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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

PMS, Menstruation and the 12 Year-Old Girl

My daughter and her girlfriends are all becoming women as my dad would have said, embarassing the heck out of them. And in this period where they get their well - you know - there are so many changes it's hard to keep up. They all seem to start with the moment she loses that chubby prettiness of childhood, and you start to see shorter shorts and more legs, and she just starts to look like a completely different person.

Somehow as a mother you just know it's imminent. And I have to admit there is something incredibly wonderful and familiar about explaining the ups and downs of menstruation to your 12 year-old, a connection that a mom just can't have with a son.

All of her friends, as they grow into this next stage, get more beautiful. I don't know how to describe that beauty - budding breasts, curves, strength, dignity and volatility are all combined in one girl who seems to bloom right in front of you. Sometimes it makes me want to cry, sometimes it makes me want to scream and most of the time I'm just so glad I have a daughter. She is my best friend, and my biggest headache.

Next you have to explain menstruation as it happens or before. Of course, they get the description in health class but nothing can prepare you for that moment. Then it's no I won't tell your father, and reminding her to carry extra stuff in her backpack. A friend of mine who has 50% custody of his daughter went out and bought her all the stuff before she got her period, and then tried to talk to her about it. I started giggling at the thought, what could he really know about menstruation, and said some things are better left to the other parent.

Then it was using tampons which she had to learn fast, because she was on the summer swim team. That was a difficult moment, she was alternately scared and frustrateded and I turned to the computer for advice. The best piece I found - let her read the directions and do it herself. And from there she figured it out and the drama was over.

For a mom, the whole menstruation thing is like going way back in time. Menopause isn't pretty, but I'm so glad that part of my life is over. The whole process of walking into a CVS and sorting through the aisle of options they now have for what are the most basic of products can drive you nuts. The new marketing gimmick: They put different sizes in the same box, for different days of the month, and charge more.

Oh and that moment where you have to slap a box of "feminine products" on the counter in front of some teenaged boy who looks anywhere else but at you. Priceless.

Next came the cravings - I guess similar to the ones we get in pregnancy - icecream, dumplings, chocolate, any form of Chinese food - grease and fat and more sugar. We are not much of a sugar family, so she didn't have a lot of options but of course I went out and bought what I could.

Finally came the cramps and bloating. They both took awhile to kick in but have finally arrived with mind numbing pain. Last weekend all she wanted to do was lie down with wet heat warming her abdomen. I explained how exercise really does help and she didn't believe me. Then she put on a pair of elastic waist shorts, went out and played her heart out in a soccer game. Now she gets it.

The other night I was at another soccer game with a group of parents, and one of the moms whispered to me - did I have any? I said what, and then realized what she meant and said something about not carrying them any anymore. The the next morning I found two tampons in my purse, and realized I was carrying them for my daughter. That's coming full circle.

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