Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:08 AM

I've written here and here about my amazingly successful autodidact of a grandmother. She is the reason that, when I want to learn something new, I don't sign up for a class or ask someone for advice and hands-on help. Instead, I head for the library (or, increasingly these days, look online). I'm not saying that this is the best way to acquire a new skill; it's just my instinct.

It bothers me, not knowing things. It drives me crazy that I haven't been able to identify my favorite stand of trees in the median of the Palisades Parkway near Exit 5. Are the trees less beautiful--or, for that matter, less themselves--because I don't know their human-assigned designation?

And don't even get me started on the stars visible in the Northern Hemisphere, and how few constellations I can actually recognize. Somehow, if I could name them, they'd be more mine; I have a stronger connection with both things and people when I know more about them. I'm not saying that this is rational; it's just how I feel.

When Anne was struggling with sleep issues in January, I would rock her during the wee hours, all the while vowing to myself, "I've got to re-read Ferber." Morning came, and I never had the time; Anne eventually got back in her good sleeping pattern without my reviewing a book I once found crucial to maintaining sanity.

However, that midnight rumination caused me to realize that when I am faced with a crisis, I believe that the solution is more information, or better information, or a review of information that is no longer fresh in my mind. I'm not saying that this is true; it's just what I believe.

I often reinforce this with my children. Whether they are wondering how to spell 'Mississippi,' how to find the area of a circle, who Thomas Aquinas was, or how covalence works, I encourage them to look things up for themselves. I'm not saying I never give them the answer straight out; it's just that I believe this habit helps them become more self-reliant.

Hope turns ten in two weeks; I have come to terms with the fact that it's time for the "Our Changing Bodies" talk.* The way we discussed things with the boys doesn't feel quite right for Hope, for some reason, and I've been casting about for a new approach. Sure enough, Amazon seemed to have what I needed, and I'm once more armed with knowledge.

I remember vividly a book called Where Did I Come From? My dad gave it to me when I was Hope's age and left me to read it alone while babysitting. I was thrilled, thinking it would answer all my many questions about the pre-existence.

How very shocked I was to find out otherwise. I had many bird-and-bee-related questions, but was too shy to ask them; instead, I did further research the next time I went to the library. Sadly, the messy-sounding facts I'd read in that first book seemed to be corroborated, and weren't some horrible, sick joke.

Because that shock still resounds within me, I'm consciously going against my impulse simply to hand Hope a book and send her off to the window seat. I'm not saying that I'll do a better job explaining things than the experts I've recently consulted via printed page; it's just that in this case, I'm willing to brave blushes and eye rolls to make sure my girl gets good information presented appropriately and has all of her questions answered to her (and my) satisfaction.

* Of course we have basic conversations with all of the kids when they're much younger; but now it's time for the type of crucial details pre-adolescents need to know.
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17 comments:

On 11/2/09 , Heidi Ashworth said...

Love this to pieces! I am addicted to self-learning, myself. I love to know the names of plants and was pretty up to date on what was all around me--and then I got old and there was just too much for my little brain to retain much of it. I now have plants in my garden I have actually planted myself whose names are a mystery to me. There was a time when that would truly bug me but I'm over it now. My daughter learned about the birds and the bees from school when she was 7. I was shocked! I had to make sure she understood it wasn't okay to do--I guess I did too good of a job b/c when she found out her dad and I had actually done "it" she was pretty devastated. Oh my.

 
On 11/2/09 , Heidi Ashworth said...

Hey, would you submit this one to the annex please?

 
On 11/2/09 , SydneyMin said...

Good luck on "the talk!" Do you think self-learning is why so many of us are jacks-of-all-trades, masters of none?

 
On 11/2/09 , Josi said...

Which is why the ability to read and comprehend what we're reading is such an important skill to give our kids. I did a double approach to the 'talk' with my girls. We discussed it, went through all the 'stuff' they needed for puberty, and then I gave them the book "Growing up" by Brad Wilcox. It is really well done, very complete, and yet taught within the principles of the gospel. It covers puberty, and boy-girl relationships, and other details that I was to embarrassed to talk to my mom about and I bet my girls would be to. I wrote a little note to them at the front of the book, reminding them that they CAN come to me. They're still to young to talk to about whether that was the right approach, but it felt right to me and allows them to learn as they can/want/need to without feeling like they have to go out and find the info for themselves. Good luck.

 
On 11/2/09 , Annette Lyon said...

