My nine-year-old is experiencing that first blush of puberty. She's starting to develop but remains more interested in dolls than boys, rocking out to the Jonas Brothers than listening to me yak endlessly about breasts and bad skin and body odours.
But, but, but ... I've been waiting for this moment like a one-woman welcome wagon. I have talking points, books, websites and a legion of really smart, caring people at the ready to help us out.
So why can't she get with adolescence-is-a-celebration and appreciate that her mother is willing - more than willing! - to be her wingwoman, point-person, go-to resource?
My answer resides at the bottom of a 10-tip list for mothers from the sage team at KidsHealth.org: "Take cues from your daughter. There's no right way to talk about growing up. You may want to adjust your approach based on your daughter's response and comfort level ..."
Personally, I'd move that one up.
Girls as young as eight are getting their periods these days. Their world is churning with information - much of it from sources not standing in their bedrooms waving around bras and babbling about how they're supposed to fit. Many are girls with mothers just like me who want to be there in ways our own mothers were not. That, unfortunately, leaves some of us a tad, er, overzealous.
Middle ground is most definitely in order, so what's at the top of that tip list?
"Start the talk early," say the folks at KidsHealth, a non-profit based at the Alfred I. du Pont Hospital for Children near Wilmington, Del. "By the time a girl is eight years old, she should know about the bodily changes associated with puberty."
Check, but where do they want their information to come from?
Only 25 per cent of about 11,000 girls surveyed recently by KidsHealth felt comfortable talking to their moms about puberty and adolescence, with 80 per cent of about 5,000 moms surveyed saying they felt only somewhat prepared or not prepared at all to discuss the subject with their daughters.
Those are two big reasons why KidsHealth launched a companion site in May specifically for girls about girls between the ages of eight and 12. It's called the Pink Locker Society and offers a fictional secret world where it's OK to be "a little weirded out about growing up," said Debra Moffitt, a top editor at Pinklockersociety.org.
Since PLS launched, the site has received 5,000 questions signed by kids and focused mostly on the "PBBS - periods, bras and boys," she said. Moffitt also gets plenty of questions about weight since girls gain rapidly with their changing bodies. Now that summer's on, the questions have been leaning toward sweating, shaving and swimsuits.
"I think my legs are too hairy but my mom tells me its too early to start shaving now I'm starting to get teased, what should i do????" wrote "J.S., 10."
Anxiety over body hair, wet underarms and breast buds, especially among girls who fall on the younger end of the puberty spectrum, may sneak up on parents, too.
"My first daughter started having her periods at 10; the second one at nine," recalled Brenda Nixon in Columbus, Ohio. "I was caught off guard - never imagined I'd be having the 'woman' talk with my 10-year-old. As a mom, I became even more alert and vigilant. My second daughter had a hard time saying goodbye to childhood at the onset of her periods."
Nixon, a frequent writer and speaker on parenting, said with her second daughter she "tried to make it a positive transition by treating her special, respecting her privacy and embarrassment, and being understanding of her closing a chapter in her life."
Emotionally, girls may need time as physical changes feel rapid fire. Their feet grow, their hips spread and suddenly they need a second layer up top, forced to contend with bandeau versus sports bra, training style versus the sweat-inducing cami when all they really want to do is hang upside on the monkey bars.
"This is a tender age and children go back and forth a lot during this time. They may play with their Barbies in the morning and want to try on bras in the afternoon. Parents are fearful at this time as they see their daughters' bodies changing and want to say and do the right things without embarrassing or scaring their children," said Mary Jo Rapini, a therapist at Methodist Hospital in Houston.
On the Net: