Are you there God? I could do with some help with ‘The Talk’

Sunflower (11) was in tears. Daddy didn’t know why and she didn’t want to tell. They both looked at me. Perhaps this was a time for step-mum to step in. Oh boy. I sensed ‘The Talk’ might be looming.

After gulping down the tears Sunflower told me that the health teacher would be coming in to school to talk to all the girls soon and she didn’t know whether she should go or not. Was it something she should know too? I sensed a hint of conservative African attitude coming through, residue of her past perhaps. We don’t like to have taboos in our new family and I tell the girls we can talk about anything. Anything? Gulp.

My mind immediately jumped to my own experience of ‘The Talk’, back when I was on the receiving end.

Does anyone remember this book from their own time of puberty?

Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret.

It’s a corker; a timeless book that speaks to all young women about what it feels like to be growing up. It speaks frankly about body changes, emotions, life as a nearly-adult… All experienced by Margaret and expressed through her chats with God, the only one who seems to be listening. A copy of it passed around all the girls of our tiny village primary school in the eighties like it was the holy grail of what our parents hadn’t quite got round to telling us yet. A classic written in the 1970s and still devoured by young girls across the globe today.

I remember, towards the end of primary school we had a health visitor come and hand out booklets to the girls. The boys were very suspicious and intrigued, wondering what we were all up to in the school hall. I think this is maybe the point when boys start to form an interest in girls, wondering what magical mysteries we’re talking about on that momentous day.

I took the booklet home and nervously noticed that my mum had nervously noticed. I read it avidly that night, from cover to cover, and then again. Then my mum came into my bedroom and our ‘Talk’ went something like this…

Mum: ‘I saw you got a booklet from school’

Me (flushing red): ‘Yes’

Mum: ‘Have you read it?’

Me (clenched toes): ‘Yes’

Mum (probably also with clenched toes): ‘Do you have any questions?’

Me: ‘No’

Mum (relaxing said toes): ‘OK, goodnight.’

I also seem to recall a story about the perils of a girl she knew who put on her sanitary towel upside-down, but other than that, that was pretty much it.

But this was only Part 1 – the periods and body changes part. Part 2, The Sex Part hadn’t come into it yet. I found that out later thanks to Usborne’s disturbing pictures of a man robot and a lady robot making love. I remember being horrified at what I saw! And still to this day cannot get the image out of my head. Well could you?!

Robot Sex. Enough to disturb any 11 year-old.

How Your Body Works. Usborne Books 1975.

This general coyness of parents and teaching materials alike could explain why my friend, now in her thirties and bearer of a child, only found out she had three holes ‘down there’ at the ripe old age of 26! The mind boggles!

But anyway, back to Sunflower and her 2011 ‘Talk’ with nervous step-mum.

Before meeting my husband and getting married I didn’t think I’d have puberty-age kids for at least another 12ish years, but, always one to do things differently, here I was having skipped the nappies and breastfeeding and gone straight to the birds and the bees.

And so… the next weekend, Sunflower came to sit on our bed, Daddy was downstairs and Part 1 began. I made sure knowledge of the three holes was sorted first! No more of that misconception! And eyes widened when the tampon came out… Perhaps I should rephrase… When I took a tampon out of my handbag!

‘These are for when you’re older,’ I said. ‘You would start out with towels first’.

But I showed her how a tampon works by dipping it in some water and I found myself repeating the story of Grandma’s unfortunate upside-down friend.

There were a few questions and I think she felt better afterwards. I know I did. In fact I think I felt more grown up than she did when it was all over. I’d managed to get through it without seeming nervous and it was actually good fun and nicely girlie.

More recently I bought her the Judy Blume book, some pads for her school bag, just in case, and a pretty protective tin to put them in. The book was gobbled up in one weekend. It’s now circulating her friends at school. Good old Margaret.

I’d like to say that that was that. But there’s one thing I chickened out of and that was ‘Part 2’ of ‘The Talk’ – Check me with my euphemisms; Miranda Hart is right, us Brits are rubbish at saying ‘sex’. There, I said it.

I have resolved to check the level of understanding in the area of sex shortly and will endeavour to talk it through. Any tips on how to go about this next step though would be very much appreciated! I’d rather she hear it from me than through whispers in school or on TV or Heaven forbid, those crazy Usborne robots!

