Wow! Two blogs in a night! Must be some sort if record!
I wrote this sometime ago and forgot about it completely. It is a long one, but please take it to the end – it’s worth it.
A very pregnant truth…
We’ve changed. Such an obvious statement, but true nonetheless. We, as a wider Western European society, have changed. I suppose it is in a way we don’t recognise, but we seriously have, and I think the time has come to admit it.
A few hundred years ago, possibly not even that far back, women and girls understood the role their bodies played in defining their place in the family, the community and in the broader human society. This was an understanding taught to us by mothers, sisters and cousins, neighbours and elders; an understanding not only learned in theory, but in practice and demonstration.
Our fore-mothers quite literally knew their bodies like the back of their hands. Given, they may not have known the location and function of filopian tubes, but they did have a rudimentary knowledge of anatomy and how a woman’s body worked.
For a very long time in prehistory, these matters were considered ‘woman’s business’ – not the domain of men and boys. In many cases this was at the behest of the women themselves, not imposed by the males in the broader tribe. By controlling their own business, women controlled their bodies. Without this sacred knowledge, an outsider couldn’t seek to manipulate the owner of the body, because the owner always knew best.
To keep the secrets alive, women relied on a well used system of whispers; older women teaching the girls in their care through conversation and demonstration. The girls watched and listened, drawing in the knowledge they would one day pass on to their younger sisters, cousins and eventually daughters. This was considered crucial, and in many developing societies it is still considered so.
Unfortunately, we are witnessing before our very eyes the degradation of these traditional learning forums as these social groups become more ‘developed’, or shall we say, more ‘western’.
What kinds of things could these women know that would be so critical as to warrant concern at their loss? Seemingly simple things. Seemingly tiny, insignificant things, unless of course you are a girl heading towards puberty or a woman trying to get pregnant or a mother learning to feed her baby.
Ask any sixteen year old girl in an Australian town why she gets a period and it can be said with some certainty that the answer will be pretty basic. Ask the girls in the same age group how babies are conceived and you will likely receive a blank expression, quickly followed by giggles.
Most teenage girls of child bearing age don’t know exactly why their uterus sheds its lining once every 28 days (approx). Many are equally unaware of exactly how and when their bodies are able to conceive. And in an age when the greatest pool of free knowledge lies at the thumb tips of most sixteen year olds, the adults of our society seem oblivious, or even perhaps a little happy their daughters remain ignorant.
Now, why is that?
For the last hundred or so years, our western world has hemorrhaged what could be loosely considered ‘traditional knowledge’ – that is, the things traditionally passed down the generations by the adults to the children. This is not information we have come to understand as the domain of the formal school curriculum, but the information we need to be successful in the wider, much more complex game of living a life well.
Things like how to court a partner, how to treat a cold, how to cook a steak, how to politely turn down an invitation and, low and behold, how your body works. Very little, if any, of this learning was direct. Most of this learning was done by accident and by observing. One learnt how to relate to the opposite sex by observing and emulating their parents or older siblings. One learnt how to wash clothes properly by trial and error, and anyone with pink socks can attest to the event of errors.
My point is, somewhere along the way from the cave to the computer, we lost a step.
I got pregnant in Jan 2012. I was the eldest child in a large extended family and had even completed a formal degree in early childhood. On paper, I was a consummate expert on kids. In reality, I was about as educated about the experience awaiting me as a mushroom is about the chemical composition of Round-Up.
Growing up in our modern, compartmentalised, age defined society, I missed out on a whole diploma in womanhood.
I didn’t see my aunts or mother or neighbors fall pregnant and grow big with bonny babes. I was kept out of conversations about infertility and pregnancy related illnesses, either because I was ‘too young’ or because no one actually spoke about it. The women around me kept their bodies covered and their experiences even more private.
This separation of girls from the grown up business of being a woman meant that most of what I learned about the bodies of both males and females came from TV, novels and non-fiction picture books artfully left on the kitchen table to catch my eye one afternoon after school.
I didn’t learn about period pain by watching my fellow tribes women and helping administer comfort and relief. I learnt about it by writhing through it and wolfing down handfuls of painkillers.
I didn’t learn about how to conceive a baby, I just ‘did it’. The learning came after the fact.
The blame for this lack of knowledge isn’t in the hands of our schools, it is in the hands of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
We have a role to play in preparing our children to be adults and it should not involve sheltering them to the point of ignorance.
“But their innocence!” I hear cried from the rear of the crowd. Pah!!
Innocence in childhood is a construct of adults desperate to preserve something they feel they either lost or never had.
Withholding these topics and informative conversations from our sons and daughters doesn’t protect them, it weakens them. If you want your daughter to make an informed decision about her relationships, her heart, her body, then give her the information! Let her be a part of the women’s tribe and learn the secrets.
If you want your son to be a safe driver, responsible drinker, providing partner, reliable friend and a wise man, then let him be with men who will demonstrate these traits and teach the skills. Goodness knows Call of Duty can only teach a boy so much.
The truth is, and it is a very pregnant truth, if you cover a child’s eyes with the proverbial ‘wool’, don’t be surprised when they crash into brick walls.