We have had “facts of life” talks at least three or four times before. This time I was the one who brought it up, noting that if Mookie’s school is like mine, this is the year when the girls have a session on menstruation, which Mookie may miss since she won’t be back until after Christmas. Mookie was stunned that this comes along at such an early age, but I explained that while it’s not likely that she’ll get her period when she’s nine, some girls do, so we don’t want them to go to the bathroom one day and be terrified. She got all that, and has in fact known for several years that monthly “bleeding” is normal and painless. (Explaining cramps can come later.) So that launched another conversation. Mookie wanted to know why on earth this happens when she has no intention of having a baby for a looooong time. Actually, she is quite firm on “never,” but she does grasp that some women would like to be ready for this project eventually–but why at 9, or even 14?
I think I should produce an animated film using my approach, since it amused Mookie, especially when I offered a comparison with the usual way these things are explained.
Usual way, in pamphlet from Playtex with a soft pink cover:
Meg and her mom had a long talk over a cup of cocoa. . . . “But why does it happen?” said Meg. Her mom said, “When a girl is becoming a woman, her body makes a special place for a baby to grow” . . . “This is called a sanitary napkin, or ‘pad’ . . . ” (They’re always big on pads, which no woman outside the Playtex marketing department has ever called a “napkin.”) “Thanks, Mom!” said Meg, hugging her.
Feh. My way:
We’re animals, right? And one of the things animals are geared to do is . . . make more animals. Cats: Let’s make more cats! Jellyfish: Let’s make more jellyfish! [Producer’s note: Can’t you envision the animation here? Very Finding Nemo, right?] Humans: Let’s make more humans! So when it’s mature enough, your body says, “Okay, time to make some more humans! Uterine lining . . . ready to go! Whoa, no baby this month? Okay, out it goes. We’ll do it again next month. It’s next month now, still no baby? Okay, bye bye lining!” You’re right, it’s completely crazy. There really ought to be an on/off switch. I’ve been doing this for 35 years and I only wanted one baby in all that time! And you’re it–no more babies–and it’s still happening! Yeesh!
Mookie asked a very reasonable question that’s on everyone’s mind but that the pamphlet doesn’t think a fourth grader needs to hear about: What do you do if you don’t want to have a baby? The abstinence-education-only folks would be pleased to know that the first thing I said was that if you don’t have sex, you won’t get pregnant. They would be less pleased to know that I included the all-important phrase, “with a man,” and that the conversation went on from there. Not with a lot of detail; we didn’t figure she was really interested in the full list of Ways People Keep from Getting Pregnant, and sure enough, she was content with the basic fact that there are a bunch of different ways.
Joy joined in to explain abstinence-only education. Even Mookie, who is nine and thinks the whole idea of wanting to do this stuff is a little odd, grasped that other people do want to do it and that telling them “just don’t” is about as helpful as saying “just don’t eat chocolate.” She also understands something the abstinence-until-marriage “educators” don’t: that once married, people still need to know how to keep from having babies. Unless they take the easy route and marry someone of the same sex.