<%-- Page Title--%> Straight Talk <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 147 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

April 1, 2004

<%-- Navigation Bar--%>
<%-- Navigation Bar--%>
<%-- 5% Text Table--%>

Growing Pains

Nadia Kabir Barb

You can run but you can't hide -- trust me I know. I have spent the last 3650 days trying to run away from the day my children would wake up to the fact that there are no storks that drop babies off in the dead of night, nor can doctors perform magic and abracadabra brothers and sisters into this world. The dilemma of what I should say when confronted by the children on such delicate matters has plagued me since the birth of my first child and a few weeks ago I had my day of reckoning. Being a parent is, on the whole, a pleasurable and fulfilling experience. But on the downside, there are, however, some aspects of parenthood that are less desirable. For example, I am sure that most of us could do without the sleepless nights and nappy changing sessions that accompany babyhood. As our children get to the toddler stage, there is always the terrifying prospect that they might fall down the stairs or stick their head in the toilet and when we come to the school phase our daily prayers include a "doa" so that the teacher does not summon us to school "to have a little talk" about our offspring. But in my short experience of being a parent, the aspect that has had me petrified the most is the stage where your kids find out about the facts of life.

It is inevitable that when children are growing they will ask all sorts of personal and embarrassing questions whether you like it or not. Up to a certain age, it is possible to evade these questions subtly or even manipulate the answers but the older they get, the harder it is to avoid direct questions and observations. Excuses such as "I really have to make an important phone call right now" or "remind me when I have a few minutes to spare tomorrow and we'll talk then" start to lose credibility after the fiftieth time you have used them. For us, it all came to a head when a few days ago we had to face our fears after we received a letter from my daughter's school informing us that the discussion on "the facts of life" (i.e. puberty, how babies are born etc.) was imminent and required our permission in order for her to attend. Having spoken to the other parents we decided that it was a more sensible idea for the girls to have a teacher who was qualified to speak to children of this age and give them a talk that was structured, informative and of course sensitively handled rather than hearing things second-hand from their peers or other sources. Once the forms had been signed I thought I was free from my obligations to have "the big talk" but my daughter obviously had other ideas. That evening she came to me and sat down with a determined look on her face. "Mummy, I would like you to tell me about "the birds and the bees before I go to the class tomorrow". In that instance, if I could have, I really would have done a Houdini act and disappeared into thin air or put a paper bag on head and pretended I was invisible, but I could hear my husband's voice in my head telling me very wisely not to react out of proportion and make an issue out of the situation or put it off any longer. Instead I should tackle it head long and be flattered that my daughter felt comfortable enough to approach me instead of asking someone else. I took a deep breath and for the next 20 minutes, put my inhibitions aside and behaved like a responsible parent. Strangely enough it was almost as if my daughter was putting me at ease and there were no awkward moments and thankfully I did not feel the need to break into hysterical nervous laughter. At the end of it all when I asked her if there was anything else she wanted to know her response was, "I really didn't want to know any of it in the first place so I think the answer is 'no thank you, Mummy'". We had a laugh over this and then went about our own business. Who could have guessed that something I had dreaded so much for so long could have been so simple?

I was wondering whether, had I still been living in Bangladesh, I would have had this conversation with my daughter at all. Certain topics such as sex, drugs etc are taboo in our society--these are things that you just do not talk about. Until a few weeks ago my view was of a similar ilk and I felt that there was no need for me to discuss these matters with my children. But my "session" with my daughter made me realise that our children look up to us for information, guidance and advice on every aspect of their lives and if we want them to make the right choices in life then we should at least be willing to be open and honest with them. This does not necessarily mean we lose our authority as parents but that we are there for them and in my opinion this option is more desirable to me than my children getting information that is inaccurate or misleading from friends, television or even the internet.



(C) Copyright The Daily Star. The Daily Star Internet Edition, is published by The Daily Star