Wednesday, April 05, 2006

"The Movie"

Coming to a classroom near us . . .later this month Maya will watch the much anticipated "The Movie" with her fifth grade class. We cannot say this in our house without pause, air quotes and stressed syllables. Maya and I have been talking about it for months. We giggle about our exaggerated "The Movie" announcements, but then we get down to the brass-tacks speculation of what exactly "The Movie" will be about. We've concluded that it definitely will be about puberty and How Our Body Changes -- which Maya has down pretty pat -- but we haven't decided whether "The Movie" will talk about sex or not.

Our almost daily discussions now cover all topics because I don't want anything in "The Movie" to be a surprise and because I'm on a mission to eliminate as much body/self shame as possible in my daughters. One of my biggest goals as a mother is to raise self-loving people and I know a lot of that starts by squashing body shame.

"Feh, we get our periods. Whatev. We're gonna get them every month for a long time. It's a pain in the butt, but we might as well not feel badly about it." This is the bulk of my period speech. Then we branch off into the details: Fun with hormones, why are we actually bleeding, where exactly does a tampon go . . The questions from her have been randomly asked and pretty phenomenal. Brushing her hair the other morning, she said, "Does a baby come out of your pee hole?" "Yoowza," I say. "No. We have a pee hole, a poop shoot" -- we laughed -- "and have you noticed another hole down there? In the middle? That's the actual china. That's where a baby comes out of, and your period too." She said, "I was WONDERING what that one was." I put down the brush and drew her geometric shapes that were supposed to illustrate the uterus, the bladder, the intestines and then the corresponding outlets. "But, we're special," I said, "Because women and girls are the only ones with the three holes." She giggled.

Maya's best friend Lola just recently saw "The Movie". Maya reported from Lola's recount, "Did you know that if you put a tampon in a glass of water it explodes?" I said, "Cool, right?" She asked, "Can I wear a pad and not a tampon when I get my period?" I said, "Absolutely. But dude, sometimes it's like a diaper and trying to play sports with that thing is so uncomfortable." I saw a pained looked on her face as she tried to imagine getting a tampon up the mysterious third hole. I said, "I know it sounds impossible, but the key is to get it up far enough, and then you don't feel it at all." This did not change her expression. She looked at me, "Tell me about your first time again." She loves it when I tell her the story of when I first tried a tampon. I've told it a few times if only to make her feel better.

While experiencing my first or second period, the summer I turned 13, and while my mother was at work, I was invited to the beach to meet some friends, including a boy on whom I had a crush. I knew tampons were used during periods though I wasn't clear how. I scrounged under my mother's bathroom cabinet to find some and retrieved a box of OB's. I looked at that oval piece of cotton sans applicator -- I didn't even know tampons came with "applicators" -- and I thought: What. The. Fuck. I unfolded the directions that were tucked in the box, put my foot on the toilet as the illustration instructed and attempted the first OB launch. I remember so clearly thinking in that flash of discomfort that having sex and having a baby especially will be IMPOSSIBLE. After several rushed attempts -- I knew I was missing precious moments of beach fun the more I fucked around with Tampon Insertion 101 -- I felt satisfied enough with what I had done. I put on my bathing suit, grabbed my towel and ran down to the bus stop. On the bus, I squirmed and shifted. I felt as if I would give birth to the tampon at any moment. Was I bleeding? Did all the bus patrons know what was happening to me? It was the same at the beach. I couldn't relax around my friends, nor the boy, and I sat on my towel, knees clamped shut. Swimming was out. I just wanted to survive the day without depositing anything in my bikini bottoms.

Maya thinks this story is hilarious. So do I. But I tell her the point is, I'll help her get through her first tampon ordeal more smoothly than mine.

She and I have had many fantastic discussions lately. For example, most of her lunchtime homies at school are boys so she'll repeat stuff they say and then ask me about it. "When Ryan got hit in the weenie with a basketball he yelled, 'OH Larry hurts so bad! Ricky's fine, but LARRY!' And then he fell over in pain." This one took me a minute until I realized the kid was talking about his Left and Right testicle. I laughed so hard at this. And then I realized that Maya had no clue that boys have three separate items down below. I explained all of this, and she said, "I wonder if that's gonna be in 'The Movie'?"

