A few months ago, I had "the talk" with our fourth graders about "the birds and the bees."
It was a simple conversation that started when we were out for a walk around the neighborhood and William saw two teenagers hugging and he mumbled under his breath, "Geez, they should get a room." His comment floored me, because: 1. Where did he hear that? And 2. Does he even know what that means?!
So I asked him and he said he'd heard kids on the bus talk about hugging and kissing and "all that kind of stuff" and I suddenly remembered being in fourth grade and riding the bus.
On or around the day that Ronald Reagan was shot (circa 1981), my best friend, Vivian, told me that babies came out of a woman's belly button. Since she was a whole year older than me, I suspected she was an expert on the subject. It wasn't until a few years later, I'd learn she had her facts slightly mixed up.
By the time we'd walked back to our house, I had given William and his sisters the 30,000-foot overview of human reproduction. When we arrived home, I pulled out our dry erase board and sketched pictures of a woman's reproductive system, a man's reproductive system, and how babies are conceived and delivered.
It was a very informative discussion that only slightly traumatized the children and caused my husband to hide in the garage until it was over.
Apparently, earlier this year, we were informed that the school would be having a talk with the children about similar topics, including what to expect with the onset of puberty, but I must have forgotten about the communication. And I must have missed the subsequent communication that was distributed late last week to remind parents that they could opt-out of having their children participate in this session which would be occurring this week.
To be honest, I'm lost under all the academic paperwork. Unless they send letters home glued to my child's forehead, I'll likely miss it.
This past Monday evening, our phone started ringing off the hook as several angry parents (who also have a challenging time wading through the ocean of school paperwork) called to ask if we knew that the school had talked to our kids about puberty? Interestingly enough, we did know about it, because our kids were still talking about it ... nonstop.
As I explained to the parents who called, I think it's fantastic that the school is talking about it, because knowledge is power and with all the changes that are about to explode in our children - they need to know what's happening with their bodies. Also, not all families feel comfortable talking about these topics, so at least the children have a basic understanding that is rooted in fact.
Most days when the kids get off the bus and we ask them what happened that day, they can nary remember a thing. But on Monday, the three of them rushed us at the bus stop and didn't take a breath the whole walk home.
"MOM, MOM, MOM, did you know that I'm going to grow HAIR in places I could NEVER imagine?" followed by, "MOM, MOM, MOM, and did you know that I'm going to get PIMPLES in places I could NEVER imagine?"
Within 10 minutes of arriving home from school, one of William's best friends - who lives in the neighborhood and comes to our house most afternoons - arrived with his notebook. I was busy talking with Charlie and didn't notice until much later that they were swapping notes and making sure that they captured all the Rules of Growth, as explained to them by their teachers.
The 12 Rules, as recorded by two 10-year-olds are:
- We can't control growth of our body.
- We get hungry as we get older (big appetite).
- Our muscles get bigger and stronger.
- We need food because the calories help us grow.
- We get taller by the amount of food and growth we have.
- We need water to help our body stay healthy.
- Apples are not only good for your teeth, but your body, too.
- Some people find growth painful, awkward, or embarrassing.
- Sometimes in boys, they will get hair in places they can't even imagine like facial hair, underarms and chest.
- Sometimes boys get things called "wet dreams" (Jen comment: OMG. Wait, WHAT?!)
- You might get pimples all over your body in puberty.
- Pimples grow in parts of your body you couldn't imagine.
My daughters then told me about the things that they discussed when they were pulled aside with all the other fourth grade girls.
They said the teachers explained how a woman's body works and how they, too, will grow hair in places they never imagined. They talked about a woman's cycle, mood swings, and the development of breasts. At the end of the discussion, the teachers told the girls that if they had any questions remaining, they could anonymously write them on a piece of paper and she would answer for all to hear. Carolyn said she wrote down a question and passed it to the front of the room and as the teacher worked through the 10 or so questions that had been turned in, she got to my daughter's question and read aloud, "Can you please explain how an erektchun happens?"
According to Carolyn her teacher read the phonetically spelled word a few times, before she realized what it said and then she gasped out loud and asked, "Who turned this in?!"
Carolyn raised her hand and the teacher said, "Oh No Dear! We don't talk about THAT until seventh grade!" Then she asked my daughter where she had learned about that word, and Carolyn said, "My Mom. She explained a lot AND she drew us pictures."
I might never show my face at school again.