Janet Christie: It’s good to talk about the ABC of HPV

Pic Lisa Ferguson 25/08/2015''New Magazine byline pics - Janet Christie
Pic Lisa Ferguson 25/08/2015''New Magazine byline pics - Janet Christie
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I arrive home and check out what Youngest Child is up to. She’s in her lair, homework spread out in front of her. Good.

“I had my HPV jag today. See?”

She shows me a plaster on her arm, pleased.

“Brilliant. Good,” I say.

“They didn’t tell us. Just did it. Someone said ‘you haven’t told our parents, we didn’t know it was happening today’, but they said ‘your parents don’t need to know’. I wasn’t bothered anyway. It was just a jag.”

“Parents did know,” I say. “We signed a form. And we discussed it, remember. I don’t think they said, I adopt a mock baddie voice ‘your parents don’t need to know ha, ha, ha’. They weren’t harvesting organs. They were just saying it had been discussed and everyone was fine with it so don’t start with the fake hysteria. Remember we had that leaflet and talked about it then I left it by your bed so you could read it over by yourself later on?”

“Anyway,” she continues, “I wasn’t bothered.”

“Of course,” I go on, as she’s being unusually accommodating to my presence. “You’re all very lucky to get it. One jag and you don’t have to worry about cervical cancer. Because it’s passed by a virus you would only need to have sex once, when you’re much older obviously, and be unlucky. And because there are no symptoms it might spread and affect your ability to have children or kill you. Isn’t it amazing, medical advances... the NHS… your generation is so lucky!”

She’s looking at me with a benign expression, but it’s strangely devoid of eye-rolling. So I press on.

“But teenagers still need to be aware of the need for condoms because of other sexually transmitted diseases...”

I’m waiting for the ‘Mother! Too far!’ fingers in the ears, la-la-la-ing, but it doesn’t come. Anyway, enough for now. Could this be a brave new dawn of parent/child communication I wonder as I turn away.

That’s when I spot the earbuds and mobile phone in her lap. She hasn’t heard a word.