The Birds and the Bees
When my daughter returned from a shopping trip with her Nan, she excitedly showed me her new bra! After I scraped my jaw from off the floor, I felt a sadness brewing inside. My little girl is…growing up! Well, let’s not get too far ahead, when I say a bra, what I actually mean, is something in between a vest and a bra, therefore, it’s not really a bra at all. As much as I want to fight it, or pretend it’s not happening, it’s undeniable – my girl is growing up, and quite frankly it terrifies me!
I remember when I held her in my arms for the first time. She was so small and fragile, I thought I would break her. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. The love I felt inside was so overwhelming, I couldn’t help but cry. I had never experienced such happiness. In that moment, I could never imagine this little dependent baby, growing up to be so big and independent. Perhaps I was naive to think this day would never come.
As I dawn on the fact that my girl is growing up, I realise that I can’t keep sheltering her from the big bad world, I can’t keep wrapping her up in cotton – as hard as it is, Momma bird must unleash her ‘not so young’, out from under her wing, and allow her to explore the real world.
As a parent, we would do anything to protect our children. Many of us, would them wrap them up in bubble-wrap if we could. In the restriction of their bubble-wrap-bubble, they would always be safe and no one could ever hurt them!
In reality, wrapping them up in bubble-wrap wouldn’t be beneficial at all. Children need to be equipped with knowledge of the outside world, in preparation for when the apron strings do come off and they are faced with the big-wide-world.
Children, younger and younger, are becoming exposed to sex. It’s pretty hard to avoid, when our children’s pop idols, so blatantly sell sex through their songs, pop videos and the way they dress (or don’t dress, in some cases!). I daren’t let my daughter watch her favourite pop videos, in fear of her being exposed to half-naked, overly-sexual women. “Mum, why is Miley Cyrus, rubbing her private parts on a cannon ball?!”… *turns the TV off instantly*. It sends a precarious message to young, innocent minds – ‘If I dress this way, I’ll be successful like my pop idol’. There is no surprise that my 9-year-old daughter wants to dress like a 20-year-old!
My daughter is growing fast, and so is her interest in boys. Once upon a time, she was repulsed by them, now her whole persona changes when a boy walks into the room. Suddenly, she adopts an American accent, hunches over like a street-kid and begins to chew on her imaginary bubble-gum. I watch her flirtatiously flicking back her hair and slyly glancing over. It takes me back to a time when I first became interested in boys. I remember my first kiss as though it was yesterday. Brace-on-brace action, and too much saliva to know what to do with! I was so mortified by the whole experience, I cried the whole way home.
Admittedly, I have held back on ‘the birds and the bee’s’ talks. Not only, because I find these sorts of talks awkward, but because I want my little girl to stay innocent. I don’t want to corrupt her naivety, with all these scary grown-up things!
I have always avoided these types of talks, or rather, talked my way out of them. “Mum, where do babies come from?!” Mortified at the very question, I quickly told my daughter an elaborate lie in which babies came in the form of a tablet. The adult swallows a tablet with a miniature baby inside, over the period of nine months, the tablet grows, and so does the baby’ – completely feasible, and not a million miles from the truth! She believed that babies enter the world via belly button until she was seven when a school friend kindly informed her of where they really came from! That was one ‘baby making’ bubble burst. There is one more bubble that is still floating around…“how do babies get into mummies tummies?!”
When I was growing up, my mum handed me over the ‘growing up’ book, and said, “This will tell you all you need to know”. She must have spotted this book at a car-boot-sale, judging by its 1980’s retro vibes, and thought “bingo! That will save me giving her the birds and bee’s talk’. Perms and shoulder pads aside, I read this book religiously, in nothing but torchlight, under my cabin bed. I didn’t even know what half the words meant, but I enjoyed looking at the rude pictures. When my friend came around, I pulled out my ‘holy’ book, and we’d spend hours giggling about the prospect of growing up, unaware of how significant this book would be to our lives.