Another boy from her crew announced that he saw a condom in his uncle's bathroom trash. (GROSS & WTF?) And when a boy asked, "What's that?" the storyteller said, "That helps you have babies, stupid." This is almost my favorite part of our discussions; straightening out what she hears at school. I said, "A condom KEEPS you from having a baby" which of course was followed by "How?" Until very recently, Maya believed women had babies by themselves. This was revealed with the great question, "Why don't we all look a like? I mean, what's the point of men and women looking so different?" When I discussed function, she stopped me and said, "Wait -- we need a man to have a baby? I thought women did it all." I could've taken a crack at men there, but Maya has perfect examples of great fathering around her. Luckily, she had been studying the pollination of flowers at the time. I said, "The men have the pollen." And a light came on. She said, "OOOHHH. And women get the pollen when the car is pulled into the garage." This is how her classmate Anthony explained it a few weeks ago. I said, "I prefer 'Special Hug' for now." And we laugh at that too because we can't say "Special Hug" without the beloved air quotes.

Maya enters middle school next year. She'll be going to school with kids three years older than her, and god knows what she'll hear then -- or what she'll start to see. I've heard so many stories about how oral sex is popular now among very young girls, and it's not considered sex. It's how a girl can gain popularity within certain groups apparently. This summer, as a primer for middle school, I'm having that self-respecting talk with Maya too. I call it the "Don't Put A Boy's Penis In Your Mouth Talk." Many of my friends cringe and think I'm kidding when I say this, but I'm not kidding. How's a young girl gonna know when she's feeling pressure from a boy she likes if her mom hasn't said, "Hey, don't put a boy's penis in your mouth to gain popularity. It's ok to say no."

These kinds of talks and topics will be and get more difficult I know. I just plan to stay honest and open and discuss it all; squash myths and interpretations, without shame. And until then, bring on "The Movie."

23 comments:

ESB said...

priceless. i admire your bravery...i must say, though, that i'm very glad i don't have to deal with any of this now!

SUEB0B said...

Goodness gracious Madness, you are wonderful and brave and right on!

I lost my virginity at an early age just because I wanted to find out what sex was...If you were my mom I coulda waited a few more years.

Glamorous Jo said...

Wow....I.....Wow.....I've always said I wanted to be full on honest with my kids, but reading this makes me terrified. And also a little excited. YOU GO. Maya and Mina are lucky girls.

Andrea Blythe said...

You rock. All mothers should be as cool as you.

Ward Jenkins said...

This was a fantastic post. Can you be my mommy?

Wait. That sounded weird coming from me.

Gosh, I do hope that Andrea and I can be open enough with Ava and Ezra when The Movie is presented to each of them. It's gonna be hard for us, but I do hope and pray that we can dispel any myths that they might overhear at school like you did with your girl. Great job, mami.

madness rivera said...

Thanks for the support, my people. I suppose these talks require a fair amount of bravery, but this is not as terrifying as it seems. When I'm so open to her, the talks end up being great and so funny; not awkward. I just decided to approach the more difficult topics unflinchingly too because I couldn't pretend that shit doesn't happen to and around kids. I wasn't particularly ready to talk about condoms, but when she brought it up, I had to follow it through.

acumamakiki said...

What an amazing story, I LOVED this!! I love how you explained the man's role as the pollenator, very clever girlfriend.
Ava is very interested in where babies come from and she's only 5! Can you explain this all to her for me? You do it so well. (=

lovegreendog said...

oh, i really loved that you share these conversations on your blog.
my girl is a little younger, but the questions are begining.

it seems like around here i may be the only one using correct terminology in these discussion, man it is frustrating...ours have gone like this -
no a girl does not have a 'who-who' it is a vagina
no a boy does not have a 'po-po' it is a penis
man the things she hears about and then comes home with....gawd

it was nice to read about a mother unafraid to tell it like it is,
thanks so much

madness rivera said...

acumama - Believe me when I say that Mina, at 6, is all up in the talks too, I just scale them down for her. Her favorite (repeated) question is, "Why do girls have boobs?" Which we go over a lot, mammary glands and all. She's boob obsessed. And Maya will say, "You mean our lovely lady lumps? Check it out--" And then we dance for a half hour to the Black Eyed Peas CD. Mina also, at this age, wants to watch me put my tampon in. I'm like, "Your time will come, but for now; Privacy, dude, privacy."

lovegreen - I am guilty of using pet names for genitals because I'm just like that, as an adult too --hahaha -- but I respect any approach a mommy takes to keep the conversation aflowin'. One note on the correct terms; one of Maya's boys said to the crew, "I hope 'The Movie' doesn't use the word 'penis'. I hope they say dick and not penis." I said, "That's funny. But don't use the word dick."

acumamakiki said...

