The other week we had THAT talk. Out of the blue really, and I’m not sure the few wines I decided were required really helped. Miss Yin will probably kill me at some stage in the future for this post, but I figure I can delete it prior to my death.
It went like this – we were watching SBS news and I was enjoying a glass of wine and then there was a promo for a story on Insight (love that program) about gender identity disorder.
Miss Yin was with us (Little Yang was watching ABC Kids ‘In the Night Garden’ before bed), and asked the natural question of why some kids feel like they are born into the wrong gender (the term sex was used, you know, for the thrill).
Starting with talking about sexuality and understanding this first before segueing into sex is the way to go, I reckon, so we launched into a discussion about hormones and how they make us feel, about the different body parts and even touched on the broader issue of gender conditioning in society. I like context.
‘Get to the crux of the matter’, I could have heard Miss Yin thinking, if I was listening. I was too worried about what I was going to say.
We moved onto more detailed discussion of reproductive systems and having a baby – we’ve always spoken openly and anatomically-correctly about male and female bits and pieces, and so we discussed ovaries, eggs and ovulation, talked of tubes and uteruses and vaginas and periods and penises and sperm – all the cringe-worthy body parts and bodily fluids.
Miss Yin is innocent, not totally naïve, and she had gleaned the basics in her 10 years.
But there’s a step between anatomy and understanding.
‘I still don’t get how you can have a baby through kissing?” she asks.
I poured myself another glass of wine.
Anatomy is not mechanics.
Bring it back to reproduction, I think, and launch into an explanation about how the vagina opens – it opens so wide a baby can be pushed out of it (like a watermelon right), clarifying that there is also a hole for the sperm to come out of the penis (mumble, mumble ‘inside the vagina’). We segue into our IVF experience – it is easier to talk about conception in test tubes isn’t it, and there’s a tender moment when we discuss my ectopic pregnancy and me losing that baby and my tube. Miss Yin hugs me. Sigh of relief. Is it over?
But I don’t think Miss Yin’s curiosity is quite satisfied yet – her beliefs (or understanding at least), still don’t align with the full reality.
Which gets me thinking.
There are beliefs that we hold onto that seem naively plausible because we don’t (or won’t) dig deeper – we don’t get to the anatomy of the belief.
For me I’ve been holding onto a negative belief that I’m not a good enough person unless I somehow feel guilty. Guilt is a signal that you are trying to do/be better, and unless you are doing that, you’re not good enough. Apparently. You need the electric prod of guilt, lest you feel too self-satisfied.
I’ve been unpacking (or should I say undressing) guilt quite a lot lately (opps, feeling guilty for that).
This ingrained religious belief came down the Irish Catholic family line, passed on mostly subconsciously, at other times with sharp criticism.
I was good at school, but that didn’t of itself make me good (which is just fine). Sure I was praised for my marks, but I still had as a sense that it wasn’t enough (even though my parents didn’t push me to achieve and correctly taught me that good marks aren’t everything).
Yet somehow there was almost ‘too much pride’ in achievement,’ too much selfishness’ in ambition – and so I felt guilty.
It wasn’t even about being a do-gooder, as much as only being ‘allowed’ a very small quota of acceptable ‘selfishness’ before guilt kicked in. As it should!
I heard the ‘love they neighbour’ bit loudly, and forgot to listen to the ‘as you would love yourself.’ The irony being that you can only really love your neighbour based on how much you love yourself.
Guilt can be fuel to be better, to make amends, and that’s fine. But when I find myself feeling guilty for simply feeling (not acting) selfish, I’m in that shame spin cycle and am not going anywhere but around and around.
So I am redefining selfishness – to allow for more self-care and ‘success’, for dreams and personal goals and detach guilt from thinking of myself as selfish, except in extremes. I’m allowing myself greater scope for self-love, without feeling bad (Self-care isn’t selfishness any more than kissing is sex!)
Perhaps you need to too?
Now Miss Yin has a (bit) better understanding of the birds and the bees, there are more questions, of course.
“I still don’t really understand HOW the man’s penis gets into the woman’s vagina,” she probes (sorry).
“Well it starts with kissing and then it just happens – we can talk more about it later.” I end the conversation with a whimper, rather than a bang (sorry).
Chicken. It will have to do for now.
(In my defence, it’s past 9pm and Miss Yin’s bedtime – time for another glass of wine, just a small one, to settle the nerves and all). Nothing to feel guilty about!
I’d love to hear your experiences with ‘that chat’. And I’d love to hear your thoughts on guilt – is it stopping you from caring for yourself as much as you deserve?
And before we get to the comments, I’d like to flag a fundraiser I’ve launched, in time for World Smile Day this Friday. Apart from spreading smiles with kindness, I’d love you to consider donating to bring smiles to the faces of children born with cleft lips and palates (I’m giving something in return). All the details and the click-through to donate are in this post. Please help this worthy cause.
Linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT…..cheers…kathy