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July 27, 2010 at 11:45 am 1 comment

The Birds and the Bees, what a light and silly name for a subject so complex, in any case, that’s what’s in the air at our house. We don’t hold back when our children ask us questions, often droning on, detailing further angles and layers long after they have lost interest. But as far as sex is concerned they have been content with The mama has the egg and the Papa has the seed, and together they make a baby, for years and years. Not once have they asked how the seed actually meets up with the egg.

Until yesterday…

It began with menstruation. I recently finished the Red Tent, which sparked my imagination with ways in which to celebrate a girl’s passage into womanhood. And as my reading happened to coincide with an article in Mothering that describes a modern-day celebration of a young girl’s first menses, it suddenly dawned on me that our wide-eyed, forever young at heart Bella might be nearing this very milestone herself. Holy shit.

I set the article beside her cereal bowl and casually mentioned that she might want to take a glance when she got the chance. She never did read the article, but she saw the words period, menstruation, and PARTY!, and hopped up to eagerly ask if we could have a party for her when that time came. That started it off.

Bella: What does the blood feel like? How do you know it’s coming? Why is there blood? Can you see the egg when it comes out? How big is it?  Why does that happen?

Often when I jump into the river to float with the girls I jokingly let out a “quack, quack, quack!”, like a mama duck signaling her ducklings to follow. Our girls “quack, quack” in response and immediately hurry in my wake. Now I use that same quacking method when moving through a crowded grocery store or airport. It triggers something primal and never fails to get their attention or to get them to follow my lead.

As I began to field Bella’s questions my voice must have sounded a metaphoric Quack! because soon enough three sets of eyes were eagerly pointed in my direction. They were ready.

I described fallopian tubes, the uterus, the journey of the egg, the shedding of the inner lining of the uterus, all the wondrous working of the female body. And then they realized the gap, the whole “egg meets seed scene”, so I asked:

Okay, the egg is waiting and ready. What do you remember about making babies?

They shouted: It needs a seed! It needs fertilizer!!!

Me: How does the seed from the Papa get inside?

Their brows wrinkled and I saw the machinations dawn on Bella and she said: Oh God!

I kept it simple, informative, and neutral. I giggled knowingly when Bella commented that she certainly doesn’t like imagining her parents making babies that way. No one does. I reassured them that when done properly, when all parties are ready emotionally and physically, there isn’t pain involved. And I answered inquiry after inquiry.

Their questions were smart and their interest was age-appropriate. Echo tuned out for parts, rejoining to celebrate being born with eggs inside her body, and smiling broadly when imagining the egg and seed growing into someone like her. Xi stayed tuned-in but spent most of her time absorbing the basics. Bella pieced together the facts I was offering with all the bits she has overheard in movies and music, and I saw satisfaction settle over her face. Finally it was all making sense.

Eventually we wound our way back to the start, to the part that is most pertinent to their current lives. They can’t even imagine kissing anyone until they are at least teenagers, but some girls have their period at age ten, and that fact put them on high alert as Bella is wrapping up her ninth year.

Bella: Let me just get this straight… is having my period a good thing or a bad thing?

Oh man. I was so happy to be lobbed that big, fat, slow-ball, the chance to set the stage positively. I gazed at her with love and light and said: It is the most amazing, incredible, beautiful treasure.

Her shoulders lifted in delight and her face glowed with excitement. With deep, contented sighs all three little ducklings went happily back to their fairy adventures.

So often parenting is spent feeding the children, keeping them from ripping their own heads off, and shoving them into bed before we rip their heads off. When they are little there is also holding and grooming, but with the older ones it seems safety, sleep, and food make up most of the day. It was rewarding to remember this other part of the puzzle, the leading and guiding. The part where I get to hold their hands and walk with them toward their future, their empowerment and toward self-appreciation.


Entry filed under: parenting principles. Tags: , , , , .

Incredible Capabilities Seven

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Amy McGregor  |  July 27, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    YAY for Bella! I wonder of her and Jae will ever find time to discuss the types of menstrual products they will use when the time comes- Jae has her heart set on cloth pads 🙂 Such an exciting time for these beautiful prepubescent girls- and sad when you think of all of the girls that don’t get to have these talks with there mommies and surrogate mommies. I hope that our girls grow up and embrace their sexuality and changing bodies and that we are able to quell the fears that so many young girls and women experience. Yay for puberty!!!


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