Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother/Daughter Book Review

Mother/Daughter Book Review of “It’s Perfectly Normal” by Robie H. Harris and our personal reflections on approachable parenting.
I was in 4th grade when my parents gave me the book “Where Did I Come From” by Peter Mayle. I think it was about the time my mom was pregnant with my brother. It was about a year late, but still helped guide my learning about sex and sexuality. Truth is I learned about reproduction from a dirty song my friends taught me in 2nd grade on the playground. It still left a lot of questions of course, questions my friends couldn’t answer.
Over the past few months I have been preaching the idea of talking to your kids about changing bodies, growing up, sex, and sexual health. So today, I am bringing in an expert on the issue…my 12 year old daughter, Avry. She will share her perspective on all things puberty and the pros and cons of a parent who talks about it!
Together we read “It’s Perfectly Normal” and are taking time out to check in with each other on all things boys, puberty, and middle school. This book review and interview will share a little bit about our journey together.  
Brief Book Review by Mom:
This book is loaded with information on all the hard topics. Puberty and reproduction just scratch the surface to the even bigger more sensitive subjects like masturbation, responsible choices, sexual orientation, desire, abstinence, birth control, abortion, sexually transmitted disease, and HIV/AIDS. The content is presented in developmentally appropriate terms. The author takes great care to relate to the young mind with a comedic brilliance that is appropriate and entertaining.  The illustrations were probably my favorite. Honest and well-intended to show how bodies look inside and out and all shapes and sizes.  A bird and a bee, the narrators, bring a lightheartedness to a serious subject allowing you and your child to giggle at every page turn. My favorite part of the book is the casual flow of content. Allow the book to guide you through the natural stages your child is or will be going through. Your child will be validated and encouraged to explore their sexuality in the most natural process. Parents I guarantee you will learn something too. I am comfortable with my 12 year old reading every last page of this book if she was interested. I have also used a few different chapters and some of the illustrations with my younger kids who are 8 and 9. While the text is above their reading level, I would suggest the book “It’s Not the Stork” for this age group written by the same author.

I asked Avry to help on the blog and she agreed to an interview to discuss her experience as a tween, her response to the book, and our interactions together as we both explore puberty together.
Tell us a little about yourself.
“My name is Avry Asby. I am turning 12 in a few days and I am in the 6th grade”
What are girls preoccupied with or into at your age? How about boys, what do you think boys your age are most preoccupied with?
“Social media like Instagram, clothes, and how they look. Different types of music too. I think boys are mostly into sports and the type of shoes they wear. Both girls and boys think a lot about fashion and what they wear. I don’t really know much about the boy perspective.”
What have you learned about puberty or reproduction at school?
“In health class we just learned about our internal organs. The body parts and what they do. How to use pads and tampons, where to buy them, and that kinda stuff. We won’t learn about what boys go through til 8th grade.”
Did you read “It’s Perfectly Normal?” Did you think it was age appropriate?
Not all of it, yet. I have been busy so I picked out a few chapters. I think it was appropriate for my age group because I could understand the text. I read chapter 3 about puberty because I wanted to know more information about that since I know it’s coming!  We learned it in health class, but I needed more information. I am interested in the families and babies chapter too because it talks about taking care of babies, the birthing process; like going through labor. My aunts are having babies so this will be helpful to understand what they are going through.”
What parts of the book were most interesting?
“How they explain puberty and the pictures that show specifically what is happening in your body, and on the outside of your body. I like that I can mentally picture the changes I will go through. This book was really helpful and fun to read. I could read the text then look at the illustrations to further understand everything. The little bird and bee are funny, so you will probably laugh.
Do you feel like it is important for parents to talk to their kids about sex, puberty, and sexual health?
I think parents should talk more about it with their child. It will allow for good bonding time. They went through it themselves, and I personally feel more comfortable asking my parent questions, and also because I trust them more. I don’t really want to ask my teacher those kinds of questions plus it is hard to ask in front of your friends in class if you don’t understand something. I think it is also better because our parents can help guide us to making the right decisions. I am glad my mom talks to me about it.”
It is hard to be open and honest with your parents?
Sometimes. I get nervous, and I like having my privacy. I know I have to tell them something at some point, and I know I will need someone to go to when I am confused and to discuss my personal feelings.”
If you had a friend who was telling friends inaccurate information about sex and puberty, what would you tell them?
“I would tell them that I was told something different, and they should really ask their parent if that is correct. I would share what my parent told me because I know my mom knows this stuff, she studies it in grad school. I would also go tell them to buy or check out the book, It’s Perfectly Normal, and read it.”
Have you ever used the internet to learn about any of these subjects? Was the internet helpful? Was it dangerous?
“Sometimes, but people put things on the internet that are not true, and even inappropriate for our age. Also things change so much you might get misinformation. I would be very careful what you search online, it can lead to things you don’t need to see”
What do you think would be the best way for a parent to teach reproduction and puberty?
I like using the book. The pictures are really helpful, and you can do it at your own pace. Being 12 this book has so much information it is almost overwhelming. I like having the book so I can take it one step at a time. Just sharing personal experience is helpful too. It helps to hear what other people went through.”

