My daughter’s class is about to start their lesson on puberty at school. I know this because she told me and the teacher sent a heads up letter. So I was able to look through the curriculum and appreciate some of the topics. It covers themes from anger management and stress reduction tools, healthy relationships and learning more about how the body works.
This info is not new to her. At 10, she already knows about puberty, menstruation and how her body will change soon. Her body is already changing – she has small breast buds, tiny new armpits hairs, and a new awareness about herself. We’ve had some great chats at home about the body and how it works. Both of my kids know what menstruation is, and what i use when i bleed each month. We have talked in child-friendly ways about abortion. Read this old journal article to get a sense of this. We use the ‘proper’ terms for all the body parts. And now we are entering that territory where it’s not just theory and information but actual embodied understanding of it.
My son is on the cusp of puberty. He’s grown in all directions this year, and his body is changing before my eyes. I have never been a 12-year old boy and yet i know I’m the adult in his life who will talk about this the most. Sure his dad will play a key part (especially about wet dreams and how to take care of his penis), and i know we will have talks about relationships.
Because we already do. Because this is an example of how I work as an matricentric feminist. Motherhood is a Hero’s Journey. It is a shapeshifting alchemy that forever changes us, hopefully for the better. But the change it gives us is inevitable. This beautiful book by Lisa Marchiano has been keeping me company these past several months. In it, she shares fables and stories of the sea change impact of motherhood on her clients and herself. She also uses the analogies of old traditional fables to help us see that this is a universal journey.
It’s going to me who shapes his understanding about how to be a good friend and partner, and how to be comfortable in his body and find was to access pleasure. Not because i’m a mom and woman and this typically falls on us to do, but because this is a big part of my work and life’s mission.
My passion is to help others attune to their body and embody their pleasure, from an embodied place.
I can’t wait to have my daughter talk about this more fully as well. I was 9 years old when i got my period for the first time. It was the summer before grade 5 and i had no idea what it was. I thought i hurt myself outside while playing in the backyard. In grade 6, there were a couple of girls who had it and we were already started to form mini breasts. I have known most of my life the power (aka attention) i get for my breasts alone. For many years, it felt more like an alien invasion.
Now that my daughter is 10, she’s older than when I first started my menstrual experience. We can’t wait to celebrate the transition into puberty. She told me how she and her friends were talking about being embarrassed about this transition and I heard her tell them that she knows I will be honouring it with a rite of passage celebration.
It’s important to tell our children about this important step in their journey in life. For me, this especially honours the journey towards womanhood. So we need to tell them your war stories around bleeding through your pants and explain the changes that happen in the body. We need to prepare them and also be there for those stories of their own.
I now feel connected and proud of my body as i have journeyed to a place where i am aligned with my feminine side and connected to it. For many years, the feminist in me went through many iterations – i was unsure what kind of feminist i was, and mainly how i dressed to showcase this identity.
One thing we’ve done as a family is normalize this as much as anything else in their lives. We have books and regular conversations. We watch shows and have a great dinner time conversations. This is a work in progress and i wholeheartedly believe that we do not have just one talk about ‘the birds and the bees.’ Rather we have several over time, and again and again as our kids get older and can take in more.
Speaking of books, here are some that I have found to be really great and wish they were around when I was experiencing this transformation. My kids keep some right beside their bed. And i have totally caught them reading them. In a good way, of course, not in a shaming way. That is so important to me. The puberty books i knew of as a kid were hidden away, and i could never ask my mom to read them.
*Sex is a Funny Word – i can’t wait to read the newest one by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smythe!
*Celebrate Your Body and It’s Changed: The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls
*It’s Perfectly Normal
*Puberty is Gross but also Really Awesome
I was already planning to write this article. Now i had to finish it. The timing of it is magical: Now the States have decided to possibly not allow abortion. These are conversations I’ve had with my children. In fact I also spoke to my son last week how I felt about this decision. He heard it and we had a pretty inspired conversation about it.
Learning about puberty, sex and body autonomy is so important. We cannot let anyone in power dictate what is true and real about our bodies, and what it is our right. My kids may be a bit embarrassed and yet they still come to tell me. That is the path i wanted to create for them.