Thursday, 15 November 2012

Growing Pains

'You'll come to my parenting session on sex?' begged the headteacher grabbing my tweed elbow and steering me into the school hall. The lady sent from the council to make us face up to our anatomies scrawled biological terms on a white board then addressed the captive mothers.

'What,' she asked, 'is the average age that girls reach puberty?'
'12?' ventured the bravest of us. '14?'
'Eight!' said the lady triumphantly and wrote 'eight' on the white board.

There was a bewildered murmur from the audience. Only I was unsurprised. Puberty, I've learned, is not heralded by packs of Bodyform Ultra or incipient bristles. It begins with a rash of equally unnerving symptoms, none of which biology guides warn you about. And in our vicarage it commenced around the age of seven.

It's taken me a couple of years to realise what these symptoms signified and I was about to share my wisdom with the anxious mothers in the sex session. But before I could find my voice, the lady from the council had started sketching aspects of puberty that I do not yet feel mature enough to cope with and, with shrill excuses, I fled.

Here, though, for the benefit of those with small girls, I intend to reveal all. If you realise that your own infant daughter is showing any of these signs, then don't panic. It's a natural biological process - it's just that it starts so darn early in modern Britain.

You know your little one has reached puberty when:

You find metallic blue nail varnish smears on the bath tub.

Leopard print creeps into the house, like said nail varnish, by unidentifiable processes.  

She becomes physically incapable of walking proper distances unless it's down a shopping mall. 

She starts borrowing your shoes.

You start borrowing her jewellery.

She asks when she may start shaving her legs.

£1.50 pocket money becomes a £2.50 'allowance'.

'Will you do my bath, Mummy!' becomes 'Wot you hanging round the bathroom for, Mum!'

Her bedroom chaos morphs from Barbies, shoe-box castles and rolled-rug 'ponies' to Matalan catalogues, lip salves, clothes purloined from your wardrobe and mysterious twirly gadgets to perform mysterious twirly functions on hair. 

You need a torch and ear mufflers to browse T-shirts in her preferred mood-lit high street supplier.

I'm bound to have left some crucial symptoms out. If you can think of any please add them here. And don't be disheartened. Puberty is a painful process for a parent, but there are plus sides: my 10 year-old still almost believes in Father Christmas

27 comments:

  1. Not only does my ten (nearly 11) year old step daughter no longer believe in FC, but she chose to announce the "fact" over Sunday lunch in front of her (nearly) three year old sister and her four year old brother.

    Other symptoms so far include NEVER being able to find ANYTHING to wear and fighting a constant battle between wanting to play with her younger siblings' toys and sneering at same.

    Good luck
    X

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    1. You're right. At this moment the 10yo's carpet is strewn with discarded clothes after she'd wrestled with which outfit to wear to the school mufti day tomorrow.

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  2. Everything becomes embarrassing and so not cool. Mum can't wave her daughter off to school for fear of making daughter feel over-protected.

    They always want tucking in though, and a quick kiss with "love you" before you leave the room.

    CJ x

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    1. I'm dreading not being able to wait at the school gate morning and afternoon. But already only the 8yo will kiss me goodbye!

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  3. She's borrowing your clothes? You've much more street cred than you imagine! Looking forward to (and relying on you for) the boy version. Ta in advance ;)

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    1. Only a black thing my mother bought me which I don't wear cos it frightens the Vicar! The boy, so far, appears to be regressing to toddlerhood so you may have to wait awhile!

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  4. Envious that E's school has a lady from the council to deliver sex ed! I've had to teach it before. Showing the parents the video is always far worse than teaching the kids! Luckily my boys are showing no interest in girls as yet, although elder son did once ask 'Mummy, why don't you have a willy?' whilst we were queueing in the bank. (Anon. rach)

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    1. I should like to have been there to watch your reply. It never before occurred to me that sex ed would be inflicted on parents. Bit too late for most of us and I would so much prefer to learn cross stitch!

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  5. On no, really? EIGHT YEARS OLD? I better stock pile supplies of valium now! X.

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    1. Sorry, yes. But just under the blue-varnished surface, they're still your sweet little girl.

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  6. Why do parents need sex-ed? With kids at school you'd think they'd got the hang of it by now...

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    1. They feared we were repressing our children by our ignorance of biological processes and our coyness at calling a.. ahem, a ..er..ahem...!

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  7. Maybe if I'd had sex-ed we might have had two kids instead of one.

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    1. If you'd had to sit through the diagrams I sat through you probably wouldn't have had any!

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  8. EEEEEEEEK! Leopard print reigns in our house this autumn. Even I've got some!

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    1. Congratulations - you're evidently approaching puberty!

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  9. Are those the symptoms? Oh dear it's already started here then!

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  10. Was the headteacher trying to pick you up?

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  11. Have you watched "Modern Family", by the way? There's an episode on this very subject, where the mother has the last laugh (sort of...)

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  12. I'm instantly filled with dread. My two year old is already displaying more than one of these symptoms. You forgot to mention an undying love for One Direction. Again, my two year old ticks another box off the checklist. AAAAAAAAAAAGH!

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    1. I think One Direction is considered pretty pre-adolsecence. It's all Jesse J in our house. So, deep breaths!

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  13. I'm eternally grateful that I have just one child, a boy! Who, at almost 13, was quite happy to let me run his bath for him the other night. Only a matter of time.... sigh!

    xx Jazzy

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    1. Boys, I'm certain, must be easier. My 8yo is, if anything regressing back into babyhood which is so much easier to cope with than leopard-printed Attitude!

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  14. Erm, am now properly scared for the future. And I remember myself at 10... what a little madam!

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    1. Your memories should equip you to cope then. Whereas I - I was in tweeds from birth and have no hope of understanding teen bling!

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