I have friends who became parents as teenagers, and others who had their first at 40 and older. There are pros and cons to any age, and after meeting many parents I strongly feel no one is ever 100% ready and knows it all. How could you?
No matter our age, when it comes to parenting we are always learning. Some things we are confident with, others we fumble through. I know at times Hub and I have been thrown a hardball, and whispered to each other out of earshot of the kids "What the F*%! do we do here?!"
Our latest whispers were about our eldest son. Our guinea pig baby. He is heading to high school next year and lots of changes are happening. He is still young in some ways, yet becoming more mature in others.
I am seeing this time so differently from when I was younger. Watching my son I see this next journey going forwards a little, then back a bit, then forward again, then back. This is quite painful, for Hub and I, but also for our son. Hard on us as we have been through it and know the angst, uncertainty, questions. Wanting to help him as much as we can get through it.
Hard for him as he is the one who has so many changes, questions, feelings and yep, hormones!
Hub and I have always been open and honest with questions our children ask. We also try to answer them in a way that is child friendly. We always use correct names for body parts. This has always been important to me. Silly names for penis, vagina, testicles, breasts etc can make a child feel shame, add embarrassment and make discussing them more difficult.
I want them to be knowledgeable about what their body parts are, how they work and why. I want my boys and girls to be educated about both the female and male bodies.
The learning starts very young. And as they get older they throw a question here and there. You have a little chat, and that is enough. Other times they won't settle for a sentence or two, and they keep talking and asking questions. At times when I am answering a question I just know that the answer I am giving is going to lead to more questions, you can see it in the way they are looking back at you. Seeing their minds tick over.
There is no such thing as 'The Talk' and it only makes it harder by calling it such. In truth it us hundreds of little talks. Some may be just one question, answered, then followed by "So what's for tea?"
Some are one question that leads to more, and a discussion, and others can be a few hours worth. Often these talks are conducted while doing an activity.
Those who know me know I hate stereotyping when it comes to boys and girls. So it's quite a big deal when I say that for most boys, talking about their bodies, puberty, sex etc is easier when conducting an activity. Shooting hoops, hiking, bike riding, cooking, and a favourite here, doing the dishes.
Going out one on one so you can chat in the car is also a great one.
Here is the kicker. Keeping calm and not showing if you are freaked out. Some people are great at being calm and are not embarrassed or nervous about taking to their children about anything. This is wonderful.
I am getting there, but it is taking a lot of work. I know by the time our last child is asking bigger questions I won't blink an eye. The older children paving the way for the younger ones.
By keeping calm, and showing your child their questions, thoughts and feelings are important, they will then feel confident and assured they can keep coming to you. Open dialogue is very important. With some children, they can close right up if a parent freaks out and shows signs of stress. I know for some parents this can be hard. How our parents talked with us about puberty and our bodies makes a big impact on us, and how we are with our own children.
Some of us were just given a book to read. No questions, just, here, read this.
We can make things better for our own children though. With courage and the will to help them through how we wanted to.
It can help to think back to how we felt, and try to remember what we feel could have helped us. Be that for our own kids.
It's not all easy though, life never is all the time. And telling our children that we are doing our best shows them we care, and even if we don't have all the answers, we will help them find them.
This is where all the talking, being as honest as you can, all through their childhood pays off. They have grown up coming to you and talking about what is important to them. It is all bog stuff to children. We need to listen to it all and let them come to us. When their questions get tougher, and more complicated, they feel safe coming to us, as they have done all along.
Children need us to be their parent. To be a soft place to fall if they need. To help them through this journey and let them know it will be ok. We know it will, they don't yet.
I'll let you know how we fare on the other side in a few years time. Fingers crossed!