Most Monday mornings, we would be out the door by now, The Princess and I. But today her head hurts, and we’re waiting to see if Motrin will make a difference. She is big enough now to take the grown-up kind.

Forgive me if I find this shocking.

Every day I look at her and see less child and more woman.

I’m not sure how to be her mother sometimes.

My mother was painfully uncomfortable with my development into a young woman. I’ve written about this in the past. It’s probably enough to know that even though she has been gone for more than twelve years, since before The Princess was born, the bad memories can still bring on a little nutty.

I don’t have a good model for mothering a girl into womanhood.

Yesterday I baptized a little girl who is just a year old. I look at her mother and know she will know what to do. Yesteday I sat with Sarah and listened to her talk about her daughter. I know she knew what to do.

Saturday I went into the feminine products aisle at Gigantic Grocery Store. Wouldn’t it make sense to have some supplies on hand for the inevitable day that is the first for The Princess? I stared baffled at the array of products. Maybe I’ll go shop at the whole foods store, instead, where they have the organic cotton feminine hygiene wares. There aren’t as many, so it has to be easier to choose.

I want to know why, at 44, I’m having the painful cramps of adolescence again. My mother had endometriosis. She knew real pain. She feared it, and she didn’t want to talk about the things that caused it for her. She couldn’t tell me that it was worth the pain and struggle, as a college friend did, because it meant someday you could have a baby. She never could have a baby–all the bleeding and all the pain, the surgeries, the tubes shot full of dye–still no baby.

A family in our old church celebrated with their daughter when she reached womanhood. She had a special day out with her mother; her father came home from work with a rose. She’s a confident, wonderful young woman, now in medical school. I love her vibrancy.

The Princess is vibrant as she teeters on the cusp. I fear doing my part poorly, that my response to her will be marred by a discomfort born of my own experience.

Perhaps I need a book to read. Isn’t there a book to resolve every crisis of confidence or wont of information?

She was the child for whom we needed no book. By the time she came along, we knew what to do. But that time is running out, I can see it slipping away as she lengthens and curves.

God help me, I want to do this right.

29 thoughts on “Girl-mothering”

  1. 🙂 You want to do this right. And just being vulnerable to admit this is a good step.
    DD is now 13 – and it’s not easy being a mum to a teenager daughter, (or to a teenager son for that matter) – there are good days and bad days – but I love her whatever. That- at the end of the day- is what counts.
    We stumble on, remembering that our love is a fraction of the love God our parent has for us.

  2. My mom had similar struggles dealing with adolescent girls as your mom did. In my case, it probably didn’t help much that I resisted a lot of conventional “girl” stuff.
    We had two conversations about menstruation. One was a cold, scientific one when all the fifth grade girls had to watch the hygeine film about puberty. The other was the day I started my period…a practical one about how important it was for me to carry a purse from that point on. Both were devoid of any meaning whatsoever. I was left to find that on my own, as were most of my friends and I suspect a host of young women growing up at that time.
    Here’s what I think about you and the Princess…. You’ve done an amazing job raising a confident, articulate, empathic girl. You haven’t had a model, but that’s forced you to be creative, and your creativity has helped and will continue to help you walk with her into adulthood, with fear and trembling for sure, but with the same results you’ve had to this point. I don’t doubt this for one moment. Borrow my confidence for awhile if you need to.

  3. The fact that you recognize your own story is half the battle, now the other half is not being trapped by it. (And Friday Mom, I could really resonate with your learnings about menstruation, mine was about as equally helpful).
    I find the choices in the store overwhelming, too. And when they changed the colors and packaging on my usual brand, I was deeply distressed at having to figure it out all over again.

  4. My education about my changing body was about the same as Friday Mom’s.
    I wanted oh, so much more for WG when It Happened for her. I wanted a cake, a special dinner, a day out together. She wanted no part of it, and I couldn’t force it on her. She wanted to take it in stride just like she does most things.
    I had had my antenna perked up for this to happen to her for months–I think that is one thing that seperated me from my mother: I saw it as a blessed event, even though I was taught that it was a Curse that no one talked about.
    When the day came, (which happened to be her brother’s sixteenth birthday) she stuck her head out the bathroom door as I was walking by and simply said “Mom.” I sprang into action, tremulous with the excitment of a new phase in both our lives. She really just wanted me to show her where the stuff was and to get out of her way.
    Part of my transition throughout all this is not just realizing that she is a young woman–she is her *own* young woman, in ways I never thought possible.
    Of course there is no book, there is just a mother’s heart–you’ve been carrying it inside you all along. You’ll do great!

