Something we parents don’t give much thought to, that is, until we are a split family and share custody, is how to deal with things like body changes and puberty. It’s something most kids don’t want to talk about at all, let alone with more than one person.
I think back to when I was a pre-teen and having to ask my mom questions that were “gross” or embarrassing, or even worse yet, having my mom ask me questions! Well, what do you do if your mom isn’t around?
I just had this in our world and what a learning experience it was. My daughter would kill me for writing this story, but I think it is worth sharing. I am going about this a little backwards so please bear with me.
I started having the visit from my monthly friend at the age of 10, just a few months before I turned 11. Young, to say the least. So when my daughter was 11, I decided I should have “the talk” with her just in case she was an early bloomer as well. Uh oh, you would have thought I had handed down a death sentence! She was scared out of her mind (I guess she was a little too young.) She thought it meant she was going to die. Once I got her calmed down and explained a little more without going into too many “gross,” as she called them, details, I told her I had bought some supplies for her to keep in her bathroom just in case. I assured her it happens to all girls, and that she could come to me at any time with questions.
Fast forward a couple of years. She has not come to me with any further questions, and she has not mentioned starting her period. I can only guess she has not, as I would venture to guess she would need some supplies by now.
I do know at least a few of her friends have started, as I got wind of a story of one of her friends clogging a toilet at my ex’s house -- glad it was there and not here! But still, my daughter hasn’t said anything to me. And I would guess, and hope, that her stepmother would have told me if she was buying her supplies and she was just bringing them over here.
So now we are approaching our teenage years, 13. I have kind of forgotten about it (as I no longer have that visitor, yay me! One nice thing about getting old! Not that I am that old, but I did have to undergo a hysterectomy and there went my “friend.”)
My daughter had been at her dad’s since Wednesday, and I see her on Saturday at her ice skating competition. I am on the board of her skating club, so you can imagine how busy I am and how frantically I am running around during a competition hosted by our home club. Since she has been at her dad’s, her stepmom has brought her to the competition and is handling her costume changes and hair-dos.
I have chatted with her briefly a couple of times; I have sat in the bleachers and watched both of her performances. Now her stepmom has left, because my daughter is coming to stay with me the rest of her dad’s weekend since he is once again out of town on his parenting days. He has been gone since Thursday (so she only got to see him briefly after school on Wednesday) and in our decree he can only be gone 48 hours before I have to be given the option to have her stay with me (BIG, BIG issue with me but another whole post.)
Later in the afternoon, we just have a few hours of competition left and then clean up. My daughter has volunteered some time at the raffle table and as a music runner since she is done competing. We are walking together after taking a short break to eat a snack and she whispers to me, “I think I started that period thing.” Oh, uh, it takes me a long second to process what she just said. I ask a couple of mommy questions: How are you feeling, any cramping or pain? Oh, and what makes you think that? She explains and I agree she is probably correct. Now I know why she was so moody all week!
Everything seems good until I ask if her stepmom went and got her supplies. She has not told her stepmom! Um, okay why not? She tells me she doesn’t want her to know. I explain she will have to know so she can buy supplies for their house. My daughter explains she doesn’t want anyone to know except me. Okay, we will let that ride until after the competition…
On the way home, we stop at the store for supplies. She doesn’t even want to walk down the aisle with me, she won’t carry the shopping basket, and she wants me to act like it is for me. So I finally get her in the aisle where I try to explain our very many options. She is overwhelmed and horrified by some.
Once we have made our choices, she informs me we need to go to the next aisle because I told her I would teach her to shave one day (oh yeah, she was like 5 when she asked) and that day is today!
Oh Lord, where has my baby gone?
In the privacy of her own room, we discuss things a little more and I try to make her understand that I need to tell her stepmom because she will need stuff at their house and although I would, I don’t think I should buy stuff and her sneak it over there. She finally relents and tells me not to text or email, because what if her dad saw it? Oh honey, your dad knows about this stuff already, I think to myself, but I agree and I make a phone call in private so no one in the house can hear what I am going to talk about.
Okay folks, this is where I have to take ME out of the scenario. Not my favorite person to talk to, we have an as-needed relationship, and yep she is young enough to be my daughter. So she is not anywhere near the point of understanding having a daughter this age and dealing with life this way. But this is not about me, this is about my daughter. I would like nothing more than to keep my daughter with me at all times, but especially when she is having new life experiences and going through body changes and all the emotions that go with that. But I can’t.
I explain to her stepmom that I would like to have a brief conversation about my daughter and it needs to stay private just between her and I. In fact, my daughter does not want to talk to her about it at all right now. I explain what has transpired and fill her in on what we bought at the store and all the conversation we have had. I ask her very politely, at least for right now, if she would be so kind as to get the exact same products that I did, that way every thing is the same at both houses for my daughter. I tell her to please put the items in my daughter’s bedroom at their house and not mention it to her, as she doesn’t want her to know so she doesn’t want to talk about it. In time, I assure her, my daughter will relax and talk to her about it I am sure, but for now, please keep things hush-hush.
Her stepmom is open and receptive to our requests. She informs me that my ex has been saying for a couple years now that he sures hopes it happens while she is at her mom’s house! Oh, I bet he does.
Now something that is usually special between a mother and daughter I have had to open up and share with a third party. Broke my heart, it really did. I am grateful that her stepmom was agreeable and caring, but I truly wish I didn’t have to let her into every aspect of my relationship with my daughter. I am sad for my daughter that something so life-changing happened while she was away from me and that she was not comfortable enough to tell her stepmom it happened. But I am very grateful that she did come to me and we were able to talk about it.
And to her stepmom, who can’t understand why she didn’t just come to her when it happened, you will one day understand, when you are older and perhaps have a daughter going through the changes of life. My prayer is that you are not sharing her with a stepmom; no matter how awesome she might be to her, it is still stealing a piece of your heart each and every time.
For now, we have crossed together one of those major obstacles in a teenage girl’s life. The three of us sharing a secret for the benefit of the most important one, my daughter.
Those with daughters, count your blessings every day. Stay open and honest with her and enjoy the good and bad moments. Grow together in life and love her with all your heart.