I dodged the bullet for years. Coach delivered the puberty, facts-of-life lecture to our first three children. All boys. Perhaps that is an old school approach, but it made the most sense. Over the past several years Coach would corner whichever 10 year old boy needed the 4-1-1 on the topic and explain the facts. I busied myself folding laundry in another room hoping that Coach would find the right words and make enough sense that his preteen audience would gain an understanding of this important subject. Afterwards I often wondered if the information was adequate, or just how much they now knew. Did my husband take a need-to-know only approach and leave out the girl specific info? Would the boys know what a period was, or would they rely on their school health lesson to fill in the holes? (no pun intended). Coach assured me that they would eventually learn whatever he hadn't reviewed, but he believed that they grasped the big picture.
At the end of one of these awkward days (after the newly informed boy hung out in his room post lecture in order to let the news sink in), Coach and I chuckled behind closed doors about the reaction of one of our more curious boys. This particular son's modesty interfered with his ability to comprehend how these actions could take place while clothed. Coach was forced to point out that clothing was not typically worn. Same guy commented on the fact that he had once read about praying mantises taking part in a similar act. Afterward the male praying mantis often ate the female, or vice versa. Fortunately, that was where the parallels between the two species ended.
So my number was up. My turn had come. Since the three big boys raced off at an opportunity to see a new Hobbit movie and Curly was attending a birthday party, the quiet afternoon presented the prefect opportunity to have this important conversation with Mini. There was no more avoiding it. I chased Reggie off to read a book. I glanced over a pamphlet that the religious education office had provided parents as a guide to explaining puberty, and I called her into my room. I felt guilty watching her innocent, sweet self walk in knowing I was about to shatter her world.
I told her the premise for our chat. She winced. At school, the 5th grade had been divided up into sections. Mini's section would start the health segment of science in February. The students assigned to health in the fall had groaned and mumbled about this particular class, which tipped Mini off to its general unpleasantness. Her knowledge of the topic began and ended with the reaction it caused her fellow classmates at school. With plenty of ground to cover and siblings due home shortly, I pressed onward.
I delved into how male and female bodies were created in such a way that they could create new life. I described how her body would change in order to accomplish this. It broke my heart to point out that shedding a lining meant a girl would bleed for about 5 days each month. Mini, as she is so aptly nicknamed for my blog, is cut from the same squeamish cloth as her mother. Does any preteen girl, whether or not she is grossed out easily, welcome learning that for most of her life she will have to deal with an inconvenient, disruptive, typically painful process known scientifically as menstruation? Doubt it. Of course Mini inquired about when this would start. Tough not to be able to assure her that it would happen when she was in the comfort of home. I touched on the products, the options, the necessity of the purse, and the resource of the school office if necessary.
Hoping to cover enough ground so that she heard it here first, I pressed on. I knew I wasn't getting through to her when she asked if Laddie had gotten his period. I backed up and reviewed the different roles the two genders play. Different body changes. Clearly women deal with more irritating issues, but I tried to gloss over that. This girl talks a blue streak about the many offspring she hopes to produce. It came as quite a shock to her that there was a process called intercourse involved. She asked if that was something I had done. I assured her she was a long way off from having to concern herself with those details as it is an act that two adults share. Not sure if that helped. Focused on making babies and understanding that the doctor is involved in the delivery, she asked if intercourse typically took place at a doctor's office. Yikes. I suppose Coach and I should congratulate ourselves on accomplishing our mission. Blocking all channels on the television and selecting appropriate motion pictures has resulted in a girl that is as pure as the driven snow. No mass media educating our offspring.
Overall I think it went well. So well that I secretly wished I could have taped the conversation in order to simply rewind and hit play for the day when Curly approaches puberty. Fortunately, Mini was unaware that our conversation had resulted in unwelcome rings of perspiration in my armpits. I urged her to feel free to ask me other questions when the time arose. I even ended with a humorous antidote about the day I learned where babies come from.
I shared a room with my next oldest sister when I was in 5th grade. We were turning down the bedspreads of our matching pink canopy beds trimmed in white eyelet lace, when I shared with her the hilarious notion that my childhood friend, Shelly, had whispered to me that afternoon. I strongly believed that Shelly was confused and that her version of events was farfetched, not to mention sick. I could barely relate the idea to my sister because of my incessant giggling. As soon as I had uttered the nasty details of the act Shelly had described, my sister's amused face morphed into a serious, humorless expression. I barely caught the look on her face as she spun on her heel and marched quickly out of the room. There I was -alone in my room. My pile of stuffed animals perched in the corner. Was it my imagination or were they staring at me? Just me and my thoughts frozen between the two canopies. My mind raced. Shelly must be correct. Clearly my sister was upset that I knew 'the truth'. How could this be? Why would men and women do that? I jumped into bed and faked sleep before my sister could return from what had to be a nark session with my mom. The next day my mom called me to the empty kitchen after dinner to deliver the 'talk.'
As I told Mini, all women have stories about awkward moments caused by their periods. I am far from an exception in that department. Perhaps I will over share those another time. For now, I am relieved to have successfully delivered one of the two challenging conversations I feel compelled to have as a mother of two daughters. Coach will be on the spot in a few years when Reggie enters 5th grade.