  5. Oh, and I forgot: my own 40+ cramps are a sign that I am perimenopausal. Expect that the CrimsonTide might take on biblical proportions someday in the future.
    Wish the news was better. But I will not lie to a friend.

  6. If The Princess is comfortable talking with you about all of this — and I sense that she is — you will do fine. I think it’s okay for her to know that you’re uncomfortable and unsure.
    Twelve-Year-Old Daughter hasn’t crossed the threshold yet, but I expect it any time. She seems fairly relaxed about the whole thing. She got the “facts of life” pretty early, when I was pregnant with Almost-Eight-Year-Old Daughter. I’ve tried to be open about it so there won’t be an air of secrecy. That certainly wasn’t the model I had, so I have no idea how it will turn out.
    The idea of a celebration sounds great to me. The whole period thing can be messy and painful, so it seems like a good idea to highlight the positive aspects.

  7. At the risk of overwhelming you with information, here are some titles I found on Amazon:
    The Seven Sacred Rites of Menarche: The Spiritual Journey of the Adolescent Girl
    First Moon: Celebration And Support For A Girl’s Growing-Up Journey
    The Period Book : Everything You Don’t Want to Ask (But Need to Know)
    105 Ways to Celebrate Menstruation
    Back in the late 80s I was particularly interested in the lack of rites of passage for girls and did some research on it — the paucity of books was striking. Seems that this has changed radically since then. As a woman, I was very conflicted about my menses and did some personal work on my own which helped heal me. I think, in part, this is an essential factor for transmitting a positive message to a daughter… healing one’s own inner teen if your experience was less than ideal.

  8. You will do well, have faith. When you approach it from a place of love, and a place of wanting to learn, and a knowledge of the pitfalls you don’t want, you will succeed. You are doing well, and you will see her lovingly into the adult phase of her life, where she will remain your baby (in your heart) forever.

  9. I had a similar experience as Cheesehead. My mother was prepared for it to be this big affair and I just wanted the explanation of what to do and where it was and then I didn’t want to talk about it anymore.
    I suspect the Princess will let you know how she’d like to approach it, and based on your postings about conversations with her, I suspect you’ve already laid the path for a lovely transition to womanhood.

  10. You’ll figure it out. You always do. Besides, we’re talking about the Princess, here. I doubt you’ll have much resistance.

  11. Oh songbird, you are already more than halfway there. You are anticipating and helping. She knows your heart just like you know hers. It will all be fine. I wish that I had been wise enough to make a bigger deal out of it for my baby girl. When it happened to me, I got a book. Also, you could order a kit from Kotex. Kinda of a *beginner kit*. Sheeze…we have come along ways huh?

  12. Wow, what a blessing these comments are. Thank you. I hope no one will mind too much if I say I treasure my wonderful children.
    The Princess and I had a great talk today, including a show-and-tell of various supplies.
    This appears to be my girl-mothering style: worryworryworry, read and/or write, ready-or-not-here-I-come!

  13. Wow. So many similar stories here. I too had little teaching on the wonders of a woman’s body. My mom left a little pamphlet on my pillow and that was pretty much it. I had three sisters before me, so I guess she figured I would learn it by osmosis or eavesdropping or something.
    You are so awesome, as is your family. You will be fine.
    As for the 40+ cramps, sorry, but I have to echo cheesehead here — the Crimson Tide gets worse as perimenopause proceeds. I didn’t know I had that much blood in me. It’s sort of like one last wave of bleeding before it stops. I kind of wish there was a ritual to celebrate the ending stage of menstruation too…….hmmmm.

  14. It’s funny … I never thought that much about what would happen when my daughter got her first period. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me. I said something like: “Oh, that’s great. Here … grab some tampons.”
    I think puberty is a long slow process and menarche is just part of it. During this process, the mother gets lots of chances to make mistakes and try again.
    And then one day, you realize your daughter has become a mature, independent woman. My own nineteen-year-old daughter is a wonderfully self-confident and poised young woman, despite my mistakes and self-doubts. It’s cool how that happens.

