“Has your son ever asked you about periods?” asked the Mother’s friend Larissa one day, completely out of the blue.
“Oh, God, yeah, he’s asked me about 100 times, ‘Mum, what are those cotton wool things in the bathroom for?’ replied the Mother mimicking her son.
“Actually,” she continued after giving the question some thought, “he seems to ask me on a monthly basis, which is kind of ironic.”
Riz laughed. “And what have you told him?”
“Nothing, Jesus, it’s bad enough having periods without having to explain them to a prepubescent boy.”
“But don’t you think you should?” Larissa continued.
“Yeah, probably,” replied the Mother. “Yes, I probably should.”
His father had already had the “talk” with their son just a few weeks earlier, and it seemed only logical that the two should happen at roughly the same time. They did kind of complement each other – where would sperm be without ovulation?
For this little ‘man to man’ chat, Dad had taken Aaron to a gallery. It wasn’t usual for Jason to take one of his offspring to an art gallery on occasions like this. Death of a hamster, Hieronymus Bosch exhibition. Need a break from the inner city then it’s Constable. Massive hangover and can’t face the kids? Get up and fuck off to the National Gallery before mum wakes up, So it went without saying talking to your children about the
Birds and the Bees.
The Bees and the bees
The birds and the birds
The bee, and other bee and a bird
Just a bee
Just a bird
The bee and the internet, Oh Christ the list is endless! So you can see why it required a trip to the Tate Modern, can’t you?
“I walked in and purely by chance there was an exhibition on called Nudity, Erotica, and Pleasure, so the chat turned out to be surprisingly easy,” said Jason smugly.
“He already knew about the reproduction stuff from science, so I didn’t need to say much. I mean, he just worked it all out from all the paintings and stuff.” And by stuff, he meant a three-metre-high model of a vagina, as well as several life-like sculptures of the penis and/or testicles.
“You lucky sod,” said the Mother, “you got off lightly. A whole art exhibition on sex and the human form – how am I going to compete with that?”
“Well,” said Jason, “there’s props you can use, aren’t there? I mean, when you’re talking to… about you know…” Christ, he couldn’t even say it. He’d witnessed her bear two children and he still couldn’t say the word.
“Periods, menstruation, time of the month, ovulation.”
“Yeah, alright, alright, that will do,” said Jason, beginning to show signs of embarrassment.
She didn’t really want to stop, she was enjoying herself.
“Anyway, as I was saying, there’s props you can use.”
“Props?” said the Mother. She knew what he meant, but she wanted to string it out.
“Yes, sanitary towels and, you know, the other… cotton wool things.” He gestured using an upward-pointing finger. “And that belt thing.”
“The belt? Jesus, who taught you about menstruation, Jason, the bloody nuns?! And the other things, they are called tampons. It’s not the 1980s, you are allowed to say the word!”
“Perhaps Jason also needs to have ‘the talk’,” thought the Mother.
So a couple of weeks later, when Aaron asked yet again about the mysterious objects in the bathroom (not the Vileda mop or the broom, although the purpose of both seemed to so far have eluded him), the Mother realised she could put this moment off no longer.
“Do you really want to know what they are?” asked the Mother, although it sounded more like a threat than a question.
There was a pause, a moment of uncertainty, a chance to save himself, but then a defiant, “Yeah, Mum, I do.” Taking a deep breath, the Mother replied, “Do you want the short explanation or the long one?” Again, a moment or two to think and then, “The short one,” he answered.
The Mother then took the plunge and began to explain the menstrual cycle in all its glory. As she explained, she noticed something incredible. Something more incredible than periods, conception and the whole world of childbirth. Her son had not interrupted her, not once. For the whole duration of her explanation, he had not uttered one single word. It was a miracle.
At the end of it all, there was a look on Aaron’s face that at first she could not interpret. What was it? Had it been too soon for the talk after all? Had it been too gory? Should she have been more scientific? Had she now damaged her son in some irreparable way? Did he even believe her?
The Mother was not sure what kind of response she had expected from her son, but it definitely wasn’t anger.
“I said the short version,” he said loudly and defiantly.
“That was the bloody short one,” said the Mother.”
He stared at her for a few seconds and then said, “And this happens to all women?”
“Yes,” said the Mother.
“And it happens every month?”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m bloody sure,” retorted the Mother.
Several weeks later, when Aaron had fully recovered from their little chat, the Mother found him going through her bag.
“What are you looking for?”
“Sweets,” he replied without looking up, “Esme said you had a pack of Crunchies in your bag.” He continued rummaging through her stuff – her make-up, keys, scissors, Sellotape, Lego cards, an uneaten, bruised banana and several glue sticks. And then he said, “Jesus, Mum, why have you got all these tampons in your bag? You only have one period a month, don’t you?”