During my daughter’s 7-year-old check-up, I chatted with our pediatrician about junior high and how times have most certainly changed.
“I dread the day I find a note in Ava’s backpack asking for permission to let the health nurse talk to the girls in her class,” I giggled.
“The health nurse? Middle school? What planet are you from?” she exclaimed.
There’s this little place called Naïve. Maybe you’ve heard of it?
What do you mean? No health nurse? No starched white uniform, white cap, white tights, and white shoes? No VHS video? No permission slip? What?
This was the moment that our doctor-family relationship merged into a true friendship between women. Rather than dosing medical advice, my favorite pediatrician was speaking to me mother-to-mother, and I was desperately grateful for her insight.
“You have to be willing and able to answer her questions about life before someone else tells her about it,” she continued. “And, you will hear things that’ll make your forehead sweat and hands shake.”
I admit — girls aren’t made the way they used to be. As one father remarked about his son’s new girlfriend(s), “Every one of them looks like they could be on the cover of Maxim.”
If I remember correctly, I learned about the facts of a girl’s life when I was 12 and in the 7th grade. Society (and the media, technology, and milk producers in my opinion) have now forced us to at least start conversations in the 4th grade — or by the age of nine.
What happens when a nine-year-old’s body physically matures before she’s emotionally mature enough to handle it? Understand it?
As a writer, I’m paid never to be at a loss for words. But as a mother, I’m already too shocked to know where or how to begin. Thankfully, I’ve found help.
American Girl Publishing, Inc., has branched out beyond dolls and accessories and into the book industry, promoting fiction and non-fiction that encourage young girls to “stand tall, reach high and dream big.” While the books are aimed at tweens and teens, they’re quite possibly most beneficial to the mother (or father) tasked with explaining what happens when.
In The Care & Keeping of YOU: The Collection, a boxed set of guides tackle the most intimidating topics of the age — “The Body Book for Girls”, “The Feelings Book,” and two companion journals. The set also includes a pouch for storing body-care supplies.
Also on bookstore shelves are titles such as What Would You Do? Quizzes for Real Life Problems; Food & You – Eating Right, Being Strong and Feeling Great; A Smart Girl’s Guide to Understanding Her Family – Feelings, Fighting & Figuring it Out; and A Smart Girl’s Guide to Starting Middle School.
Unlike the early versions of Our Bodies, Ourselves (which embarassed and scared the daylights out of me), the American Girl books are kinder, gentler and much more polite. As with most everything in life, it’s best to approach the subject in moderation….a type of puberty portion control for parents. A good friend of mine shared sections of The Care & Keeping of YOU with her daughter, but glued some pages together to keep her from reading more than she needed to know at the time. Of course, she ripped the pages apart when Mom wasn’t home.
I’ve always choked on the $95 doll pricetag, but my attitude has changed since discovering a new world of American Girl products. The Care and Keeping of YOU just might be the survival guide we mothers have been looking for all along.
Well, that and a bottle of vodka.