It's time for me to buy one of those Birds and Bees books for Bambina. Why? Because I found myself completely unable yesterday to explain menstruation to a four year-old in a way that would a) make sense, and b) not be scary to a four year-old.
Why did I need to explain menstruation to a 4 year old? Because she pulled out of my closet the following:
Or, more accurately, she pulled out a few individual (I hate the word:) pantiliners. Wanted to know what they were for. Are they stickers?!! Can we use them for a project?! Can I wear one?
I started off shaky and got worse from there: "Well, those are for grown up ladies." Not good enough for Bambina. "When a lady is old enough to have a baby, every month she...blah blah" Not good enough for Bambina. But then she kind of lost interest in the reason for the pads and went instead to Can We Play With It? So before I could comment she had stuck it to a piece of paper and was using it as a pretend bicycle seat. (You'll note the thong-style pantiliner has a sort-of bike seat shape).
I thought I was out of the woods until she came back to why these crazy things exist. So I tried again, taking care to not say anything about blood coming out of you, knowing that this would be TMI in a big way for a 4 year old. Which evolved into a discussion of why, if a lady can have a baby in her tummy, she wouldn't. So I told her that some ladies decide to adopt babies rather than have them in their tummies. Some ladies can't have them in their tummies, either because their or the daddy's seeds might not...blah blah...but some other ladies for lots of reasons choose to adopt a baby instead of having one come out of their tummy. And boy am I glad I got to be her mommy by adoption. Which seemed to make her happy--but sadly no less interested in riding around on her Always Pantiliner bicycle.
So I now have some breathing room to find the right book, because it's clear that we are now beyond the facile, "Babies come from a lady's tummy" explanation. Bambina wants to know how the baby gets in there (and the "the daddy puts a seed into the mommy explanation made her roll her eyes, like, "are you on drugs, mama? Plants have seeds; people don't"). She wants to know how it gets out. She wants to know why her vagina should be private (e.g., that no one should be touching it except herself, mama, and a doctor with mama present in the room). I was especially concerned about what to tell her because the timing of the discussion predated our visit with our very pregnant aunt and uncle by about 6 minutes. Knowing Bambina's relentless quest for information on any topic she feels important, I simply did not want her walking in there and asking Uncle if and how he put his seed into Aunt J. I figured no one would thank me for that little reality TV moment. Although I shouldn't have worried too much, because at this point it turns out that the reality of the fact that There Is An Actual Baby In There completely escapes Bambina. When the baby is here, she'll work backward and get it. But right now, she accepts that Aunt J has a baby in there but can't see the baby so thinks it's all a bit overblown.
Clearly, as much of a feminist womyn as I was in college and all down with sex ed for minors, I am facing the realization that my meager skills, while well-suited to the campus cohort, are no match for a 4 year old.