This morning, as my partner and 12-year-old daughter were on their way to school (I work from my own office in town-I am the proud owner of a Tutorial Center that helps children who are not able to pay for the expensive private schools, receive a good education and ESL Skills) my daughter said to her “I think that 5th grade should have a skip day because we are graduating from Elementary.”
She had been listening to us speak about the Senior skip day that had just happened and how it was organized and well planned out. Two years prior, my now 19-year-old, decided to participate in her skip day at the private English school in town. I told her that I did not think it was a good idea because of the timing. At 17 however, we have to start letting our children choose for themselves and honor the consequences that await. After very little argument (I decided when she turned 16 to not argue anymore-I know, congrats mama!), my partner and I just said “you can do the skip day, but if you get into trouble with the director, and we get spoken to, or get a letter, or a note, or an email, then you will also have consequences at home. So if you are ready to assume the responsibility and live out the natural consequences, then go for it.” There was also another condition we put on her skip day, that condition was no going on a Catamaran and getting wasted. Because that is what her “euphoric” class wanted to do. Oh yes, I put Euphoric in quotation marks because that is the name her class chose for their 12th year. It was actually Euphoria. That is a whole other story….I may tell it one day.
She chose to stay home for her skip day. Since everyone was skipping, she did not want to be the only one not skipping. There still were consequences however.
So this year, 2 years later, the seniors choose a skip day they actually clear first with the principal because they are obedient seniors. So my 12 year old decided that since they were graduating also, why not take a skip day. Keep in mind that she says this the day after she returned from a class field trip.
Oh children, the things they think about, and how little they actually process! Which brings me to another thought……how much do we tell our kids as they grow up? What do we highlight, what do we leave out? I think for girls it is different because there is more going on in the minds of girls than boys at the age of 12.
For instance, when puberty commences (as early as 8), things start happening to their bodies that they don’t understand. But because the things are happening to their bodies, does that mean we jump in there and tell them everything? When I had my first period, my mother thought it was appropriate to bring my WHOLE family (yes, boys too) in to “celebrate”. She was a child of the 60s so she had no “nude shame” but i was not a child of the 60s and i was so embarrassed and scared. They proceeded to spray whip cream all over my body……holy crap i was confused.
I hope not. When our daughter started, about the age 9.5, she was not even really physically developing yet. I was super confused as to why she was going through one part and not the other. So we did the normal thing and explained how to use pads, how to fold them when throwing them away, and how often to change them. That was fine and dandy but she was sooo young!!!! She didn’t understand anything really and we had to be sensitive to that.
At around the age of 10, she picked up a book at her school book fair. It is called “What’s Happening to Me?” This book is also in Spanish. It is by Susan Meredith and I recommend ALL parents get this book for their daughters, and also, for their sons. But everything has its time and place. I would wait until they are about 11 years old and let them read it first and then be open to any questions. Remember, they are already going through a super embarrassing time, they don’t need us to make them feel even more ashamed.
The first time I picked up this book, I was in her bathroom cleaning behind her shelves-the shelves she puts all her make-up on. I looked through the first few pages and said “hmm, this is interesting.” Yesterday (about 1 year later), I picked it up as I was actually using her toilet because I was already there, because I had showered in her bathroom because hers is the only bathroom that has hot water. I picked it up and started reading it in great detail and with a lot of thought. My eyebrows were raised the ENTIRE time. Here is the break down and a quick summary of each section (my thoughts are in italics):
1. Growing up: Growing up is easier if you take good care of yourself. I could handle this!
2. When will it happen: Changes happen between 8 and 13.
3. Same age, different stage: Everyone’s body is different so everyone develops differently
4. Taller and Wider: When girls grow, broad bits, muscle power, weight-i hated this part as a kid. My mother continued to remind me of how fat i was getting.
5. Getting Hairy: Pubic hair, what’s it for? Under your arms, on your legs…..explains how to shave. Started wondering a bit
6. Getting Breasts: Sooner or later, growing pains, how breasts work, all shapes and sizes this made sense
7. The bra business: measuring up(explains how), the right fit, types of bras
8. How does it start: something has to trigger them off then keep them going-sex hormones. They explain that boys have some female sex hormones and vice versa-a bit complicated to explain in my own head and i’m an adult….don’t think kids will understand it.
This is where I got a bit queezy and thought “should i be talking about this with her or should she be reading this alone?”
9. What’s it all about: How does sex work, lots of eggs, pregnancy myths, sex and feelings, sex without babies (this one caught my eye)
10. The Changes inside you; what everything is for, where everything is, on the outside, nearby parts, bodily fluids, same but different. (I actually learned something interesting in this sextion-pun intended)
11. Why periods happen: periods and babies, when periods start, how often+how long, all caused by hormones
12. Using Towels: types, size and thickness, changing towels, getting rid of towls
13. Using tampons (this part surprised me because i don’t believe kids bodies should take in tampons): types of tampons, size, putting a tampon in, changing tampons, to use or not to use?
14. Coping with periods: period pain, pms, top tips I cope with my periods by swearing A LOT!
15. Your feelings: friends, parents, fancying people (this one got a bit into masturbation……I guess it is better than getting pregnant! ;))
16. Good Food: food groups, how much? (My mother should read this book, I suffered from anorexia because she wanted to control every bit of food I took in as a teen).
17. More about eating: Food and teeth, ready meals versus fresh, junk food, eating disorders
18. Keep moving: why now? how much?what kind? Rest and sleep. This has got to be sensitively. My mother pushed exercise on me, leading to a hostage situation and then a home invasion on the same day. Read my book Jogging to Hell to find out more.
19. Keep clean: washing, deodorants, front to back, normal or not? I liked this one…but hopefully teach our kids this from birth.
20. From the Neck up: too much grease, dealing with spots, squeezing
21. How boys bodies work: boy’s sex organs, hygiene
22. Boys have worries too: squeaky voice, when to shave, size anxieties, breasts? Other embarrassments. Not sure if i was comfortable with my daughter seeing diagrams of boy parts at such a young age.
23. Problems to avoid: drugs, what is safe sex, boy image, bullying, the right to say no. loved this, hope all parents talk about this with the kiddos….drug use and involvement is starting SUPER early not…say, 6 years of age in some parts of the world.
That is the gist of the book. Holy Moly! I was so engaged, disturbed and entertained. The bright illustrations made me think “really? is that what i look like” and the well worded phrases made me say “hmmm…i was not aware of that…thanks”.