Judy Blume, the generation-defining author behind such classics as Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Blubber, turned 77 today. Though I wasn’t an avid reader of her books, there was one she wrote that will forever be ingrained in my memory as one of the most integral parts of my childhood.
The book, Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret, is the reason behind my first “sex” talk with my mother. I don’t remember how old I was, maybe eight or nine, when I read the book, but I do remember thinking that I was pretty savvy for knowing what a bra was. I guess that sounds fairly innocent now. Back then elementary school kids weren’t snap chatting pics of their privates. Anyway, I was proud of myself for understanding most of the material.
There was one thing about the book that I just didn’t get. What was this period thing they kept talking about? Why was Margaret so into punctuation? I needed answers.
Without our good friend, Google, to turn to, I did what most kids did back then. I asked my mom. I had no idea that what would ensue would end up being one of my greatest childhood memories.
I approached my mom nervously, unsure if this was an appropriate question to ask, and worried about what the answer might be. I asked her, what a period was, expecting a simple answer. My mom told me that “period” was another word for menstruation, and explained to me what that meant. I thought that was the end of it. And then she busts out the encyclopedia. I guess, I should have seen that coming. You ask a nurse a medical – related question, you are going to see some diagrams.
My mom went on to show me exactly how the female reproductive system works. I learned enough about ovaries and fallopian tubes to render me a fourth-grade expert. It would be a few more years until I would get my period, but when I did, I knew what it was, and was mentally and emotionally ready for it.
I look back on that story and laugh at its inherent awkwardness. Yet, I am also thankful to have a mother who isn’t afraid to answer those sort of questions. I think about those young girls, who, even today, are taught that there periods are shameful, or worse, not taught anything at all. Perhaps if they had access to a Judy Blume book and a guardian that took the time to help them understand what they were going through, growing up would be a lot easier for them.
As a mother now, who’s body went through a lot of changes in the process of carrying and birthing my son, I am still grateful to have a mom who prepared me for all that would entail. Without her, I’m not sure if I would have known how much pain you are in after birth. I would not have known how to deal with engorgement and the many other challenges of nursing.
If I have a daughter, I hope she feels comfortable asking me the tough questions. And I hope I am brave enough to answer.