The Talk

You know the one I’m referring to, right?

Of course, I’m talking about The Sex Talk.  I should clarify and say that I didn’t intend to have the sex talk yet, but when you’re looking for shortcuts in dealing with major transitional issues in your child’s life, well, shit happens.

teenagersMy daughter is eleven years old now, and in middle school.  I remember middle school well.  It’s an excruciating time period rife with insecurity, bad skin, growth spurts, and hormonal rebellion.  And with the hormones come the puberty, and with the puberty comes the realization that boys aren’t gross (all the time).  Sometimes, they’re cute.  And funny.  And did I mention cute?

Bryn started coming home from school with stories about eighth graders holding hands or kissing in the hallways.  She says it’s gross, but I can tell she has that beginning fascination with watching it unfold, and trying to figure out how a seemingly normal girl/classmate would want to kiss a boy in the hallway at school.  She wants to understand it.  And I want her to understand it.  As much as I hate it,  I don’t want her to be ignorant about what’s happening around her.  In a world where kids are growing up too fast and have too much access to adult content, I don’t want her to be uninformed about her body or how it’s changing.  I want her to understand why eighth graders believe they’re mature enough to be “in love,” and why they think it’s a grand idea to shove their tongues down each other’s throats in the middle of a junior high hallway with an audience.   I want her to be as informed as possible so that as she gets older she can make informed decisions for herself without relying on misguided and/or incorrect information from her friends.  Plus, if she’s ignorant about things she’s more apt to succumb to peer pressure,  and we all know peer pressure is an asshole!

I just wasn’t ready to approach all of that at once.  I thought I would spread it out a little.

whats happening to me bookTo help guide me in this new world of raising a pre-teenage girl, I did the only thing that made sense.  I bought a book.  Books are awesome.  I was at a book party with several moms from my neighborhood and the book I purchased came highly recommended by the woman selling the books.  I also noticed several other moms purchasing the book so I snatched up my copy, flipped through it and decided the content was appropriate for Bryn’s age and developmental level.  Puberty, periods, and pimples.   Perfect.

My original intention was to sit down with Bryn and for us to read the book together.  But after three weeks of the book lying on my dresser untouched because I didn’t make the time to read it with her, I just gave it to her and said, “Here, read this and let me know if you have any questions.”

Famous last words.

She did read it, and holy hell did she have questions!  I should have read the book first.  Then I could have tagged the pages I wanted her to read and saved the rest for later.  But I didn’t do that.  And I paid the price.

Bryn came downstairs after about an hour of reading and said, “Mom, what does this mean when they say a slippery fluid comes out of the woman’s vagina when she’s going to have sex?  And I’m unclear about this whole erection thing.”

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I grabbed the book and read the page she was referring to.  It was a very detailed explanation of the mechanics of sex.  It was worded appropriately considering the book is an educational tool, however, it was more detail than I had planned to share at this point,  and clearly further explanation on my part was necessary.  I had no choice.  Pandora’s Box had been opened and it was all my fault.  I couldn’t ask her to un-read what she had read.  The knowledge was there and now needed my parental clarification.

wine-parents-mother-drink-family-funny-ecard-e7d[1]I grabbed a glass (read bottle) of wine to fortify myself and we went upstairs to her room to continue the conversation I had never intended to start.  The book covered everything from sex, puberty, periods, hygiene, acne, male genitalia, masturbation, wet dreams for males, attraction to both the opposite sex and same sex genders, as well as nutrition, exercise, and the dangers of drugs and alcohol.  Holy sweet Jesus!

Two hours later she looked at me and said, “And you do this?  You do the sex with daddy?”

big eyesTo hesitate is to show fear.  I couldn’t hesitate.  I looked her in the eyes, fought to keep a straight face and said, “Yes, I do.”  She looked back at me for a long moment, and then she calmly said, “That’s just gross.”

She then went on to explain that I didn’t need to worry about her having sex because she was not interested in doing that, ever.  I asked if she’d be willing to sign a contract in blood every year until she graduated from high school.  She was confused by my request, so I let that one drop.

At the end of the day I was glad we talked about it.  But her new found knowledge has opened up new and not always welcome conversations.  The other night we were watching TV and there was a commercial on for erectile dysfunction medication.  Now that she knows the vocabulary, I can’t take anything for granted.  She said, “What did the commercial mean when they said ‘Be sure your heart is healthy enough for sex.'”  So I told her, “You know how exercise increases your heart rate?  Well, sex is like exercise, and the old guys can’t always handle it if they have a bad heart.”  😉

laughing emojiPS–I’ll leave you with my favorite passage from her book.  This was a girl’s book, by the way, so I’m not entirely sure why this information was necessary considering they have a separate book available for boys.  I did find it rather hilarious though.

“Boys often have erections at inconvenient moments and it can be especially awkward if the erection won’t go down.  While a boy is asleep, he may have what’s called a wet dream–an erection and then an orgasm….This is only his body getting used to its new way of working, but it can be embarrassing to stain the sheets.”  —What’s Happening to Me?

