Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Every so often, I make a biting comment about my mother within earshot of the girls. When the words are escaping my mouth, I think nothing of them. They are my thoughts, my complaints, my perspective, my truth.  

The girls see it quite differently though. They love my mom, and their entire extended family fiercely, but from a distance. As children should be, they are only exposed to the best of the best and shielding from the unsavory moments. 

These are the moments that make Matt and I parent the way we do, with our sometimes excessive amounts of hugs and I Love You’s. If there is such a thing. We talk about hopes and frustrations openly. We encourage discord and yelling if for no other reason than to make sure the feelings are liquid and flowing instead of ice slowing turning into immovable burgs. We talk about bodies and femininity as is appropriate with the pre-school set.   

And we talk about how we can talk about anything.

One story that I will certainly tell the girls, when the time comes, is about how many of those things were broken in my childhood. It’s the kind of story that comes up fairly regularly with girlfriends because every so often, anyone can get caught completely off guard by an early cycle.

I was 12 years old when I got my period. It is bit unbelievable (from the raised eyebrows I get from friends), but I didn’t know much about menstruation despite it being 1990. I was the first of my very small group of friends, and must have been one of the first in my grade to get it. It was terrible. I didn’t know what to do, and was afraid to talk to my mom.

She and I didn’t talk about anything.  I take that back, she constantly talked, and I might have been listening, but it wasn’t substantial conversation. Right now, sitting here typing, I can only recall one substantial conversation with her in my entire life. And it was in the last year. She didn’t prepare me. She didn’t warn me. She didn’t even notice anything was wrong with me.

And so I kept my secret, slyly taking maxi pads from under the counter and searching the dryer for forgotten dimes. For six months, I kept my secret, only to be undone by an Aunt who noticed a change in my skin. It was a crass moment, filled with soul crushing shame on my part and screeched words and laughter on hers.

I still remember how I shook, so afraid of my mother’s reaction to the news that her daughter wasn’t a physiological little girl any more.

I remember how her face blanched at the realization, presumably, of her failure.

There was still no conversation. Just the arrival of my own supply of maxi pads on my bed the next day.

And so, Matt and I talk to our girls. About everything. I don’t cover my body in front of them. I don’t like shut doors. We ask about days and friends and loves in the hope that nothing will be big enough to be kept secret.


This post was inspired by the novel Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton. After witnessing her children's school set ablaze, Grace attempts to find the arsonist as her teenage daughter lies in a coma in Lupton's suspense thriller. Join From Left to Write on April 11 as we discuss Afterwards. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.



Thien-Kim aka Kim said...

My parents didn't talk about many things either, deeming us "too young" to know these things. I'm in my 30s and they still do it. I'm glad that you and your husband are so open with your children.

Amy @ said...

While I was raised in a house where I was certainly invited to talk about anything, I was still so shy and shameful about too many topics. I always wonder what it was that made me that way, and how I can ensure my kids feel differently. Great food for thought!