The Talk

By: Dawn Goldberg

Scary, scary, scary stuff!!!! My daughter is almost ten, and it was time for The Talk. Truth be told, I was nervous, although I had been planning for The Talk for over a year. Actually, what happened was that I planned on having The Talk last summer, and I chickened out. So, I'll just euphemistically say that I've been planning this for a year.

Let me clarify that by The Talk I mean the information about the physical changes going on in my daughter's body, especially as it relates to the menstrual cycle. You see, I had my first period when I was eleven, and knowing that girls mature earlier, I was horror-stricken by the thought that Kathryn might start her period before I could explain what was happening. Still, I couldn't make myself do it last year, but I had no choice as the ten-year birthday loomed closer.

Now, my husband and I have two daughters, and he has gleefully passed on any responsibility for having The Talk to me. Yippee. However, he didn't completely absolve himself of all responsibility. He helped me pick out books for us to read and for Kathryn to read, and he spent a few hours doing research on the best books.

We bought a mix of books (look over in the sidebar for our favorite resources): books for Chris and me to read (that weren't for Kathryn's eyes - yet), and books for Kathryn herself. I wanted to know what was in Kathryn's books so that I would be prepared for any questions she brought me. I also had my own set of books so that I could brush up on the physiological terms of the female body as well as get a feel for how extensive our Talk could/might be.

The Day of The Talk approached. Chris took our other daughter Anastasia out to lunch and on some errands, and Kathryn and I had the house to ourselves.

While I won't go into the details of our two-hour Talk (two hours!!!), I will point out some highlights:

Yes, it was two hours, but the time flew!

When I started talking to Kathryn about the changes in her body, she looked a little embarrassed. However, I didn't let that embarrass me, and she soon got over it and entered into the conversation quite enthusiastically.

I was honest with her and told her that if at times I sounded embarrassed, it was because I had never done this before, and I sometimes had to figure out what to say. It was so endearing how understanding and sympathetic she was. "Well, sure, Mommy. I'm your first daughter."

I didn't have a plan for the whole Talk, but I did know how I wanted to begin the conversation. We started with a picture of a woman's uterus, and we went from there. The conversation flowed naturally,

I used the books extensively. Kathryn and I alternately flipped through them and stopped at various points to discuss.

I made sure she understood that although her daddy was male and not female, she could always go to him with any questions she had.

We talked about a variety of topics, some of which I didn't expect. Yes, of course, there was the whole menstrual cycle, but I didn't predict that I'd be opening a tampon to show her what it looked like. We discussed body image and how one should be happy with her body. That discussion topic led us to talking about how we are bombarded with images of skinny women, and how we really need to accept ourselves and not try to reach some ideal absurdly-skinny weight.

The biggest surprise? That afterwards, instead of mourning the loss of my "little" girl, I felt a sense of camaraderie. For years I had been doing my best to draw no attention to my own menstrual cycle, and so chose not to share with my girls why I was taking Advil every four hours or why I might be a little grumpy (or why when they were really little they couldn't go into the ladies' room with me). Now, it feels weird, yes, but also liberating to have a commonality with my daughter and a shared language.

That brings up something else. Kathryn and I talked about celebrating her first period with a special dinner or maybe a special piece of jewelry. With some of the research I had done, I wanted to make sure I presented the idea of the menstrual cycle as a positive thing, not a cross to bear or a curse. For years, I've really hated my menstrual cycle, but in preparing to talk about it with Kathryn, I started to look at it a little differently as something to celebrate and honor. We talked about how it's a 28-day cycle, just like the moon cycle and, wow, isn't that cool! While not mysterious, I did want her to see the wonder in our bodies' intricate and complex system that can actually grow another living being.

Did the dreaded question of how does the male sperm get into the uterus come up? Yep, and I had already decided ahead of time that if she asked, I would give her an honest answer. She asked, and I gave her a fairly technical explanation. She asked a few more questions, and I answered those as well, honestly and as completely as I felt she could handle.

I guess maybe I did do some planning after all, more than I might have thought. I read the books, I decided ahead of time what was appropriate reading material for Kathryn, and I also tried to anticipate what questions she would have and how I would answer them.

Kathryn took two of the books I'd selected for her and trotted off to her room. She read through them both cover to cover that evening. I haven't gotten any additional questions yet, but I'm sure they'll come. And someday, hopefully not too soon, she'll be ready for the next edition of The Talk.

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