I officially have a middle schooler! The summer leading up to middle school was very overwhelming for me. My daughter started going through so many changes back to back that I could not handle it. I could not believe they were happening so fast! Needless to say, I freaked out more than once, as in give-me-fifteen-minutes-to-breathe-slowly-close-my-eyes-and-process-all-of-this-information type of freak out! I made a list of the situations that arose during our summer and am sharing how I responded. I think I handled some well and others are TBD; we shall see the long-term effects in a few years. Ha! Consider this blog post a heads up about what can potentially happen in one summer if you have a daughter!
My daughter ended grade school learning about the birds and the bees. She learned about the changes her body would go through as she gets older. She also learned the proper terms for her genitals. Then, she came home to Mommy with a list of questions, and this part – answering her questions – I did not enjoy. I did answer them, but I don’t think I did very well. At least I had Google as a backup.
To understand why this made me feel so awkward, I have to share a little bit about my past. I grew up with Lao-refugee immigrant parents, and they didn’t speak any English. They never understood the concept of sex education because, in their third world country, there was none. I had to forge my parents’ signatures on the permission slip in order for me to attend sex education at my American school. Once I had the class, I definitely couldn’t go to my parents with a list of questions, so I freaked out when my daughter came to me with her list!
Her body started changing within the first month of summer. She got out of the shower and stood right in front of my face, opened her towel and said, “Mom, something weird is happening with my chest.” Yep! Her chest was developing, not a lot, but it was starting. I reassured her that all will be fine and asked her to go get dressed for bed. In the morning, we went to Target to shop for training bras. As I stood there in the youth undergarments aisle, scanning through the various options with her beside me, I freaked out again! Then, we left with a few sets of Hanes training bras.
I have a rule in my house that my daughter is not allowed to keep her cell phone in her room to charge while she sleeps. She has to hand it to me to charge in my bedroom or leave it charged in the living room overnight. This is the time I usually go through her phone. Before anyone goes crazy about an invasion of privacy, this is also an agreement I have with my daughter. She is aware that I go through her phone conversations, which is how I learned a boy was texting her. Yes, I freaked out, but not as badly as I might have. She wasn’t responding to him nor was she interested in responding to his back-to-back text messages. What bothered me about the texts was that she did not give him her phone number. He asked for it, she declined to give it to him, and then he got it through her friend. This helped us have a conversation about how to deal with boys who do not understand the word NO!
My daughter would never sleep in her own room. I tried multiple times, at various ages, to get her to fall asleep and stay asleep in her room, failing every time! So I gave up pushing her to sleep in her own bed, and I’ve basically been using it as a storage place for her things. Then one summer night, she decided she wanted to sleep in her room. I figured the same routine would happen: I’ll wake up in the morning with her next to me. I woke up at 3:00 AM and realized I was in my bed alone. I freaked out, ran to her room to see that she was sound asleep. I have no idea what happened or how she decided all of the sudden that she no longer needed to sleep next to me. It just happened! It took me a week to adjust, but I am now able to sleep like a starfish again in my own bed. It only took ten years, so stay strong, parents of toddlers still co-sleeping!
On the morning of her second day of middle school, my daughter came in to wake me up. She nonchalantly said, “Mom, there’s some blood on my underwear.” Guess what I did? Yep! I freaked out! Because she was so calm, I only freaked out in my head, and, luckily, because of all her questions from sex education at beginning of summer, she knew exactly what to do. She showered, put on a pad and packed extra pads in her backpack for school. We stopped to get her some feminine wipes to add to her backpack and got her a piece of candy to celebrate this transition. She was so calm and “whatever” about it, so I let her be and did not pester her with questions about how she was feeling.
I watched her enter her school building, then I got on my phone and started text blasting my sisters, my mom, my girl cousins, and my college girlfriends, freaking out that my baby girl is officially a woman. I didn’t have my period until I was fourteen, so the fact that hers came so early – I was beyond freaking out. Then, I got it together, and I took my butt to work.
The summer hasn’t officially ended it yet but it’s definitely going out with a big bang! There were a lot of other little changes that happened along the way but these situations were the most notable. With every situation, I made sure to always ask if she was okay, allowed her to ask all the questions she wanted to ask and speak her mind. I provided her space when she requested to be left alone and respected her wishes when she did not want to discuss a situation until she was ready. It really is true what people say. They grow up fast, so cherish every moment.
*This was shared with permission from my daughter. Love you, Riley Bear!