For the last several weeks, she has been asking a lot of questions about her body.
With a mixture of embarrassment, curiosity and fascination, she pulls me aside and whispers, “Do you think my armpits smell?” Or, “Am I getting acne?” Or, “I think I’m growing hair down there.”
So we had the first of what I’m sure will be many more “big talks” about the changes she can expect to see in her body – and her friends’ bodies, as puberty sets in.
From the beginning I’ve tried to establish a culture of openness and honesty with my girls and I believe that they generally feel comfortable talking with me, but this is whole new territory. She seems most comfortable chatting in her bed or mine, with little sister nowhere to be seen. She likes to be under the covers, with or without me, but snuggled close (which I admit I love). If a topic (like tonight’s – does putting a tampon in hurt?) seems too “disturbing” (her new word for the most uncomfortable subjects), she pulls the sheets over her eyes, then down just a little so her eyes peek up over the edge. (She looks like a crowning prenate; symbolically she’s bridging two worlds – the warm safe womb of childhood, and the big wide world of adolescence.) She proceeds cautiously before asking or saying something as though she’s testing the waters to be sure the subject isn’t taboo. I do my best to remain totally neutral, no matter the subject, and to remind her over and over that no subject is off-limits with Mommy. In fact, I hope that she will feel comfortable talking with me about anything and everything and that she’ll come to me – preferably before her friends – with questions.
She agrees she will. For now.
Tonight she had the insight to reveal that she’s afraid to grow up. That she’d much prefer to stay a child.
“But we’d have to go to Neverland to do that,” she sighed.
She shared a dream too: She wakes up and goes to school, not realizing that she’s suddenly sprouted breasts. Before I can offer an interpretation, she says, “I think I’m afraid it’s all happening too quickly.”
Then adds, “But sometimes I’m afraid it’s not happening fast enough.”
She tells me that she’s seen a book at two of her friends’ houses that she just might be interested in having too. It’s about girls’ changing bodies and has detailed images of things like how to insert a tampon. She says pragmatically, “That way I can read it and you and I can talk about it.” I say that’s a wise idea.
“Books can help us to talk about things that might otherwise be hard to verbalize.”
“Mmm-hmm,” she says, “It’s hard to explain exactly how I feel, but I have a feeling you understand.”
“I do, sweetie,” I said, running my fingers through her smooth, dark hair, reminded of my own talks like these with my mom. (…Wasn’t it just yesterday?)
“Thanks, Mom,” she exhales, a slight smile crossing her lips as she snuggles in against her pillow. And then, like she had been just waiting for the relief of getting this concern off her chest, her eyes rolled around once and she fell fast asleep.
I hadn’t witnessed her falling asleep for years. It was like it had been when she was a toddler, me rubbing her back and telling her stories and she drifting off before I could finish. I could still see a flicker of baby-daughter in her then. And yet…there she was, nearly-teen-aged-daughter, wondering and worrying about periods and bras. Past-present-and-future-daughter, all wrapped up in one beautiful here-and-now.
You are right, my love. Time is moving much too fast.
How many Mommies since the beginning of time have wanted so badly to freeze moments just like these? And like them, I can feel the pangs of ambivalence swell within in me. It’s an unmistakable pull in opposite directions: a deep desire to witness and celebrate my daughter’s bloom into young womanhood, set firmly against the grief of losing my sweet, innocent little girl, wishing she could stay a rosebud forever.
Have you had similar (or very different) conversations with your daughter or son? What advice do you have for other parents whose children are just reaching the edge of puberty?
Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and authors of Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, and founders of Green Halloween®. Connect with Lynn & Corey on Facebook and Twitter.
About Celebrate Green
Lynn & Corey are the mother-daughter team who launched the green holidays revolution. Known for their simple, affordable and “meaningfully green” ideas, Lynn & Corey’s gift, recipe, decor, activity and every-day inspirations have appeared in numerous TV, radio and print media outlets as well as in their book, “Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations & Traditions for the Whole Family.”
Lynn is also a life coach and grandma (“Abba”) to five. Corey is a licensed marital and family therapist and board-certified clinical art therapist specializing in the transition to parenthood. She is “Mommy” to two. Lynn and Corey live 20 minutes from each other outside of Seattle, WA.
Connect with Lynn & Corey at www.CelebrateGreen.net and on Facebook and Twitter at CelebrateGreen.