A little over year ago I asked readers for their opinions on when to have the changing body talk with my children. When I began blogging nearly five years ago, my daughter was in pre-school, my son still in diapers. My biggest parenting problem was my never-ending quest to get my son to sleep in his own bed for the entire night. My daughter? She provided the most peaceful moments in my day, quietly playing with ponies while I watched, laptop on my knees, throwing me the occasional smile, happy just to be.
Somehow my children have grown into independent little people, the time they have left under the cloak of innocence fading quickly, years beginning to pick up speed like a rock rolling down a hill. Just last week my son said he’d like to work at Disney and live in Florida along with his grandparents, unless they’re dead, which he thinks they likely will be. My daughter announced that she will only be having two children. The idea of more was eye-roll worthy. Their thoughts are deeper, grasp on reality – the good and the bad – more concrete. It shakes me to my core. I can now only act as a filter, no longer able to stop the world from reaching them.
With the very evident reality of passing time staring me down, I once again picked up my daughter’s American Girl book, The Care and Keeping of You, which I bought after recommendations from the brave moms who reached this terrifying place before me. For the record, there is now a The Care and Keeping of You 2 for girls ten and older. Looking at the table of contents, I have never been happier to have a daughter under the age of ten, yet I tucked the book away knowing I will someday cling to it like a rope meant to pull me safely through this phase of parenting.
We had already covered all the basics. Yes, bodies change. This should come as no surprise since my daughter has known forever that the best place to trap me into answering her questions is to talk to me while I’m showering. Smart girl. Yes, you’ve got to - please God - wash carefully and use deodorant. Check. Your skin needs extra care. Got it.
And then I got to the page that I had been avoiding for months. You know, the page showing the girl marking a date on the calendar for the first time, shopping for feminine products with enough smiling girls standing around her in the always-empty-in-my-experience aisle to easily form a women’s soccer team or at the very least a decent cheerleading squad.
I looked into my daughter’s eyes and saw the anticipation. She knew some big secret was about to be bestowed upon her. After all, the door was closed and her brother was safely playing football in the basement. I prayed that when she looked back at me she didn’t see fear. And nausea. And maybe a touch of panic.
I started out by telling her that today was not the day to talk about how babies come to grow inside of us, nor would we be talking about how they leave our bodies.
“No entrance. No exit. Got it, Mom.”
Oh, this sweet girl…
Then suddenly I was reminding my daughter of the logistics of the digestive tract and the urinary tract. Receptacles. Tunnels. Tubes. I floated above myself as I spoke, remembered writing a paragraph in fifth grade about the circulatory system, remembered learning about the life cycle of a water drop. I used words like pee and poop and she laughed…focus…must focus…
I finally got the nerve and explained that about half of us have a uterus. I grabbed my husband’s pillow that was next to me. I explained that the pillowcase was the soft lining and then, improvising, I grabbed the children’s TUMS from the bedside stand, still there from my son’s tummy ache the night before.
“This is the egg. You already have all the eggs you will ever have. Your body was born knowing how to do what it will need to do someday to become a mother. This egg needs a soft place to land, to grow.”
I dropped a pink TUMS onto the pillow. Then I explained that once a month, the body practices, then sheds what it didn’t need, what it may only need once or twice ever. I removed the pillowcase. More talk of systems, tubes, tunnels…I could do this. Breathe. I’m doing this. This is going to be okay.
And then, done with the prop and relieved, I popped the TUMS into my mouth.
“Mom, you ate the baby!!! You totally just ate the baby!!!”
Parenting, you are not for the faint of heart…