I have dragged my readers along as I complained about my husband giving me lingerie for my birthday, raged about finding my voice, laughed about avoiding a deer attack, struggled to lose weight, and shared way too much about my insides. In the three years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve also taken you with me on my parenting journey as I’ve moved from Play-Doh, night terrors, and big boy beds to sleepovers and bullies on the bus. Now it’s time to enter a new and terrifying territory.
WARNING: It’s about to get all kinds of honest up in here. Hold on tight or jump out of here now. Still here? Okay, so here we go…
I have never been secretive about my body when it comes to my children. I walk around naked at some point just about every day, and my daughter certainly understands that little girls become women who look like some variation of me. I imagine this must be a terrifying thing for her, but she’s never asked me about it. And I’ve never talked about it. The truth is that I have worked very hard to shelter and protect my daughter’s innocence. This precious gift placed in my care deserves to be raised with intention, each choice weighed carefully.
I also realize that time is ticking away and my child is not going to be a child forever. It seems that she went from a toddler to a second grader in the blink of an eye, and as she looked at me with wide, sparkling eyes last week and talked to me about a boy (good God, a boy), I realized that I will look away and in that moment until I turn back she will be a teenager. There is so much that she needs to know, so many careful decisions to make.
So the first talk. The body changing talk. When is the right time for parents to have this talk with their children?
I surveyed my friends to find out what they think is the right age because honestly, I don’t remember learning about this, at least not until it was too late. I – brace yourself – got my first period either right before or right after turning ten. We hadn’t had the lesson yet in school, but I knew from reading Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret that it was coming at some point and that it didn’t mean I was going to die. I also learned that building your pecs gave you a bigger chest. Thanks, Judy Blume. I got my bangs trimmed that day. It was a Sunday and I watched Bedknobs and Broomsticks on ABC while my mom went over the largest supply and variety of feminine products ever assembled in one place. I tried to focus on Angela Lansbury, not getting the irony at the time of the “Age of Not Believing.” At some point I remember hearing that my mom bumped into my best friend’s mom at the store and told her. And I distinctly remember wanting to die in that moment.
So when does this start? Do I wait until I think the day is approaching and then jump in with a crash course? Or is this a long series of discussions?
The general consensus seems to be that for many the discussion begins when the questions start. Little girls talk about these things in school, on the playground, on the bus ride home, and even though I’ve decided to not go there yet, another mom may have already begun sharing information with her daughter, which means my child is going to hear it as well. The average age shared by most of my friends for the best time to really get into the details is 8. And no matter what age everyone suggested, everyone agreed that being completely honest is the most important part, and that there is no way to ever be completely prepared for when our daughters experience these changes.
I appreciated hearing that some friends talk about the changes occurring in their daughter’s bodies in terms of preparation for motherhood. My daughter spent her little life as a two year old and much of her three year old days watching her mommy care for her baby brother by nursing him everywhere from the rocking chair to the Target food court, so that is a very natural explanation for her. Many people also suggested an American Girl book called The Care and Keeping of You as well as setting special time aside to have the discussion such as a mother/daughter day out or a special dinner alone. The American Academy of Pediatrics also provides resources to discuss puberty with your children.
I think I may survive this stage of parenting. Maybe. Just don’t make me acknowledge that once I figure out how to get through this with my daughter, I’ve got to admit that I also have to go through this with my son…