Look at that face. That sweet, innocent little face (don't let her fool you, the sass on that woman could tranquilize and elephant)
I realized something recently, as I was shopping IN THE WOMEN'S SECTION OF THE STORE for my little pre-teen; I need to discuss puberty with her. Like, yesterday.
I can't pretend that as her mother this didn't make me break out in a cold sweat. Not because we haven't laid the ground work for a good conversation, but because I can't believe how quickly the last years of her life have gone, or how quickly these changes are going to happen. Where did the time go?
So I have to have the talk with her. The first thing we did was discuss bra shopping. Because hey, that's a good place to start, right? Everyone loves shopping, and bras are fun, sort of. It went a little something like this:
Me: Hey girlie! Guess what? We're going to go pick you out your very own bra soon!
Her: Oh my GOD MOM, WHY?!?!
Her: Can't I just not do that?
Me: No, honey, trust me it'll be cool.
Her: You're so random. I don't want a bra yet. That's not cool at all.
So as you can see, that went swimmingly, and I rock at being a Mom.
Bra shopping aside, I learned that I have to present this whole puberty thing in a different light. I need to make this not 'the thing that mom thinks is cool' but instead 'the thing that mom is nonchalantly not saying is cool, so it must be the coolest thing ever.'
So I've started just talking about things in a very low key way. Apparently the more excited I am about something, the uncool-er it is. So instead, I've adopted an approach of just treating the subject of puberty as something very matter-of-fact. Which, if you think about it, it is. I mean, for some kids making a big exciting deal out of puberty is what works for them. For others, like my daughter, it just makes her uncomfortable. Which means I need to present puberty in a really low key, but still exciting, way. A way that helps her feel comfortable and still allows her to ask all the questions she needs.
So here are my three tips:
1. Use actual names for genitalia. For real, people. I know it's not the most comfortable thing to say 'vagina' to a pre-teen, but the more comfortable you are with your body and the terms used to describe it, the more comfortable she will be! Kids are smart and they want information, and when you're talking about her vagina, and what it does and why, it's good to give her the information in a straight way.
2. Be comfortable with your own body. I mean, be really ok with it. Don't talk about how much you weigh, don't disparage your body, don't shy away from talking about how it works or what it can do in a way that conveys pride and acceptance (even if you're bloated, breaking out and feeling like death.) You're going to have to explain it to your daughter, so start being careful now with how you talk about yourself. She's watching you. Trust me, I know.
3. And lastly, give her autonomy. My daughter is big on autonomy, and is absolutely insisting on her own privacy at this age (and she should!) My mom gave me a lot of autonomy, and she is a smart, smart lady. I remember not even having any questions by the first time I got my period, I just went to where I knew the pads were and popped one on and went to school. My daughter is much the same way, she needs to be super prepared for whatever happens, then likes to handle it quietly herself.
I got one of these super cute Hello Flo First Period Kits by U by Kotex® for her, and it's perfect. It looks 'exciting and grown up' but in a 'oh this just happened to be here' way. I can show it to her, put it in the bathroom and she can use it when she's ready without having to come to me asking for pads! Plus it comes with a bunch of other fun extras like a bracelet, face wash, lip balm, hair ties...all things to make getting her first period more bearable. And she went nuts for it! It gave her the ability to take taking care of herself and her body into her own hands. Plus, it's cute.
(Confession time: I totally stole one of those hair ties, they're amazing!)
I can't say that I absolutely hit a home run with this one, because parenting isn't about hitting home runs. It's about raising real, good people. And I think I'm doing ok in that department, if I do say so myself. I'm embracing being awkward and not hiding that fact from her, demonstrating being a real person myself. And you know what? She responds to it. She's a good kid, my girl.
Wait, is she even a kid anymore? Can I call her that? Do I have to call her a pre-teen? I can't even you guys.