American Girl is celebrating 25 years in business this year. And in my mind, that is 25 years of excellence. One of these days, I will review their dolls for which they are best known. But as a former bookseller, it is their books (all of them – historical fiction to games to information pertinent to girls) that rock my world. And hands down, the creme of the creme, is “The Care and Keeping of You – The Body Book for Girls”.
We are not prudes in my house. We are pretty open about our bodies. About sex. About being comfortable in your own skin. I’m just saying this so that you know that I talked with both of my girls about their bodies before I just handed them this book. Truthfully though, I didn’t have to. Everything was in there. Of course, I think open dialogue is important but if you truly can’t handle the subjects of puberty and sex with your kids, this book has you covered. I can only imagine how great a single dad of daughters would find it!
This is how it went down in our house. When my oldest was in fourth grade, we had the very basic talk – about her period, body changes, and a little bit about sex. Then I gave her the book and she didn’t put it down until she had read every one of the 104 pages. Then I said “Do you have any questions?” and she replied, “Yes, can I get a bra? What did they call them? A sports bra?” I was a little taken aback by her directness but I went with it, lamely answering “Do you think you need one?” (A little bit of the role reversal going on because I could not imagine my first baby needed a bra – thankfully she replied …) “Yeah, I don’t think I need one of those underwire bras, but yeah, I could use a sports bra.” Okay…. So then I said, “Fine, we will go this week. Any other questions?” And she said “Yes, do you use pads or tampons?” And it has been like that ever since.
By the time her sister read the book (four year age difference) I think she knew most everything. She had been around for the purchase of many bras, but also pads and tampons. The two shared a room, also sharing a load of information, I am sure. But I still loved the fact that it is a great resource. A book that girls can come back to as they start going through the changes. And the message is very much “This is what happens to EVERY girl, it is normal, you are normal, and there is no reason to be embarrassed.” It is written so a fourth grader can understand and an eighth grader won’t feel patronized.
Sidenote incase you are wondering when is too early. I learned about sex from our older girl neighbor when I was in 1st grade (yep, you read that right – 1st grade!). It was obviously the biggest news she had ever had and it was certainly the biggest I had heard. I remember where I was, what I was wearing, and that I thought she was the grossest person I had ever met. With that as my own experience, I was determined to be the one to break it to both of my children, having a private talk at the end of second grade with each. While many of their peers parents thought I was nuts, I must tell you – both of my kids had already had the playground schooling on this subject. It hadn’t come up in our “How was your day?” conversations but when asked directly, both kids at age 8 already knew the answer to the oh so telling question, “Where do babies come from?”