Tuesday, July 6, 2010
See this sketch? Let me splain:
The other day, Leila says to me, There's something in the toilet that, I think, shouldn't be there. Seems a cardboard tampon applicator hadn't flushed all the way down, and was unfurling in the toilet bowl. I said it was no problem, and flushed it. Then the questions started. What is it? What's a tampon? How do you use a tampon? Why do you use a tampon? What's a period? etc. etc.
So, I sat on the edge of the bathtub in my robe, and Leila sat on the floor in her pajamas, and we had The Talk. I've been mentally preparing for this talk since before she was born. I've been plotting out how I would explain things. I promised myself I would not talk about ovaries and fallopian tubes, but, as it turns out, you can't really explain menstruation (ew) without a discussion of ovaries and fallopian tubes (see sketch.) I think I did a pretty good job.
When I said I could explain it easier with a piece of paper and pencil, she went to her room and got both, and sat back down on the bathroom floor while I sketched labia and uteruses on the toilet seat cover. I had her total, undivided attention.
She was none too thrilled with the idea of having to have a period. She was a little appalled, actually. She wanted to know, if she wasn't planning on having any babies, did she still have to have one? Sorry, kid. She wanted to know if you have leave the tampon in there, or do you take it out right away, and when I told her you left it in there for a few hours, she was shocked that a period lasted for hours. You should have seen her face when I told her it lasted for days. She was relieved to know that this was something that would happen to her when she was a grown up, a time so far in the future to her that it is not worth worrying about. I hated to break it to her that she is only a few years away from the magical world of shark week, and she was all, Oh, God...
She asked me if there was any way to avoid having a baby, and we dipped unexpectedly into a brief discussion about birth control. I didn't want to discuss anything that had to do with penises or sperm or anything, because she hadn't actually asked for that information, so I told her she could take a pill that would prevent her from having a baby. Then she completely stressed out because she can't take pills, not even chewables, she still has to take the liquid tylenol. I assured her that there would come a time when the fear of becoming pregnant would outweigh the fear of swallowing a pill, and that she didn't have to worry about it for a long time. A long LONG time.
As we were following the egg down the fallopian tube, and I was explaining that if the egg isn't fertilized, that's when you get a period, I braced myself for the next logical question. I was a little surprised to be having the period conversation on a random weekday, in the bathroom. I had kind of envisioned something a little more, I don't know, like a meadow, or the car, or a slumber party where all her friends think I am so cool because I answer all their questions and don't confuse them with talk about fallopian tubes. I was definitely not prepared to discuss any of the other baby making apparatus. But instead of asking How does an egg get fertilized? She asked, Do cats have a period? God, I love this kid.
We went on to have a debate about spaying and neutering pets. I'm pro, she's con. I told her we wouldn't be able to find homes for all the kittens our cat would have had had she not been spayed, and I explained the simple math of multiple litters, but she insisted we could keep them all. This was the most tense part of the conversation, and we had to agree to disagree, and then we went into the kitchen and I made frozen waffles.
I offered to buy her a book about all this stuff, so she can read it whenever she feels like it. She said she was interested, but I've kind of chickened out. The book I have in mind also talks about boobs and armpit hair and erections, and I think I'll put that off for a tiny bit longer.
So, there it was. The Talk. All my plans and scripts went right out the window, but it all worked out. My mom gave me a very brief explanation, like, its something you get once a month that means you can have a baby. Her mother had simply told her, Now you watch out for boys. I think the women in my family are getting better at this. I know what the next Talk will be, and I'd better start getting ready. How about, When a mommy and a daddy love each other very much, and they're married... Think it will work?