental responsibilities, but, as one friend with a teenaged daughter advised me, sometimes they need time to digest the whole menstruation thing, before moving on to the other stuff. So I decided to let her ease into it in her own time.

I understand. EB wants to grow up, yet a part of her is clinging to that familiar childhood, of innocence, security and the safe assurance that someone else is calling the shots, making the decisions. Even as our children become more technologically savvy than we ever will be (it took her about two minutes to install a webcam on one of our computers, with no help at all from her father or me),  the maturity level of tweens hasn't really changed much. They may not play with dolls anymore, but they're not as willing to rush headlong into adulthood, no matter what the media tells us. They want to stay in the safe cocoon of childhood some days, just a little while longer.

Still, her curiosity must have gotten the better of her. She apparently took at least of peek at  Where Did I Come From? That day as I got ready to drive her to gymnastics, she gave me a sidelong look. "That book is nasty!" she exclaimed.

I looked at her. Didn't laugh. Wanted to. But I felt that familiar rush of love and protectiveness wash over me. I had no response. I was thinking, yes, yes it is. Sorry about the gentle shove into a little bit of adulthood. I'll be here to help you through the other steps along the way. Heaven help us all.

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