  15. I have at every opportunity remonstrated with Songbird over the fact that Christianity is bereft of a rite of passage or even a ceremony to commemorate coming of age. The Jews have this down with the bar and bat mitzvah. There are four major life events which (to my mind) require the commemoration of ritual (because we as a species like rituals). Birth, Coming of Age, Marriage, and Death. You’d think with only those four that it would be covered, but no. And it’s odd considering that physical maturation is when you inherit the power of creation. Not that you should use it then, but that is when you get it. Perhaps if it was observed with more solemnity there might be less in the way of unwanted pregnancy.

  16. Very wise observations, PL. I can tell you from my many years of experiece working in family planning, that some young girls consider the birth of their first child to be the ultimate sign of physical maturation. In many cases it happens way, way too soon. I think you are on to something with the connection between a lack of ritual at menarche and the hurry to reproduce.

  17. Right on Pure Luck! We do need rituals to mark the life-changing moments in our personal journeys. We need to reclaim the beauty and power of our bodies….women and men alike.
    Instead of young boys being painfully embarrassed by their first wet dreams, why not embrace that as the first sign of their pro-creative inheritance?
    As for us perimenopausal women, perhaps some kind of croning ceremony that honours the wise women who have completed their cycles and have grown in wisdom…
    ps. Songbird, can Pure Luck come and stay at my house? I mean, it’s only fair to share, right? That much coolness and sensitivity demands to be shared around. hee hee 🙂

  18. I wish I could say that my Bat Mitzvah prepared me for menstruation, Pure Luck, but, eh, not so much. Though it is true that it *could* form the basis of such a ritual in the right hands.
    Songbird, The Princess is so confident and capable that it’s impossible for anyone who meets her to believe for one minute that you will perform your part poorly. And how lovely is it that #1 Son thinks so, too?
    Really, Songbird. You are the parent I want to be when I grow up.

  19. Well I confess to knowing little about the Bat Mitzvah ceremony or what goes on in it. How did it fail you in regard to the rather important physiological changes that were presumably happening at about the same time?

  20. this is such a great thread 🙂 my mum told me nothing. I saw some pictures from the nurse at school and some how thought it happened once and it meant I was a woman. So when it happened again, I ran to the nurse who laughed!
    wondering what your experience with tampon is – I mean for young girls. my daughter isn’t keen to try – she’s 13.

  21. That’s one of the few things I remember my mom talking about, Lorna, how convenient they were, etc. I thought it was weird to put something inside me. It was a really long time before I even considered using them (9th or 10th grade I think).
    You Gals who have blogged or whined about the Crimson Tide? Yep, we’re there. Kids coming home from school today: “Mom, why are you lying curled up on your side?” Uh. Never mind, honey. Never mind books about the beginning of the whole thing. Where are the perimenopause resources?
    Sue, I think a ceremony would be great, as soon as I feel like standing up again.

  22. You will do a great job. I think the thinking and trying and wanting is the biggest part of it.
    And let’s see if my bit of html code turns off the italics….

  23. We are sorta doing it with our confirmation class this year. We have a big class of 32 — and we are confirming them this next Sunday. After they are confirmed the SS classes and Sunday afternoon groups are going to split boy/girl and we are going to talk about other maturation processes — not only spiritual, but emotional and physical. And what it means to come of age.
    The youth minister and I have talked about offering a quinceañera for both the boys and the girls when they turn 15 — and incorporate into a “Blessing of the Driver’s Licenses.” In a church our size though, it may not be practical.

  24. I dont know, I kind of think the italics add a level of emphasis to this whole conversation. 🙂
    Here in Seattle, we have a small (20 or so) yearly women’s gathering – Women of the 14th Moon. It’s a ritual to honor women at all stages of life and was started a couple decades ago by women of 3 religions to address the fears of aging.
    Any woman who has begun to menstrate is invited, and the first part of the day is for honoring the youngest women – and we usually all tell “first menstration” stories. There is laughter and tears in the telling. There’s much more to the day, but just wanted to let you know that there is a ritual out there.
    I’d be happy to share the rubrics of the rituals we’ve done in past years. Feel free to email me at rev dot brownell at gmail dot com.

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