 

A book review, sort of.

Hello, world! 

I haven’t written about books in a LONG time, but I love books.  I love reading and I have a particular fondness for post-apocalyptic literature.  Recently, one of my besties who also shares my love of science fiction recommended this book to me.  She has excellent taste in books, so I knew it would be good.

The book is One Second After by William R. Forstchen.

I don’t usually write reviews, so bear with me.  This book is based on the aftermath of a terrorist strike against the U.S.  After an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) strike, the residents of a small town in North Carolina are forced to make tough decisions to protect their town and care for their residents while managing the long-term consequences of an EMP strike.  The simple act of eliminating our very complicated power/electrical grid sends the world back into the dark ages and proves how very unprepared we are as a society to survive outside of the technology bubble we’ve created for ourselves.

I don’t want to detail the book much more than that because I’m notorious for giving away too much.  I will say this is the first book I’ve read of this genre that has ever made me feel like a real and true apocalypse could occur in our lifetime.  It was both brilliant and terrifying at the same time.  It felt so real to me that I kept thinking, “Oh shit, what would we do if the power really went out?!”  I mean really went out, as in everything with a computer chip is fried and the technology used to support our systems for transportation, sanitation, distribution, manufacturing, food production, medicine and life support technologies suddenly cease to operate.  I won’t lie, I had nightmares about this for days afterward and immediately started my long-term survival shopping list.  This book alone could keep Costco in business, forever.

10384906_976417365718684_5323661678153381091_n[1]What would you do?  What would you do if the power went out?  Do you have enough water, food and medicine to take care of your family?  For how long?  What about your pets?  Can you hunt?  Can you protect the people you love?

One Second After is a story about survival, sacrifice, devastating loss, loyalty, friendship, love and community.  It’s a story about both the ugliness and beauty of human nature.  It’s a story for everyone.

This book was amazing.  It sucked me in from the very beginning.  I know I’m reading a great book when I get angry that I have to stop reading because it’s time to make dinner for my kids, or you know, wake them up for school.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to Costco.  I need to buy like 3,000 lbs. of bulk food and toilet paper.  😉

Wanda Says…On the subject of Margaret, Playboy & Spin the Bottle.

images[1]One of my favorite books from childhood is Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume. 

It’s a pre-teen, coming of age book about an eleven year old girl trying to handle a series of changes in her life.  Margaret is growing up, and she has a hard time talking about puberty with her friends, or her fear that she may not be like other girls her age.  So Margaret confides in God.  Margaret talks to God about everything from her anxiety about fitting in at a new school, to her concern that her breasts aren’t growing fast enough.  It’s charming, innocent and funny.

I recently bought this book for my daughter, Bryn.  She loves to read and since this was a favorite book for me when I was her age, we have been reading it together.  We sit on Bryn’s bed at night and take turns reading chapters to each other.

I remember reading this book as a ten year old girl and being fascinated because the characters openly talk about puberty and periods and their budding interest in boys.  As a mother of a ten year old daughter, reading this book again gave me a completely different perspective.  Keep in mind that I haven’t read this book in 30 years, and aside from the main storyline, I had forgotten quite a few important details.

playboy_bunny_logo_30242[1]There were multiple pop-culture references in the book that were appropriate for the time period and seemed to be no big deal when I was a kid.  But having to explain those references to Bryn was not something I was prepared for.  For example, in the book, Margaret and her friends swipe a copy of her dad’s Playboy Magazine so they can see the centerfold and speculate how their own breasts and bodies may look one day.  As Bryn and I are reading this chapter, and Margaret and her friends are staring with wonder at the eighteen year-old centerfold, I’m thinking, “Oh dear God, what can of worms have I just opened?”  And of course, Bryn looks at me with wide, startled eyes and says, “What is Playboy Magazine, and do eighteen year-olds really take their clothes off for pictures?!”  Shit.

Oh wait, there’s more…

In that same chapter, Margaret’s friend sneaks a copy of her dad’s medical anatomy book, and the girls giggle and laugh as they look up pictures of the male genitalia.  There are also scenes in the book where Margaret stuffs her training bra with cotton balls, and she and her friends attend their first co-ed party, where they have to play spin the bottle and go into the bathroom with a boy for two minutes and receive their first kiss.  In another scene, the girls do arm and chest exercises that they believe will help their boobs to grow.  And while they do these exercises, they chant “We must, we must, we must increase our bust!”

images[10]Bryn vacillates between laughing uncontrollably and hiding under the covers with embarrassment as we read together.  I vacillate between sweating, stammering out my answers to her questions, and taking deep, calming breaths so I don’t shout, “You will never play spin the bottle!  Do you hear me?  Never!”

