Pre-teens present all sorts of interesting opportunities for social interaction, question and answer sessions and just being. Taking a page from my aunt who mothered nine children's book of child raising, I enlist my troup in all house projects. I do my darndest to insist on participation, a certain level of enthusiasm, and actually finishing the job at hand.
However, when your thirteen year old girl says she has a tummy ache, and in fact she's got her period, and can she just sit it out? In this particuliar case it was sitting out the stacking the wood pile job. Well, it's awkward to be thirteen and it's wierd and scary having your period, so, okay, chill for a while, and do you want a pain reliever?
The pack mentality is such that, if one is missing, the others come looking. Why is she sitting down? We're not finished yet. Are you coming back out? Etc., Amongst the first to question this situation was Leo. So I said she had her period, a girl thing, and wasn't feeling so well. Oh? says Leo. And I said, haven't you learned as yet that girls bleed once a month? Hunh? says Leo.
Ah, a teaching moment presents itself. After all, twelve years old is a good age to learn something about girls, no? So, I shared the strange fact that we girls have eggs, and from the same age as he and other boys start having facial hair, a deeper voice, etc., we start menstruating. We produce an egg a month. And for this egg we make a nest in our uterus. But, if the egg isn't fertilized, if we do not have a relationship with a man, then the egg and its nest go away. And the way they leave our body is by disintegrating into blood. We bleed. Sometimes this time of the month hurts, and sometimes not. But in any case, this is something we live with for the rest of our lives till we get a few years older than I (his mother) am.
Oh. Okay, says Leo. And in the next while he was all solicitous of our very lovely pre-teen girl. It was quite touching.
That night Leo wanted me to stay later in his room so we could have one of our deep discussions. He loves these. He basically opens himself up to more teaching moments, a chance to converse at depth, to reach down into my feelings and whatever I'm willing to divulge. He also skilfully puts off that undesirable moment of Mom leaving the room and turning out the light. So, I continued on the discussion of girls, our menses, our monthly cycles, our relationship to the moon, the French and English definitions of Lunatic, the origins of the word hysterical, and some societal assumptions of why women are moody, or particularly vivacious at different times in the month. I spoke of the possibility (not all of us exhibit this, but many of us do) that women's mood variations are linked to the monthly cycle. I discussed the fact that men occasionally make rude comments about such, but that the concept is rooted in at least a modicum of truth. However, best to not to make assumptions, and yet to be aware.
As is often the case, I spoke perhaps too much, and not at a level necessarily adapted to a twelve year old. But he listens so intently, soaking up whatever is proferred. So the temptation is enormous to keep on sharing and teaching. At the very least, seeds were sown in a young man to be. May these seeds flourish, as he grows, help him better understand, or at least listen and pay attention to, the women in his life.
It's pretty cool mothering a boy.