Many of you already know that I am the mother of two bright and beautiful daughters. God knows I post enough photos of them around here to make it pretty obvious. So, what does having daughters mean to me? It means a lot but what first comes to mind is my wish to raise them to be strong, independent, empowered women all the while trying my darnedest not to saddle them with my own baggage (namely, the female kind). So far, so good, I guess. But my oldest is headed for Tweenville and that means it's only going to get harder for me to navigate the precarious mother/daughter waters.
Long ago, back before we even had kids, my husband insisted that I bow out of The Sex Talk if ever that time came. He was certain that it would be futile for me to try to hide my uptightness about all things below the belt and figured he’d be the better speaker of the house. I didn’t take offense to it because I knew he was right. But time has passed and I better understand some of my issues and have faced them over the years. And now, in the blink of an eye, I am dealing with a nine-year-old daughter and on a daily basis am deciding how and when to interject the tid-bits of girl info as she needs it. Considering I never even called a vagina by it’s proper name until she was like 5, it’s been a slow road. Regardless a few set backs, over the last few years, I have decidedly been much more forthright with her, sharing the details of my own cycle in ways that have seemed to comfortably open the lines of communication. Whew. I figure if I can keep it going, then the talk won’t necessarily have to be such a big talk but more of an extension of the things we’ve already been sharing (she says with fingers crossed).
Lucky for me, before things have gotten hairy (that might be a pun if you really think about it- so try not to think about it), a book like Toni Weschler's Cycle Savvy came along. I was thrilled when the call went out from Mother Talk to review the new book geared toward girls 14 and older. "Ah ha," I thought, "I’ve got a few years until then and I have time to arm myself with the info in this book so I’ll be really ready!" I figured from the title and the fab graphics that it’d be a perfect book to read and entrust my daughter with when the time comes. I started with the “note to moms” which is obviously a disclaimer for what was about to be discussed in the book and it managed to put me at ease right away. And then I really began. When I got to page 8 it was all I could do not to slam the book shut. Oh my God, I am not ready for this. See, page 8 is a graphic line drawing of the female genitalia, spread eagle, labeled and plain as day. Breathe Tracey, breathe. And then, through one squinted eye, I studied the drawing a little more closely. My eyes opened. Aaaah, so that’s where that is. Oooo, that’s what that’s called.
I found I was able to gather my thoughts and talk myself off the cliffs of Mt. Prude. And what happened next was remarkable. I began reading Cycle Savvy as a curious teen. Apparently, in many ways I am. I won't pretend ladies, there is stuff in this book that I didn't know. I haven’t read Toni’s first, wildly popular book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Yet. Is it that obvious? Anyway, Toni’s approach is one of respect, knowledge, understanding and humor. I love her voice and to my astonishment I felt very comfortable reading about all the female stuff that might normally make me squirm especially in the context of knowing my daughter will be reading it one day. We’re not just talking periods here. Toni covers or perhaps better said uncovers topics like cervical fluid, ovulation, fertility, the ‘first time’ (gulp), birth control, and STDs to name a few. At great length and in detail I might add. Yep. It’s all in there and more.
So then I pondered her words and her straight-forward approach as a mother of a one-day teen and wanted to embrace her. She spoke in the language that I want to speak with my daughter; confident, kind, funny, and trusting. With teens, it’s not only what you say, it’s how you say it. And Toni has got it going on. She’s not trying to be one of the teens she’s targeting. Thank God. She’s just trying to be someone they will listen to, which is no easy task. She casts no judgment and offers clear, concise information that not only sheds light on the mysteries of the female body but empowers young women by entrusting them with the info they will need to make smart choices for themselves in life. As in every facet of life, not just in sex (although that is covered so well, I might have to memorize it and recite it when the time comes). Rest assured taking charge of your fertility isn’t easy at any age. If you consider doing so is like cracking the code to your whole personal make up it’s no wonder it takes some doing. But Toni offers the tools girls, ahem, women need to do just that, if and when they are ready to listen to and take charge of their bodies. It got me all fired up, I can tell you that much, and that’s a start.
Cycle Savvy is a book designed to help teen girls demystify their “awesome and amazing” bodies (gotta love those adjectives!) and in turn honor themselves and through it all offers the universal messages that many moms strive to instill in their daughters. One of the highlights for me is when the author describes “the four little words that can change your life.” She continues, “Commit them to memory, make them your mantra, own them. They will serve you again and again. Knowledge: Good. Ignorance: Bad.” That single message alone makes the book worth reading. I can guarantee that Cycle Savvy will be right here on my shelf (once I’ve read through it a few more times) waiting to be used for it’s highest good; to help me, help my daughter understand her own unique and miraculous body as she grows into the amazing young woman I see glimpses of even today.
I am giving away a free copy of Cycle Savvy- The Smart Teen's Guide to the Mysteries of Her Body. It'll be a random drawing taken from all the people who comment on this post. Thanks and good luck!