Monday, 26 September 2011

Do you talk to your children about sex?

I was raised in a large Catholic family where the word S.E.X was never mentioned. Ever. My parents had 6 children and yet I never knew where they all came from. I knew that Mum would suddenly go into hospital and reappear days later with a new baby, but other than was a complete mystery.

There were lots of unspoken rules about what we could and couldn't say. We couldn't say pregnant, no, that was too vulgar so we used the less suggestive 'expecting' instead. We couldn't, or didn't, ever ask questions about anything personal or remotely suggestive. If we were watching the telly and there was suddenly a kissing scene someone, usually my Mum,  would leap out of their chair (no remotes then!) and change channels.

In fact it was a miracle that I managed to learn anything about my body before it was too late. I remember my Mum's ordeal when she attempted to tell me about periods, her embarrassment was so acute she could barely put a recognisable sentence together and I was left more confused than informed. "Bleeding? Down there? Really?"

When I was about 9 I remember reading a newspaper (probably the News of the World) and finding a word that I didn't understand. I went into the kitchen where most of the family were getting ready for Sunday dinner to ask my Dad what the word meant.

"Dad, what does nymphomaniac mean?"

I distinctly remember everyone stopping what they were doing, rather like one of those western films where a gunslinger walks into a saloon. In the background my Mum stopped peeling the potatoes and my older brothers looked at Dad with a mixture curiosity and hilarity.

To his credit, he answered with "It's an over-sexed woman", an answer I instinctively knew was the only one on offer and that I should just leave it at that. I had no idea what it meant though. An over-sexed woman? Was that a woman who was too much of a woman? I puzzled over that one for ages.

And so, years later, when I had my own daughters it wasn't a difficult decision for me to be very open about any subject they asked about. Ever since they were tiny and asked me questions like "when will I get boobies?" they've always had an honest reply. Now, of course, they're older and thankfully we still have that openness which makes it easier to talk about those more difficult teenage conversations.

My rules were to keep it honest, use age appropriate language and only give as much information as they actually needed.  I always found that if they needed more information they would ask, but sometimes they just wanted a very simple reply. Which reminds me of the story of a little boy asking "Dad, where did I come from?" whereupon the dad launches into a big, elaborate explanation of the birds and the bees. The boy listens intently before replying "Really? Only my friend Tom comes from Manchester."

How do you answer your children's questions about sex? Are you open and honest, or is it a little more difficult for you?

Monday, 19 September 2011

Living in organised chaos

So, it's September already. Soon it will be time for Hallowe'en and Bonfire Night then before you know it it'll be *whispers* Christmas.  Sorry.

I always feel very disorganised in September, particularly after the relaxing 6 week summer break before the new school term appears as though by surprise. It usually takes me until October to find a decent routine again, and until then I constantly have a feeling of panic and a vague idea that I've forgotten to do something. Which I usually have.

I wish I could be one of those people who sails through life with everything perfectly arranged and organised, with daily To-Do Lists all ticked off, meal plans sorted a week in advance and paperwork dealt with once and either filed or binned (instead of my ever -growing pile on the breakfast bar).

And now there's an extra reason for it to feel like organised chaos - we're going to be moving house next month.  I put my house up for sale in August and within 3 weeks it had been sold, quite unexpectedly, and bizarrely by the people whose house I will be buying. Yes, we're are going to be buying each other's houses!

So as well as being totally disorganised with all the usual stuff, I'm now trying to contend with mortgage comparisons, banks, solicitors, form-filling, packing boxes and bubblewrap.  I'm already bored of it all and just want to MOVE!

Keep your fingers crossed it all goes to plan.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Saving lives with words

Photo source: Save the Children

My two daughters are amongst the lucky ones. They have a comfortable home, clean clothes and three meals a day.

If they become ill I don't hesitate to call the doctor, because that's our right isn't it? To get medical attention at the first sign of illness.

But many children aren't so lucky. Children in the world's poorest countries are dying because they can't see a doctor or a health worker. They are dying from illnesses that can be prevented or treated.  They are dying because they are too poor to get medical attention.

You can help. You can make a difference.

Read more about this terrible inequality.

Sign this petition.

Take part in the 100 Word Challenge

Use the #healthworkers hashtag on twitter.

Thank you.