At one point, I had a moment of terror when I imagined her going to school and telling her friends about the juicier details of the book.  I let her know that because we were reading this book together, and I felt she was mature enough to handle it, I was willing to answer her questions and be honest with her.  But I couldn’t make that decision for her friend’s parents, so she had to agree to keep these discussions between us.  I said, “No going to school and telling your friends about this crazy game called Spin the Bottle.”  Yeah, I know, fat chance of that happening, but I had to try.

Despite the embarrassment and discomfort we both felt, it’s still a great book, and an age-appropriate way to start some important discussions.  The mom in me rebels at the idea of her growing up, but the woman in me understands that it needs to happen.  I want her to learn about puberty and periods from me, not her friends. I want her to always trust that she can come to me for anything, and it’s up to me to help her develop that trust through my willingness to be honest and have these tough conversations with her.

On a lighter note, Bryce must have been listening in on our reading, because the other day he was marching around the house chanting, “We must, we must, we must increase our bust!”  🙂

I just want to read, all day long.

I need booksI need to read like I need to breathe. I obsess over books like a tweener obsesses over her favorite boy band.  For me, books have always been powerful and transformative.  They have the ability to educate you, move you, change and enthrall you.  There are many books I’ve read over the years that made a distinct impact on my life, in one way or another.  I just felt different after I read them, and I love the feelings that stay with you for days after finishing a book like that.  I also love how just the title of a book can make me recall a specific age or experience I had at the time when I read it.

Most of the women in my family loved to read, and around the age of nine I discovered that my grandmother had a not so secret addiction to Harlequin romance novels. I remember the covers being so glamorous with beautiful men and women embracing on pirate ships or in front of old manor houses.  What nine year old bookworm wouldn’t be curious?   So of course, I read them.  I would sit quietly and read adult romance novels and wonder to myself what all these strange words meant.  Words like manhood and maidenhead.  I think my mother would be very surprised to learn that I received my first lessons in sex education by reading about forbidden love on the high seas.  I remember asking my brother once what a throbbing manhood was, and if my memory is correct, he said, “I don’t know.  A car part, maybe?”  Thankfully, due to my lack of understanding common romance language, it was a long time before I realized what was happening in those books.  Of course now, so many years later, when reading a romance novel I’m quite eager to discover what some enflamed hero did with his throbbing manhood.  Yeah, don’t judge me. You know you do it too.

Anyway, as a stay home mom of young children, reading is now my primary form of escape.  I spend most of the day accommodating the needs of my family, so reading feels like a luxury to me.  I have to negotiate time in my day to read.  I make deals with myself.  Like, if I do housework for an hour then I can sit down and read a chapter of my book.  During that precious time, I do not like to be interrupted.  This is important, because if you know people who are voracious readers, then you know how much we hate being interrupted while reading.  Hate, as in I could rip your damn face off if you don’t let me finish this chapter.

What really makes me crazy is when my kids constantly interrupt those few sacred moments I get to read so that I can watch them do something they do all the time.  It’s not like I read all day long, or even every day.  My children wait until they see me pick up my book and then decide that the fate of the world rests on whatever attention they need from me right at that moment.  It goes like this…“Mom, did you see that?  Did you see me run that race on Mario Cart?  Did you see me win again for the ten thousandth time?  Mom, do you think I should breed pigs or sheep on Minecraft?”  Or, in the case of my three year old, he says, “Mommy? Mommy?  Mommy? I love you.  Mommy?  Mommy?  Can you come with me to the bathroom?  It’s lonely in there.”   (I’m only slightly exaggerating here).

And what I want to say, but never do, because despite my inner monologue I am a loving and supportive mother, is “No, I didn’t fucking watch you play Mario Cart…again…because you play it every day…and I don’t give a damn about swine breeding on Minecraft…and no, I don’t want to keep you company while you poop in the bathroom…and I’ve been waiting for a year to read this damn book, so please, for the love of God, stop calling my name!”  This is when I take ten deep breaths (and maybe leave the room) so that I don’t crush their tender feelings.  I realize these things are important to them, and that’s why I give myself a time out.

I used to hide in the bathroom.  I pretended to be having “stomach problems” so that no one would bother me. That’s how desperate I would get for ten minutes alone with my book.  That strategy worked until my then two year old was potty trained, and he got curious and wanted to know if my poops were like his poops, and could he come in to check.  He’s a poop expert now and no one goes to the bathroom alone, ever.  He would stand outside the bathroom door, banging loudly, yelling, “Mommy?  Mommy, do you have the dia-neah?  Do you need help, Mommy?”  So that means no more covert bathroom reading for me.

The upside to all this is that my children, like their mother, are growing up with a passion for books.  And I love that they love books.  Some of the best nights in my house are spent reading with my kids.  My daughter frequently lies in bed with me to read. We each read our own book, but we lie side by side and spend time together lost in our stories. It has not escaped my attention that my daughter is the same age now that I was when I discovered Fabio making out with a pirate wench on the deck of a ship.  But unlike my grandmother’s house, my novels are password protected on my Kindle, and there will be no stories about lovin’ on the high seas for her.