But isn’t handing over a book, bypassing the duty of teaching our children? My mother’s embarrassment to talk openly about sex, and those types of things, has made me grow-up to feel too embarrassed to be open with my own daughter. Due to my mum’s awkwardness, I felt like ‘these sorts of things‘ weren’t to be talked about, and consequently, ended up keeping things from her. Misguided and naive, I fell pregnant at Seventeen, and my life changed forever. As a parent, I feel it’s my duty to be open and honest…but why do I find it so hard to put this into practice? The very thought of having ‘the talk‘ makes me break into a sweat.
The same sort of sweat I experienced when I first went ‘bra shopping’ with my mother. “I’ll just have this one” I grunted, and quickly paced over to the cashier, “Wait, You’re a 30 A” she yelled, across the lingerie department. My face resembling a cherry tomato. How I longed for the ground to swallow me up whole.
My mums attempts of preparing me for my periods was to leave random sanitary products around, sticky posted – “use me”. I was just ‘left to it’, without so much as a clue of what to do with these curious-looking devices! If this wasn’t embarrassing enough, she once dragged me off to the nurse to get the contraception pill, even though I didn’t have a boyfriend and wasn’t actually sexually active. “Well, the kids are getting down and jiggy, these days”, she’d argue. At times like these, I’d rather have the book!
However, I realise that passing my daughter a book, would only give her the impression that ‘these things’ should be secretive and hidden. In theory, if you’re open and honest with your children, they will be open and honest with you. I need to stop making up these elaborate untruths and start being honest.
For some of us, educating our children about sex has become a bit of taboo. For others, it comes easily and effortlessly. This is partially to do with the closeness between both parent and child, but embarrassment is also a huge factor. If a parent is embarrassed about sex, it is more likely the child will be embarrassed too. If a parent neglects their duty of teaching by placing a book upon their child’s bed, or worse still, burying their heads in the sand completely. It is inevitable, their children will grow up to think sex should be hidden, and taboo. Due to my mother’s embarrassment, I am now uncomfortable around the topic of sex, and if I don’t break this cycle, it’s highly likely my daughter will be too.
If only my daughter knew about periods, perhaps she’d stop smuggling my sanitary products into her room. I was horrified the time I walked in to find her sat up in bed, reading the tampon insertion manual….up-side-down! What was she going to do with them? Luckily, she only shoved them into the ears of her dolls. I swept my brow, and again, buried my head. I was even more mortified when I found she had padded out the entire insides of a suitcase with sanitary towels. I quickly pulled them all off, and again, buried my head. Consciously knowing, I needed to have the talk.
It’s hard to know how to approach the topic of sex, especially with someone who knows little about it, or so we may assume. A starting point might be, to ask them what they already know about the subject. It’s only natural for children to pick-up bits of information along the way, whether it’s through media or word-of-mouth. Once you have established what they already know and have encouraged them not to be embarrassed, you can add what you feel is appropriate. Rather than posting the ‘growing up’ book under their bedroom doors, you could read it with them. This way you can clear up any uncertainty they may have by answering any questions. Remember to be as open and honest as you can.
You could also show them videos on the topic. As a pre-teen studying sex education in school, we all knew when the box-sized TV was wheeled out, we were going to see some ‘rude’ stuff. Our excitement soon fizzled, as we were greeted with some home-birthing video from the 1980’s…ear-piercing screams, and more flesh and blood than a slaughter house we were put off for life!
Surely the objective isn’t to put the fear of god into our children, but rather, to teach them the ‘what, how’s, why’s and when’s! I will hold off on the birthing videos for now. My daughter only needs to smell a drop of blood, and she’s passed out on the floor.
I can’t say I look forward to ‘the birds and the bees’ talk, but knowing how fundamental this will be to my daughter, and her future, means it’s a necessity. It’s time to do away with, the tell-tales and elaborate lies. It’s time to bring my head from out of the sand.