Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Public Information

A little over a month ago, we received a letter from the school informing us they would be showing all fourth grade girls a video. Wait, I'm sorry - not A video, THE video. Well, not the whole video - just the first part. You know, the part where you learn that eventually, as a woman, stuff is going to happen to you that makes you cringe and weep and wail and tie sweatshirts around your waist. All in the name of babies! Wah.

As I read this letter from the school, my first thought was to pull my kids out of school and retreat to a deserted island and live in blissful ignorance with them forever. (un)Fortunately, my wild imagination has a siamese twin and her name is Logic. And she was kind of hesitantly excited. No - that's not the word. Eager? No. Well, that side of me was nervously optimistic for this new phase. Also, she quietly conceded that it was brilliant of the school to want to show this video a week and a half before school lets out for the summer, giving the girls information, a little time to discuss it, and then the entire summer to not have to deal with it. Well played, public school. Well played.

First order of business: preview the video so I would know what, exactly, I needed to prep for. Ainsleigh has never really asked a bunch of questions. When I was pregnant with Gemma, it was Donovan who wanted to know how the baby was coming out and how it got there in the first place. (un)Fortunately, these questions were always asked as I was driving them and friends places, so a quick, "I'd love to talk about this later when we have time," would suffice. Also, there never was a later. So I was a little unsure of where to even start with Ainsleigh. I was one of 4 moms who went to the school to preview the video. I talked to a mom of older kids and asked if I was being oversensitive in wanting to see it. She was very kind and reassured me it was a responsible thing to do.

I thought the video did a pretty good job of giving information without it being too much, but I take issue with a few things, one being when the teacher in the video said, "After a while, you'll be so used to it, you'll forget you're even having your cycle." LIAR! But hey, whatever we have to tell our young girls now to keep them from melting into a puddle of despair is fine by me. And maybe there are some women who forget. The only time that has happened for me is when I've been unconscious from passing out from cramps.

Second order of business: chat with Ainsleigh. Although Joel knew Ainsleigh was going to have a little lesson, I felt like I needed to have this conversation without any males anywhere near us. I remember the day I had to come out of the bathroom and tell my mom the big day had arrived. I pleaded with her not to tell my dad. That night, as my dad drove me to a youth activity, I can still remember exactly what my dad's passenger side door in his Mark VII looked like and where on Las Palmas he suddenly said, "So. I hear you're a woman!" Thanks a lot, MOM. Even then, though, I realized the absurdity of my request. But these kinds of conversations are best had between girls, so I was happy to leave it at that.

Ainsleigh and I actually had a good conversation, talking about puberty and discussing body parts. When I talked about the egg ("WAIT - I have eggs?" she asked, as she looked down at her stomach, imagining, I'm sure, a basket of Easter eggs) being released and turning into a baby if it's fertilized, coming out if it isn't, she didn't ask what that meant or where the other part came from, which I'm not naming here for search engine reasons. She was a little dismayed to learn that your cycle occurs EVERY MONTH?! Sorry, little lady. I wish I could change that. I could tell she was looking at me with new eyes. Was that even a tinge of respect?

When I asked if she had any questions, she just kind of shrugged and asked when it would happen. Oh sweet girl, I wish I knew. Hopefully not for a while! Since then, she has remained pretty quiet about the whole thing, but about a week ago, as I stepped out of the shower, I saw a little note had been slipped under my door. My kids love writing notes and if I kept every single one, we'd have to buy a storage locker. This note, however, is one of the most awesome notes I've ever received:

I went downstairs to help Donovan with something, holding the note. Ainsleigh's eyes zoned in on it and casually said, "Oh. You got my note?" Yes, dear. Why don't you come upstairs with me and we can talk about it while I wash Gemma's hair? So I answered her question and elaborated on some other scenarios. That night, as I tucked her in bed, I began to leave her room but quickly turned around and walked back to her side. "Thank you for asking me that question today," I said, "I like being able to talk to you about this kind of thing." She grinned and snuggled down with a "Thanks, Mom." Then she asked, "Are you keeping that note?" Yes, I replied, so I can remember this day and how you made me feel important.

I have learned that, "Mom, I have a question..." is Ainsleigh-speak for, "Let's talk about girl stuff." A few days ago she asked me when I, and my sisters/mom, "became women." Amid a flurry of texting and my mom worrying that I was asking because Ainsleigh had eaten too much hormone-laden chicken and milk, setting off early puberty, I reassured them this was just inquiry time. Ainsleigh, taken aback that they thought she might have started replied, "Not yet! But you can tell them my breasts are budding!" It's a good thing I hadn't been drinking anything, because it would have sprayed everywhere, for the term as well as the belief.

I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that she feels comfortable asking questions. I asked my mom questions ALL THE TIME (my family is rolling their eyes at perhaps the most obvious statement in the world). Ok, so maybe not all the time, but just about as often as I had questions. I still remember feeling a little nervous and maybe afraid, but the curiosity outweighed any trepidation and I always knew my mom would answer my questions. I hope I'm creating that safe environment for Ainsleigh.

A couple days ago she asked again what "puberty" meant, and what signs she would see. I began to describe some of the maturation indicators, including hair under her arms or... "In my public area?" Let's make sure right now we declare that place NOT public. When I corrected her, she grinned sheepishly and said, "It's a lot of new things to remember." It sure is, baby of mine.

Although I sometimes feel sad my kids are getting older, I am joyful at the legitimate conversations I can have with them regarding their hopes and fears. As it turns out, I really like the people these kids are turning into. And that is genuine public information.


Alice said...

That is awesome. I remember when I was 11 (I was innocent until then) when they showed us the video one day...way too much information and way too many images for 11 year olds (as I think about a girl in my class who had passed out beside me) anyhow,I came home and asked my mom questions. I received more information that I wanted to know and was completely grossed out. But this had to do with the making babies part...completely skipping over the puberty/period part. Yeah, that's my childhood...jumping ahead and backpeddling a bit.

Anonymous said...

What a sweet little angel she is. And thank you for calling it a "deserted island" instead of a "desert island".


laura said...

I love everything about this post. "Oh, you got my note?" Hahahaha. Oh Seesee.

Nataluscious said...

There's a reason I have friends who have kids older than mine. So I can learn from them. Great post. Love Ainsleigh. Ah, what the heck. I love you too! :)