My baby is becoming less of a baby, by the day.
When she goes back to school after the summer hols, it will be her last year of primary school.
I remember being 10. My friend Cheryl suddenly grew boobs and all the girls seemed convinced they could grow them too, if ONLY they did the right exercises. There was a terrible rumour about Andrew and Debbie on the sports field with a Mars Bar that I didn’t entirely understand, but I knew it was BAD. And there was the horror of a group viewing of the “Living and Growing” TV series in the school media room.
I wanted to approach the whole “growing up” issue a bit more positively with Flea. Honestly, it’s terrifying knowing your child’s lifelong sexual hang-ups could be caused by you saying or doing the wrong thing at this point. Talk about pressure! Lucky for me, then, that I can be relied upon to usually get this stuff 100% right.
It started well.
We read “Mummy Laid an Egg” together years ago. Being a female household means Flea’s picked up the basics of sex, periods and contraception along the way, and we’re lucky to have the sort of relationship where she can ask me questions if she’s confused, or curious. Naturally, I’ve felt quietly smug at how well-adjusted it all feels.
Still, I know that might not be the case in another year or so.
With that in mind, I decided it would be an good idea to buy Flea a book – something factual, reassuring and positive – that would help her feel good about the changes that might happen to her body over the next year or two, or to check on things she hears at school, without needing to always ask me, or another family member.
At the local bookstore I found what looked like the perfect book – “What’s Happening to Me?” Flicking through the pages, it all felt very positive and reassuring, and pitched at about the right level for 10 year olds. All the basics – changing shape, spots, periods, breasts, friendships – were covered. It felt like a good book for Flea to have at hand just in case she wanted some sensible advice or information. I bought a novel for Flea about spies (see? Mum of the Year), headed home, feeling pretty good about myself.
That night, I handed Flea a bag containing both books. “I just want you to have this so you can read it if you think it might be useful,” I said, being SUPER low key.
Job done, parenting merit award earned. Nice pat on back in order.
Or so I thought.
That night, Flea and I were chatting while she got changed for bed.
“Thanks for the spy book, Mum, it’s really good,” said Flea.
“What about the other book?” I asked, adding, “Of course we don’t have to talk about it if you’d rather not.”
“No, it’s fine to talk about it,” said Flea (and I inwardly congratulated myself on having this stuff down PAT. See how well adjusted she is?)
“OK. Was it interesting?”
“Oh yes. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know,” said Flea, nodding.
“Really?” Obviously, my parenting technique is already paying dividends.
“Well, there’s quite a lot about boys that I didn’t know…. and I didn’t know that girls have wet dreams, too.”
“Super…” Hang on… what??
I searched the dusty corners of my memory but I couldn’t recall ever being told that girls have wet dreams. Maybe she meant sexy dreams? Only that seems way more explicit than the book seemed when I read through it. What have I bought? Oh God.
“Girls? Do they? Are you sure?” I asked Flea.
“Oh yes, hang on, it was in here somewhere,” said my daughter, confidently flicking through the book.
With a flourish, Flea held open the book at a double page spread of illustrations of all the ways a penis can look while still being completely normal. And some cheery text underneath all about wet dreams and unexpected erections.
I bought my daughter the WRONG VERSION of the book, and she’s now the most well-informed 9 year old girl on the planet when it comes to adolescent male development.
And if Flea spends the next 5 years waiting desperately for her voice to break, her beard to grow in, and her sheets to get wet in the morning, I have only myself to blame.