Haha! Ava is all about, "how does the baby get in there?" and so far, "a little bit of mommy and daddy and some magic" has been answer enough. Sheesh!
My good friend walked in the bathroom the other day and found her 2 y.o. with her panties around her ankles and a tampon in hand, trying to figure it all out! I wish I could have seen that one. (=

HollyRhea said...

oh, it's comin down the pipeline, isn't it?

Looking at my own girlhood, I think the most important thing parents can do for a kid is teach them to interpret their own emotions. Sometimes I feel like my emotions take SO LONG to process in my brain. I ended up regretting so much after the fact, after I'd let a boy stick his penis in my mouth, for example.

Teach them to understand what they're feeling (I like "Between Parent and Child" for this), then they'll be able to be true to themselves.

Says the woman who only has a little baby. So hopeful...

Persephone said...

This was a great post, especially as I'm working with my 14-year old on the whole tampon insertion thing. Let me just say that I NEVER thought I'd be this up close and personal once she left babyhood!

My favorite was when she first got her period and was trying to insert a tampon. She was having that "whoa! I'm supposed to fit that thing in THERE?!" reaction. I said, "well, remember that babies come out of there, so your vagina can handle a tampon." There was a little silence and then "Yeah, and dicks go IN it!" Um. Yeah. Let's just start with a tampon, ok? :-)

So far, she's still doing pads, 6 months later because despite repeated attempts she still can't get up the nerve to really go for it. I suspect that with summer coming, that will change, but I'm just letting her tell me when she's ready and I will provide coaching when necessary.

la vie en rose said...

thank you, thank you, thank you! when i read about your openness and honesty with your girls it encourages me. it helps me to feel like i can do this too with my son!! you are an inspiration to me. and girfriend, your 1st tampon experience sounds just like mine! ouch!!! i guess i missed out on "the movie" and my mother was, and still is, mum about anything sex/body related so i was always in the dark. that is why i'm bound and determined to do differently with my own child.

ESB said...

ha! these comments are hysterical....

Green Whale said...

You are truly a wonderful mother. Your openness and courage and sense of humor give me hope that at least some children in the world are growing up strong and sane about their bodies. And I have to say your post is helping me with my own body/shame issues. I didn't know for the longest time what was happening when I had my period. I remember feeling terrified when hair started growing in my armpits! Thanks so much for this.

SUEB0B said...

The comment about using correct names made me think of a single mom I know who was absolutely determined that her daughter would learn biologically correct terms. When the daughter, Anna, was four, her dad decided he wanted to "be part of her life." He took her out and when they were in an elevator, Anna decided to show Mr. Daddy how much she knew. She said "Daddy, that's a man, and he has a penis. That's a woman and she has a vagina..." and so on. It still makes me weep with laughter.

Marigoldie said...

Oh, I love that casual talking, that carefully phrased honesty.

acumamakiki said...

That oral sex doesn't count....
this is what freaks me right out. I've 'heard' that there are BJ parties and something to do with lipstick rings?? Give me a damn break! It scares the hell out of me, this thinking and it also makes me feel old.

Heather said...

I love this, your daughter is going to be well informed and protected with a mom like you, Excellent job, I want to do the same for my kids.

robyn said...

This was such a great post! I adore this kind of honesty with kids-- I wish it was more common.

It also reminds me of a website I found a while back: The Museum of Menstruation. Hundreds of women commenting on how they feel about their periods. The variety of experiences they share are astounding; sometimes hilarious, sometimes heart wrenching. It's a fascinating read... http://www.mum.org/stopmen.htm

andrea said...

dude, I loved reading this. I'm sort of dreading this whole thing (more so with ezra than with ava) and it's already upon us. in the car the other day (and out of the clear blue stinkin sky), ava asked where babies come from. I think ward and I handled it pretty well-- just enough accurate information to satisfy the question without causing confusion.

it's only the beginning, I know.

andrea said...

ha, and I just used the word 'feh' last night in the post I was writing and wondered where the hell it came from. re-reading your post, I now know. hahaha.

bettyboop said...

okay, BJ parties?? come on! this is conspiracy/manipulation/male domination in it's most premature form. at least encourage the girls to demand 69er parties-we can't be left out in the cold from the beginning!