The Talk

After months and months of procrastination, I finally had "the talk" with Rachel and Lucy.

Not the sex talk. Steve and I had that talk with Rachel last year, when she was eight. Over breakfast at IHOP. (Not recommended. . . nothing like a server hovering over your table to make an awkward conversation even more awkward.)

The talk that I kept putting off was far more dreadful to me: the period talk. Not only did I have to tackle this conversation solo, but it is an absolutely cruel thing to tell your child. Especially if she has OCD and needs to know every single detail of exactly what is going to happen and when. And why. And how long. And how is she supposed to know when it is going to happen. . . You get the point.

Periods are a horrible, dreadful thing, so I turned to The Care & Keeping of You by American Girl for some help:

And because I put it off for so long, I decided that I ought to talk to both Rachel and Lucy at the same time. (That was good and bad.)

The first page of the book talks about upcoming changes in a girl's body and defines puberty. Lucy immediately chimed in, "Puberty. Puberty, puberty, puberty. I really like that word." She had a difficult time being serious through the first few chapters, but she needed the information just as much, if not more than Rachel, so I put up with her silliness.

We stayed up late and read about 30 pages a night. We covered Hair, Ears, Eyes, Mouth, Braces, Face, Acne, Underarms, Breasts (lots of giggling, even from me, on that chapter), Bras, Food, Nutrition, and Eating Disorders.

And then I read, "The area below your belly button will undergo some pretty big changes during puberty." And there was no turning back. I asked them if they knew what the vagina was. Neither one of them did. . . which means Rachel clearly didn't pay attention to everything from our sex talk. I told them it was the hole that you pushed a baby out of. Lucy chimed in, "I thought babies came out of your foot."


Apparently, she knew that the lady lays down on an exam table and the doctor is sitting near her feet, and that's just how she pictured "pushing a baby out". I was dying of laughter/appalled and asked her how she thought a baby got from your belly down to your foot. She said she just thought you pushed it down through your leg somehow.

Thank goodness for that third hole down there.

And then I asked them if they had heard about periods. Rachel knew that her older cousin had learned about them at school, but she didn't know what they were. She also told me that same cousin walked out of their bathroom completely appalled one day, "Did you know that your mom hung up a poster about periods in your bathroom?"

"Yeah. So what?" Rachel replied.

"Ummmm. Must be a different kind of period."

And there I was, talking about menstruating with my daughters. As soon as she heard the word "blood", Silly Lucy quickly transformed into Terrified Lucy. She was literally near tears for most of the conversation. Rachel, on the other hand, was perfectly attentive, asked about a million questions, and wanted to know every single detail. Of course, she was utterly disgusted, especially by the page on tampons.

"What is that thing made out of, metal?!?"
"How far does it stick out of your body?!?"
"How long is it?!?"
"How do you get it out?!?"
"Are you serious?!? You have to pull a string?!?"

Even so, Rachel was clearly ready for the talk. We skipped over the "How To" page and a couple of other things that I didn't think they needed to know yet, but overall, I thought the book was great. There weren't any disturbing graphic pictures, and I would feel comfortable letting them refer back to this book and look through it again, even without me. But Poor Lucy went to bed as rattled as I've ever seen her. (It didn't help that it was super late, and she crashes fast when she's tired.)

The good news is that it didn't scar them. And we went skiing the next day, so it wasn't as if I dropped a bombshell on them and sent them off to school without a chance to process things or ask more questions. That really worked out well, and I didn't even plan that one out. The very next night they were back to asking when we were going to read the rest of the book.

We finished up with Legs, Feet, Fitness, Sleep, and Feelings, and that was that.

A very well-written book. I was glad that it only covered cramps and all of the other terrible things associated with menstrual cycles very briefly because there is no need for a young girl to have to worry about those things until she has to. It was plenty appalling without getting any deeper. And even though I bought it specifically for the chapter on periods, all of the other chapters contained useful information as well.

And I can't wait to hear what other crazy ideas Lucy has about things when we have the sex talk with her in the next few months. Steve thinks we probably ought to be ready to record it.


Mindy said...

Great job! You handled that very well. I'm thankful I'm not there yet...but I'm not sure if I'm more scared of that talk or the masterbation one with the boys {shudder}. Aren't they all still babies?! :)

blakeandcourt said...

Oh how I dread all of those talks! but I am resolved to make them a lot better than they were for me with my mom, if that's possible :) I think you did a great job!

i'm h.mac said...

i used the book as well. i gave it to grayce to read while i hovered being available to answer questions. that was two years ago. she has referred to it often. at her recent maturation program she told me two things that made me wish we had read it together. 1.-she thought it was a virginia and wondered why they named a state after it. 2.-she thought it was public hair, because everyone has it. i died laughing. so cheers to you and going thru all the pages with them. we skimmed together....

Joanie said...

I love your blog! And I think you are one of the best moms I know. I'm referring back to this in a few years when I have to deal with it. Or wait, maybe it will be sooner than that. How old are they starting this stuff these days??

Mommy Named Meg said...

I think that's a good way to handle it Emily. I dread the talk with my daughter(s). I hope to handle it better than my Mom though who enlisted my older sister to have both "talks" with me instead of her because she was just too embarrassed to go through them again with me. One thing I want to clarify when I do is just how much blood is expressed. My sister missed telling me that, and the video they played in the maturation program made it seem like it was a drop or two. When I finally got it I was afraid something was seriously wrong!

emily ballard said...

Thanks, Joanie! Here in Utah, they have the maturation talk with the girls when they are in fifth grade. I grew up in Kansas, and we had our first talk in fourth grade. . . . followed by another in fifth. . . . and a whole sex ed course in sixth grade.

Kayli said...

Wow- you were great! My parents did the talk with us at 10, and so I have put off any talks with my kids so far (my oldest is 9) but I'm thinking that these days I probably should do it sooner.

Do your kids ever read your blog? I wonder what your kids will think reading this... :)

emily ballard said...

My kids don't look at my blog very often. . . mostly when they want to see pictures, etc. But I probably ought to hurry and write some new posts to get this one buried :)

Lori said...

we actually had the sex talk with Jaylee when she was 6. she kept asking questions so we decided to honestly answer them (there was a dry erase white board involved...oh yes...) they had a 'good touch, bad touch' program at her school two months ago where they discussed sexual molestation (can you imagine that every flying in Utah. sad for Utah kids) and it was nothing for her. she came home and said she was glad we'd discussed everything together cause 'some of my friends were SUPER embarrassed" :)

we just happen to stumble upon this book a little over a year ago. we read it together and it was fantastic. jaylee has it in her room and reads it often. as her body has been started to change a little it's been a lifesaver. she loves to find "the boob page" and compare where she's at against the pictures. hilarious. wow...long long comment... i completely support your use of the book! 10 points for you!