I talk. A lot. All day. About ALL sorts of things. I talk about breasts, uteruses (or uteri–never sure of the plural on that.) I talk about prostates and PAP smears. In a word, it takes a lot to ruffle my feathers when it comes to matters of the human body and what it’s capable of. That is until today.
See, even though Chris and I have a 50-50 relationship, there are some things that are “assigned” and not negotiable. He does all the car stuff (especially since the untimely demise of the BMW.) I do all the shoe shopping. It is an agreement that works. In the last year (OK maybe two) Chris has repeatedly asked me to have “The Talk” with Maisy, our 14 year-old daughter. And I ….well I haven’t. Not because I didn’t have time or because I didn’t think it was important.
Because..I was scared.
A few days ago, she asked if we could go on a “date” together this weekend and I took it as a sign. It was time.
We decided to head out to the King of Prussia mall for lunch and a little shopping (she is starting high school–basically this requires a total head to toe makeover.)
For the twenty-five minute ride to the mall I half listened as she rattled off the “hilarious” text conversations her friends were having with each other’s boyfriends. I nodded absently as she told me the ins and outs of every band that came on the radio. All the while my mind was spinning. I was rehearsing my speech. I would be scientific. She is a smart girl. I would drown her in pregnancy stats and STD terror stories and give her my best firm but loving look.
Just as we were getting to the mall I realized that we were less than a block away from the first apartment Chris and I ever had together. We had moved into it 18 years ago, just after we were married. Without reason or pause, I pulled into the apartment complex and wound my way around to number 511. I parked the car and told Maisy to get out. I knew I was in trouble when tears sprang to my eyes as we took a selfie in front of that apartment.
I remembered the cold rainy day we had brought her home from the hospital to that very apartment. I remembered those early days and weeks and months of sleeplessness and fear. I remembered when she was three and ran down that very sidwalk calling out to me “Mama, Mama!!” I could not remember the last time she called me “Mama.”
I did the math and my heart stopped. We only had four more years with her; the length of time we had lived in that apartment, the length of time it took me to finish medical school…four years..that was it. The tears pooled against the rim of my sunglasses.
“Mom!” she was yelling at me.
“You cannot stand here and take pictures in front of these people’s home! That is so creepy.”
We raced to the car and pulled out before we were caught.
The restaurant was empty and we were seated instantly. My stomach was a knot but I ordered anyway so as not to let on to her that I was dying inside. We nibbled at a soft pretzel and sipped our sodas. I kept extending the time till I would launch into my rehearsed speech. After we sit. After drinks. After starters. With our lunch. I knew if I came home having once again failed at my task, I would have to explain my “crazy” to Chris and well with all his towel folding/ car smelling OCD, he had plenty of his own crazy to deal with.
Maisy put her phone in her purse and looked up at me. That was my cue. I systematically began to chop my chopped salad and cleared my throat.
“Honey. Well….Daddy would KILL me if I did not have this talk with you so….” I took a huge slurp of my diet Pepsi.
She did not look away. I put my glass down and said “Hey! Good Talk!”
Maisy burst out laughing and high-fived me from across the table. She was still smiling so I went on.
“We really need to do this.”
Very quickly I confirmed that she had in fact been to health class. She understood all the mechanics and science involved in reproduction. She had no questions. I established the fact that she did not have a boyfriend but she maybe liked a boy but was sure he didn’t like her. I learned that her friends that “went out”…really just talked/texted and had their parents drive them to the mall once in a while. She had not tried a cigarette or marijuana but had been offered the former and thought it was “gross.” I told her that alcohol effects how you think and is also a drug.
“Yes, Mom I know. Remember, I was there at Ms. D’s that night when Daddy had to show you how to get home…across the street.” She was laughing. I was embarrassed and silently vowed to never drink in front of my kids again. By now my chopped salad looked like it had been put through a Vitamix.
As comprehensive as it was, I knew this was not enough. I had to get up the courage to tell her she was too young to think about sex. That one bad choice could ruin her life. That a good reputation was hard to earn and easy to lose. I needed to tell her to imagine her Dad and I in the room and would she make the same choice then. I needed to tell her she could come to me with anything. That I would pick her up from anywhere at any hour–no questions asked– all she had to do was ask.
Instead, I found myself telling her about having a best friend in the universe AND getting to be in love with them. I told her about all the boys I had thought I loved and cried over before I met her dad. I told her that I was so glad for them… because of them, I recognized true love when I really found it. I told her that real intimacy was not what was in the movies or on the radio or in Cosmo…I told her that intimacy was a gift to be shared with true love and only with true love.
“I know you are going to change the world someday.” I started. But…..then I was sobbing.“But of all the greatness you will surely do, mostly I…I …I want you to have what I have with Dad–true love–no less. And until you have that, save that gift.”
I blew my nose in my napkin and we laughed again. Crying was NOT in my dress rehearsal.
“God Maisy, I am sorry…I am such an ass!”
“No you are not Mom!! I looked up at her. She was crying too. Before I knew what was happening, Maisy was out of her seat and hugging me.
Then she said the words that really did me in. “Thank you so much…Mama.”