Monday, 4 March 2013

Puberty

My ten-year-old can fluently recite lines from a sex chatline. 'Yes, I'm wearing my school uniform, silly!' she simpers, 'And I've finished my oral, although I did find it a bit of a mouthful at first.'

The unwitting culprit is my father who thought that St Trinians was all cardigan-clad mischief-making under the wholesome eye of Joyce Grenfell and who therefore bought a DVD of the 21st-century remake from Age UK. When I arrive, my daughter is raptly viewing schoolgirls in black-frilled scanties running a telephonic sideline from their dormitory.

I waver. My daughter thinks she is watching a clutch of teens having a makeover and my dismay baffles her. If I grabbed the remote and trashed the disc I'd have to explain the offence and rouse even greater zeal. If I let her continue she would revolutionise her classmate's games in the school playground. 'Mum, I'm ten!' she protests as I mutter my misgivings. So, troubled, I let her continue and  the schoolgirls turn their attention to illicit vodka distilling.

Childcare manuals guide parents painstakingly through weaning, through toddler tantrums and through the first shock of school. They are silent, though, on the dilemmas that confront mothers of pubescent girls. My daughter wants to spend her pocket money on stick-on finger nails and eye shadow. I disapprove. But, now she's ten, should I let her? How often should I make allowances for hormones when she answers me back? At what point do childish food fads become legitimate independent preferences? At what age should I respect her wish to wear micro shorts of ripped denim? When does pocket money become an allowance?

The onset of adolescence has crept up on me unawares. My firstborn has outstripped me. Through habit I have run her bath, washed her dishes, cleaned her room. I knew that I had to instruct her on female biology, but only belatedly has it occurred to me to show her which Hoover nozzles to insert when and how to fry chicken.

There are boundaries I still refuse to cross: high heels, 9pm bedtimes, a mobile phone. But in another year even these will become blurred and I shall watch baffled as my little girl sashays into a world my adolescent self never yearned for.

For now, though, she is enough of a child to want to play badminton over the clothes line. She turns off the television and unpeels her plastic nails. Relieved, I don my badminton wellies and seize a racquet. 'What's your sports star name going to be?' she asks. 'Mum the Magnificent, ' I reply. 'What's yours?' Angel Eyes was her last one. But that was before St Trinians. She reflects for a moment then hitches her skinny jeans. 'From now on,' she announces, 'I'm going to be Posh Totty!'

Have you steered a daughter through puberty? How did you cope? And if you haven't yet, are you ready?






22 comments:

  1. No, don't know, no way.

    But it provides good blogging material, so I'm not going to slag teenagers off.

    Well, not at the moment anyway.

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  2. I've got the opportunity to try my adolescent steering skills on two boys, before I need them for my daughter (currently 8). Something tells me they won't necessarily be adequate preparation.

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  3. My 7yo boy picked up a copy of The Sun in a cafe recently, accidentally turned to Page 3, picked it up for all to see and announced to me excitedly -'Look Mum, this is Sexy.' a) how did he know that word? b) how did he know the context in which to use it? I am often glad I have boys, not girls and know I have fobbed him off for now. I suspect your days of fobbing off are gone :( She'll always need you. You'll always be her mum X

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    1. We cautious mothers can't compete against the school playground. And fobbing off ones is all the harder to explain to a would-be teen when classmate's parents don't do likewise.

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  4. I have two teenage daughters and have found they may appear to want to be grown up, but often they're a little bit relieved (at the younger end of the teens anyway) when you say no. But peer group belonging is all-important at this age, so you need to talk to them about the reasons, maybe offer an alternative and let them find an answer that's ok to tell their friends. Just keep talking and don't forget the hugs - they sometimes pretend they don't need them, but they do (just not in public!!)

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    1. What excellent advice. You're very right about the hugs. I've yet to detect any signs of relief when I put my foot down but hopefully that will come when the demands become more audacious.

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  5. This is going to be me in eight years time! And that whole age from 10 - 13 years is so tricky - still kids but nearly teenagers. Well done you for still keeping some solid boundaries like bedtimes!

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    1. I feel on surer ground on matters of health and wellbeing. It's when it comes to fashion and er, you know.. that I fear my natural conservatism may be skewing my judgments unfairly.

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  6. Are you really the right person to be teaching her how to drive a hoover?

    Not helpful? Erm, having no experience of raising a teen, I can only tell you what I remember of being ten. I remember thinking that I was grown up and that I knew it all. C-razy.

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    1. Ssshh, I'm not ready to Come Out about our pact yet!!

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  7. Mine is 16 and it has been a gradual process you will be relieved to hear! Little by little she has grown up, and little by little I have got used to the idea. I am fortunate in that she seems rather younger than I was at the same age. Thank goodness seeing as I was out all night with boys in bands by her age, whereas she is still content to go to see a romcom with her girlfriends! Plenty of time for her to rebel still tho, so I am not counting my chickens just yet!

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    1. It's the opposite with me. I was still dangling from trees in my mother's old cardies at 19 whereas my daughter became a rockchick at 6. But I do see that it's as much about me developing my outlook as her developing her body!

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  8. I dread this phase. My two year old is already telling everyone, "I THREE!" so desperate is she to grow up. I just know there's trouble ahead.

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  9. My daughter is only 8 but with 5 brothers ahead of her she will be easily be able to hold her own. She already rules the roost!

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  10. Laughed out loud at "Posh Totty" and nodded my way through the rest...I have two girls (11 and almost 13 - help!). It is in fact the 11 year old who would seemingly get on famously with your daughter - she has beaten me hands down! It is all news to me too and I'm longing to discover a book to steer me through. I've got some DVDs on the Teenage years by Rob Parsons, waiting to be unwrapped. I fear that I may be too late!

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    1. We'll just have to prop each other up through this.

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  11. Oh gosh I would love to be a fly on your wall! Posh Totty indeed - I can only imagine how that goes down with the vicar!
    I've just handed my 8 year old a book explaining puberty and the emotional issues surrounding it. I don't know if my timing is right or not, but I was rather spooked by last night's Brownies pack holiday meeting that informed me 8 year old girls have been known to start their periods on a pack holiday!

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    1. Yes, we were told 8 was the average age that puberty starts. Surely they meant earliest age! The Vicar, by the way, is far less shockable than I am!

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