One more time where it's clear we were separated at birth. Instead of my grandmother, it was my mom making sure we girls knew how to dig around and look things up. It's something I can't help but keep doing today.

As for the talk--we went through some of this already with my oldest daughter--tricky waters at best. #3 will be 10 this summer, which means we'll be going through it again. I'm still no good at it. :)

 
On 11/2/09 , painted maypole said...

i had that book growing up, and have a copy of it I bought second hand to share with our daughter when the time comes. But when I read through it recently I'm not so sure it's what I'll use. Maybe I'll do "the talk" and then give her the book for further reference.

 
On 11/2/09 , Eowyn said...

That conversation is so hard. I've had it twice now and I'm still not comfortable with it--since my mom's best pre-wedding advice was "It will come naturally."

I also love information to the point that I can get paralyzed. No decisions unless I know every aspect of every possible outcome. Sometimes good, sometimes not.

Books are the best.

 
On 11/2/09 , Melanie J said...

Yeah, I'm afraid of taking the approach of saying to my husband, "YOU do it," because I have boys. I need to repent.

 
On 11/2/09 , TC said...

I've two teens, both have known about sex since they were about 8 and 10. I explained it to them after being asked where puppies come from. I had no formal talk with either parent when I was a kid. Is it any better or worse not to have had "the talk?"

 
On 11/2/09 , Adriana Velez said...

Yes, better to hear it from you! I still remember my mother borrowing the filmstrip from the library to explain it all to me and my sister. I still appreciated having heard it from her first. OK, actually I heard the blue version of it a few months earlier on the bus, but still.

 
On 12/2/09 , Virtualsprite said...

I feel the same way about the trees on Highway Q on the way to my kids school. It drives me nuts. Even Nature Boy doesn't know what they are, but it bothers him far less. And I do the same thing with my kids. They want to know a word, they have to look it up. My oldest had the nerve to say, "Why do I need to use a dictionary? We have you!"

I so wanted to give my 12-year-old a book, but I didn't I sat down with her and we talked. Surprisingly, her school had done a good job giving her the basics.

 
On 12/2/09 , Heidi Ashworth said...

Luisa--thanks so much for submitting this to the annex (you did right? Someone said you did) Anyway--the annex is having issues right now and nothing is posting . . .but stay tuned . . .

 
On 12/2/09 , Jenna Consolo said...

Loved this. You and I are very alike in this way. I just had the sex talk with Aiden and I used the Eyre's book along with the Where Did I Come From? book. We had a nice experience together. I think this is a topic that needs loving parent guidance, rather than 'just' a book. But I'm sure anything you do will be perfect.

How can Hope be 10?

 
On 13/2/09 , charrette said...

My talks with The Princess about her changing body and where babies come from are two of the sweetest memories in all of parenting for me. I'm an autodidact as well, but never underestimate the power of that ultimate teacher...the spirit.

I'm sure you'll do a beautiful job.

 
On 13/2/09 , Kimberly said...

I smiled throughout the reading of this blog post, because I am so much the same way. And then I laughed, because of how vividly I remember the day I found that book on a bookshelf as a kid and educated myself. Still remember how unsettling that was!

 
On 21/2/09 , dawn said...

Wonderful post. I too encourage my kids to look things up. We also discuss things a lot. We did the conversations when they were young and there is the period 'do you know what to do' conversations, of which I asked my last daughter last week. I didn't really have a big conversation with any of the kids but once in awhile something came up. With the last one, we were at the farm in the fall and a stray dog was there and attached itself to the female young dog. There was howling and whining and of course as nature would have it, they were stuck and my youngest 11 asked why and I just said he put it in and it is stuck for awhile. She was horrified. I guess I should have told her it isn't quite the same for people ;-) . Yep, gonna have to have a talk with that one.

 
On 26/2/09 , Sage Gallagher said...

I don't ever remember my mom telling me anything beyond reading the little pamphlet from school about getting your period. I never had any questions either.

She did give me two bits of advice, one when I was dating and at marriage: "One kiss leads to another" and "You get better at it"! I still think those aren't bad advice.

I do think in this day of media saturation we have to prepare our children more fully to give them a correct view of intimacy. There is so much misinformation out there. I found Laura Brotherson's book helpful. www.strengtheningmarriage.com.

Thanks for this post. I guess it is human nature to want to know things. I have always sought to know more, but there is so much more to learn it can be discouraging at times! I love having the internet to look something up. We researched how cotton is grown the other day because Eden was asking about cotton fabric. I love learning from other people too, like you. Thanks.