Are you there God? It’s me. Can you help?!

22 thoughts on “Are you there God? I could do with some help with ‘The Talk’

  1. Karin @ BritMums says:

    OMG! What a fab post…that ROBOT SEX is horrid! Ack! Don’t show her that one! I remember reading Judy Blume’s book (and others of hers) and I remember the “talk” our school gave the girls and then the boys. Horrid as well. I remember being so uncomfortable talking about it with my Mom that I put a note in her wallet when I needed tampons for the first time! You’re leaps and bounds better than that. Good luck lovely…it’s one milestone I’m not looking forward to. Ella’s only THREE! 😉

    • SuddenlyMum says:

      Ach you’ll be a pro by then! Plenty of time to ruminate! Thanks so much for the comments, tweets and support! Maybe Judy Blume’s on Twitter… Oh wow – just checked. She is! Right then….

  2. Jennifer says:

    Great post and I don’t envy you, my little ones are only tiny so I’ve got a way to go yet before Ineed to worry about this. If you want to move onto the next step via the medium of Judy Blume, I learned quite a lot from “Forever”. You might want to read it through first though!
    I had an Usborne book too when I was quite small, nothing like those scary robots but it did leave me with a few misconceptions!

    • SuddenlyMum says:

      Oh my goodness. I remember Forever too – All I remember is ‘Ralph’ !! Not sure I’d want her reading that quite yet. Think I’m just going to have to do some straight talking! Thanks for the comment!

  3. Lara Colvill says:

    Great post, I had an Usborne book, but it featured humans and not scary robots! I tweeted you earlier about Brook and FPA, FPA do a course call Speak Easy (I used to work for Brook which is why I know all about them). But I think some straight talking would go down very very well, good luck, look forward to the follow up post 🙂

  4. Lucy says:

    Love this!!!! I loved Judy Blume!! Still do. You reminded me to give my Are you there book to my sis. She’s 12 and had a shock last term at boarding school when her AF arrived. Thankfully I have a son and he is only 5months old so a long while yet!

  5. catparrott says:

    Ha ha! I remember those robots! My mum is a very down to earth nurse who filled me in very early on. I’m told that I was so intrigued that when I was 4 I asked if I could stand at the bottom of the bed and watch if I promised to be very quiet.

  6. Mammasaurus says:

    Oh my days! (as the kids say) That robot sex pic is just plain creepy!
    I vaugely recall the sex education talk at school. It was our chemistry teacher who was a man- in an all girls school talking sex education and the changes of our bodies- I felt so sorry for him. The basic message – you will get periods at some point, talk to your mum.

    Eight children later I wonder if I can sue my old school ?!

  7. Crumbs & Pegs says:

    I don’t envy you! How about just giving her Judy Blume’s Forever? I remember there being a lot of ‘sexy moments’ in that – all a bit overwhelming for a tween! Made me blush anyway.

  8. Wag Doll says:

    Haha I read Judy Blooms Forever too and was amazed/appalled in equal measures! My mum’s sole piece of advice was “Don’t let a boy come anywhere near you”…I think she meant in terms of physical location rather than robot picture number 2 LOL! I was determined to do better with my daughter and she does talk to me so it must be working. Good luck with the Talk 🙂

  9. actuallymummy says:

    Grooaaan! I am going to wait and see how it goes for you and then copy you! GG is 7 but it won’t be long before her schoolmates start asking and heaven only knows what tales she will be told. This is a school where all 5 year olds want iPods for Christmas, and DS consoles. They move fast! Good luck!

  10. lagosmum says:

    I learnt a lot from Judy Blume books and Paula Danziger too. LOVED them. We never had any talks in our home. All we learnt was from books, magazines and friends. Not exactly ideal – but saved us both some embarrassment! Good luck!

  11. oldermum says:

    This is such a great post. And that picture of the robots !!!!!! I remember I got given a copy of ‘the body book’ – very cheesey. Best of luck – sounds like you are doing a really good job.

  12. Dazzle Rebel says:

    The Usborne books could explain why I liked Thomas the Tank Engine and had ‘a thing’ for Annie & Clarabel. The mind boggles. The Richard Gere ‘Officer and a Gentleman’ white blood cells blasting the nasty germs was pretty cool though!

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