Childless, Not by Choice

Nine years ago, on Mother’s Day weekend, I lost my one and only pregnancy. May 13, 2006. Approximately 30 days after finding out I was pregnant, I lost it, due to an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured. I like to believe it would have been a girl. I always wanted a daughter. So Mother’s Day weekend is always hard now.

When I realized that having children was not in the plan for me, I told my husband I was going back to school. I half-joked that my PhD was going to be my baby. This week, on May 15, 2015, that pursuit comes to completion. Nine years later, almost to the date of that horrible miscarriage, I will graduate with my PhD in Human Sexuality. I will become the first doctor in my family.

I find myself asking “So now what?” Being a student was a way to channel my energy into a goal, and ignore feelings about motherhood that still bubble up now and then. This is a terminating degree. So I wonder what the next distraction will be, to take the place of feeling the emotions, when they bubble up again, which they will. They always do. Especially on Mother’s Day weekends.

My friend, Dr. Jill McDevitt, wrote the piece below. I read it mid-day. It was the first time amid all the social media Mother’s Day greetings and salutations that I saw myself, and my mother experience, reflected in the day’s celebrations. These four words, “experienced a devastating miscarriage”, allowed me to be seen, and acknowledged. She created the space for me, and I felt compelled after sitting in that space, to share my experience. I know I am not alone and that miscarriage is a common part of the human experience.  For others who share my experience, I want you to know that I hold space for you, and I acknowledge you as mothers too.

TW: miscarriage, losing a child
When I was a kid, I made my mom breakfast on Mother's Day. As an adult I send her a card, and I've mostly had the privilege of not having to think about Mother's Day beyond that, and as per the nature of privilege, I've had the privilege of not realizing that for so many people, it's not that simple. But being Facebook friends with such a diverse group of folks, I've come to understand from scrolling my feed every year on this day that for so many people, Mother's Day is fraught.
There are people who have lost their mother. There are people who are estranged from their mother, were abused by their mother, or otherwise have a painful complicated relationship with her.
There are also people who have lost a child, experienced a devastating miscarriage, or very much want to be a mother but can't conceive.
There are people who are struggling with motherhood; financially, emotionally as a single mother feeling isolated, as a mother of a sick child or child with special needs, frustrated by the lack of support they receive from a society that claims it values mothers but clearly doesn't.
There are people who lament how far we've moved away from the origin of Mother's Day as an anti-war, Feminist, and devoutly anti-consumerist holiday honoring the thankless role of women in society, and bringing together women whose families were destroyed when their sons went off to war. There are people who express their sadness that we "celebrate" motherhood today while we still allow pregnant people to be fired from their jobs, remain the only country on earth without paid maternity leave, and continue to deny access to affordable birth control so people can choose if and when they want to become a mother.
All of this was in my newsfeed today.
For everyone for whom this day opens wounds, I'm sending love and compassion your way.