Well, we've been having some interesting family discussions over dinner recently. Topics have included: marijuana, driver reaction time after consuming alcohol, how nicotine stains your fingers; the intense pain caused by Tasering; bras and body hair.
One night, we even examined diagrams of male and female reproductive organs. "Those are the ovaries that produce eggs," said my 10-year-old daughter who brought the diagrams home from school. "Uh, I'm outta here," said her younger sister who quickly left the table.
The diagram even prompted The Hubster, a slightly stricken look on his red face, to leave the table and focus intently on doing the dishes.
But I couldn't have been happier having her point out to me the Fallopian tubes, uterus, testicles and urethra on her diagrams. I want her to feel comfortable asking me any question she'd like about puberty, sex, and drugs and alcohol.
Our dinnertime conversations are the result of two programs my daughter is participating in at her elementary school: a puberty education and D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). Parents play an incredibly important role in teaching their children how to make healthy and safe choices as they grow into teenagers and adults, but it's so helpful to have such amazing leadership and support from teachers and mentors in our education system.
To Rothesay Regional Police Cst. Krystal Daley, who leads the D.A.R.E. program, you have absolutely captivated my daughter. She has regaled us with tales of your bulletproof vest, pepper spray, baton, gun (which you can't take out unless you 'sign a lot of papers'), bullets and Taser.
"She'd rather be Tasered every day and twice on Sunday than pepper sprayed once," says my daughter.
She says you are "funny and fun" and enjoys learning about your job. But more than that, she remembers the lessons you are teaching her about alcohol, drugs and smoking. As you demonstrated in class, she showed us by snapping her fingers how much slower her driving reaction time would be after drinking alcohol.
To the teachers who are leading the puberty education program -- Lori Hughes and Candace Hatfield -- thank you for starting out my daughter's first class by asking all the girls to shout "penis" and "vagina" as loud as they could.
"I laughed until I cried," said my daughter after school that day.
Although we'd had several chats about the birds and the bees, my daughter was dreading "puberty class." Your approach relaxed her and made the whole topic seem less taboo.
My, how much has changed since I was in elementary school. All I remember about our sex education classes is watching a creepy film. Judy Blume's Are you there God? It's me Margaret and Forever taught me way more than that.
Talking to children about puberty, sex, alcohol and drugs can be stressful and uncomfortable for parents, me included. My daughter has asked me quite a few questions that I struggled with how to answer. How much information is too much? Teaching kids about these topics can't happen during one "sex talk" or "drug talk" conversation. Educating my girls about this will be a series of ongoing conversations that may happen as we shop for groceries, drive in the car or as has been the case recently, eat dinner.
So, to Cst. Daley, Mrs. Hatfield and Mrs. Hughes, thank you so very much for sparking many of these important conversations in our family. I hope you know what a positive impact your work is having on the lives of so many children.
Li'l Girl Talk
"Is puberty fun?" The Youngest, age 7, asks her sister.
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