things i'm afraid to tell you (part 1)
I had both kids in the car yesterday en-route to our little beachy adventure, and I made a pit stop at CVS to grab some girly things. The conversation that ensued from my purchase of Tampax Pearls was one I wasn't not really prepared to have at that moment, but I guess when are you ever prepared for one of those talks? My philosophy has always been to tell the facts, dosed out in careful age appropriate bites, as nonplussed as possible.
Yes, I'm one of those moms who told my son when he asked if Santa was real, that he wasn't. He already intuitively knew. Of course I tempered it for him, I'm not heartless (and told him promptly not everyone understands this, and not to run off spreading the news that Santa is a figment of the collective imagination). He then asked me why some parents lie to their kids. Yikes. That's when I really knew I never would, or at least that I'd be very conscious and careful when walking that slippery slope.
I always begin unfolding these hard questions with "Well, what do you think?"... most of the time he knows more than I expect, and that answer is always a good jumping off point. Sometimes even just giving him the chance to voice his own thoughts is enough to answer his own curiosity and realize he's content with his own understanding, end of conversation. Open lines of communication, I am pretty sure, is going to be what gets us through the hard teenage years and I hope to be the one (well, me or my husband) my kids go to for information, not solely the internet or friends. I know I can't protect and steer him forever, so setting up a foundation for openness and non-judgement I believe is the key. I think that's because I had that same level of up-front honesty from my own mother growing up. I knew I could ask her anything and I would get the truth no matter what.
I clearly remember her sitting on the edge of my bed and having fairly easy talks about vaginas, and sex and other delicacies as a young middle schooler, then later about things like drinking, relationships, and birth control. It made me feel powerful and strong in my own ability to move through more mature waters, and I admired my mom so much for being so utterly "cool". I understand now what an incredible gift that was. Not only did I grow up confident, knowledgeable, and unashamed about sex (which I think for a lot of girls/young women is a huge stumbling block - a bigger conversation for another day maybe), I feel my certainty in that arena as an absolute leg-up now in my own role as a mother. Thank you mom!
I have also come to realize in my adult life, Truth is such an important overarching virtue to me. There is a level of transparency I seek and need with how I exist and interact in this world. More importantly, I see the direct link of one's ability to find the answers to our questions, no matter what they are, as a key element in our own confidence in how we are able to navigate in life and then integrate that information into a better sense of self. So critical.
So my (almost) nine year old now knows what a tampon is for, and thus what a girl's period is, and we are both okay with that. Actually, I'm quite relieved he doesn't have to go around wondering in obscurity, as he knew is was something you stuck somewhere for something unmentionable. What a disservice it would have been not to tell him! I am so glad he asked. His questions and understanding always dictate how much he needs and wants to know and usually there is a wisdom to that whole process that is out of my hands. I trust he will ask and I believe I can help guide him to the answers that will help him find his way. It is another one of those virtuous circles.
Isn't that all each of us really wants... to be able to trust and understand the truth?