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December 15, 2009

Life Transitions for a 12-Year-Old and Her Mother

50 We are going through a lot of transitions in my household. My daughter is twelve. The hormones are raging. She had a meltdown the other night. Now I know why.

When she got in the car after school the next day, she had a serious look on her face. “Mom, I have something to tell you. I'm wearing a pad.”

I felt like I had let her down. As a result of a sex class at church, several health films at school, and the American Girl book The Care & Keeping of You – The Body Book for Girls, she understood what was going to happen with menstruation and why. But I was sure she wouldn't start her period until spring or maybe summer. There was no sanitary pad in her backpack laying in wait.

The pediatrician had informed me during an annual check-up that most girls start their period two years after breast buds begin. And that girls complete physical development two years after the first period. Those buds were well on their way to blooming before I noticed them!

I was so proud of her. She told the teacher, “It happened”, retrieved necessary supplies from the nurse, she went back to class, and continued on, without needing me one iota! Even on a day that included performing in an orchestra program and taking a reading benchmark test.


As we drove home, she asked “Do I have a period once a month or once a year!” I was sorry to tell her that the rite of passage occurred once a month for the next 40 YEARS!

She was almost giddy that evening. She quickly called her best friend with the news. I, on the other hand, had mixed emotions. I had quit buying all the feminine supplies just last year. She was ready for this, but I wasn't. She is growing up entirely too quickly.

We had been going along quite smoothly for a while and bam! First a bra, then body hair, and now menstruation. This is all going too fast. And I want her to stay in the protective elementary school environment for a little while longer, thank you very much.

She nonchalantly stated that when she goes to camp next summer, I would need to teach her how to use a tampon. I didn't even know what a tampon was when I started my period. Unlike my daughter, I was so unprepared.

My period started in the middle of the night. The next morning, I thought I had soiled my pants. I put on a clean pair of underwear and went to school without a sanitary napkin. It took me half the day and menstrual cramps to figure it out. Afterwards, my mom took me to the drugstore to purchase one of those belts that held the pad in place. Remember those!

My mom never wore “the belt.” She just stuck that 2x4 between her legs and went on. She did all right, so I refused to wear one. That approach was usually workable until I was at softball practice one spring. I was running the bases. My coach's cute son, who was in my grade, was assisting as the first base coach. While I was waiting at first base for the next hit, I realized that the pad was no longer between my legs, but was completely on my front side. As I tried unsuccessfully to push the pad back in place without anyone noticing I decided, then and there, it was time for tampons.

My mom said only married women were supposed to wear tampons. Along with the advice one shouldn't bath or go swimming during one's period! Thank God for older sisters. In turn, I taught my younger sister how to use tampons. Like the sanitary napkin, tampons weren't as easy to use in the 70s.

My sister and I locked ourselves in the bathroom. After she had wasted about a dozen tampons, I informed my sister that this was the last try. She was using too many of my box. A box remember that my mom didn't like buying for me. After the final attempt, she stood up and declared “I think I've got it.” But quickly, with a pained look on her face, announced that it didn't “feel” right. That's when I looked behind her and saw the end of the tampon sticking out her butt. I literally fell on the floor laughing. But like me, my younger sister figured it all out somehow.

Yes, things are so different now. Pads are mini, maxi, wings, day, night, short, long, and everything in between. And no more belts, just Velcro the thing in.

My daughter is much more comfortable with her body than I was at that age. And more comfortable with her father. Although I am sure my dad knew when his three daughters began menstruation, I would have just died if my father or brother knew when “Aunt Myrtle”, as I called my monthly period, occurred each month.

As we left for school the next day, she asked, in front of her father, “When should I change my pad at school today?” Yes, things are a changing!

This is an original 50-something moms blog post. Debbie also blogs at Diaries of an Older Mom

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