I’ve fancied myself a progressive type of mom. I keep an open dialogue going with The Bee, allowing her to respectfully express herself. She has a voice; something I always felt that I didn’t have as Mom and my grandmother were not the least bit interested at all in what I had to say never mind what I was feeling. And without crossing the line, I have been honest with her, not to a point in which she is scarred for life but providing enough information so that she is aware of things in an appropriate manner. As I was giving myself a strain from patting myself on the back, I took a look at the young lady my baby is transforming into and panicked as I wondered if those lessons actually stuck.
Although I get a kick out of the term bajangle instead of vagina, I was never one to shy away from the proper terms wanting The Bee to be informed, educated and proud of the body she has, I was surprised when she declared that she was a ‘tween and no longer need my assistance when she was getting dressed. I was shocked when she shared some information that she had garnered from her classmates and I was proud that she was comfortable enough to come to me and ask about information that she had heard.
When asked to review The Body Scoop for Girls by Dr. Jennifer Ashton, I jumped all over the book. The need for CORRECT information is necessary when one has to compete with the misinformed schoolyard whispers of how babies are made, what to do if a boy likes you, what a period is and the like. The former are now accompanied by instant information that can be found through any basic google search as well as tuning into the correct television channel.
The Body Scoop is straight up information for young women about their bodies. Using examples from her practice, Dr. Ashton writes in a manner that is straightforward and non-threatening as she wonderfully addresses concerns and issues. She makes medical terms comfortable and approachable and encourages girls to learn to love and appreciate their bodies. Each taboo body issue is addressed, explained and the reader is left empowered as there is information accompanied by stories from her practice. Body matters that were once squirm worthy and taboo are discussed. I even learned a few things that I was uncomfortable thinking about.
Each chapter includes Dr. Ashton’s play list, a bulleted summary of things discussed in the chapter. This was particularly helpful for when The Bee grew too embarrassed by our talks and would shut down. I would conveniently leave the book available to her and spot her reading something that would capture her interest. I also liked the What’s Not Normal boxes. Puberty itself is a bitch but trying to discuss these things with an anxious child or mom (guilty!) can be an exercise in stuttering and stammering. This box armed with information to answer questions as well as keep my head when The Bee throws in a statement that makes me want to lock her up.
In addition to the physical changes one will go through in puberty, Dr. Ashton addresses the S word…SEX. My talk with my mom was don’t do it. You can get pregnant the first time, as I did with you and your sister and, as HIV and AIDS were still a nightly news subject, you’ll wish you only got pregnant. Um…thanks? I don’t think The Bee is going to run out and start having sex but I’d like her aware enough of her body and feelings so that when the time comes she’ll make the right decisions. This book really helped me find the words to use without going into overload.
Dr. Ashton also addresses mental health issues, because really teenagers lose their mind when going through puberty! Major stresses for teens are addressed, coping skills are shared, and the stigma of mental illness is lifted so that the help one may need can be sought.
My favorite section, I have saved for last although I read it second: Body Image and weight. As a pretty slim kid, The Bee has been known to utter, “I can eat what I want; see how thin I am?” to (mirroring a relative) “Look at how fat I am!” As someone who grew up in a fat family and constantly struggles with weight I wanted to spare THAT learned behavior from her if I could. Anywho, this section gives the facts: how to eat, how what you eat will affect the way you look and, once again, loving the body you have.
I have since shared this book with my sister and will also order a copy for my parenting collection at work. I feel much more equipped to deal with the changes I see in The bee and I think I may be ready to let go and stand back to watch her become the smart, confident young lady that is beneath all of the tweeness.