The Period Blog

Like me, Sheri from the super-fabulous blog A Novel Menagerie has two preteen daughters.  Inspired by My Little Red Book, we recently chatted about periods: 

Lisa:  I got mine when I was 11, the summer before 6th grade.  How old were you? 

Sheri:  You know, since my brain fell out of my va-jay-jay after I had the twins, I can’t really recall.  I think I was 13, close to 14. 

Lisa:   So 8th or 9th grade, something like that?  Being a bit younger, I guess I was pretty stupid about things.  I know we saw a movie in 5th grade, but it was more about all the wonderful things you can do when you become a woman- you can go horseback riding!  You can ride a bike!  

I was at summer camp and didn’t connect the rusty streak in my undies to the movie at all.  I thought I was dying.  I hid my messy underwear in my duffle bag (gross!)  My mom discovered what happened when she did my laundry after I came home, and she handed me a book called Growing Up and a box of pads.  There was no discussion, no Q & A, and lots of embarrassment.  What about you? 

Sheri:  In our school, we had the sex-ed classes, so I knew it was coming.  Also, most of my friends had theirs before me.. again, I knew it would arrive.  My mom gave me some mini-pads, told me a bit about them, and set me loose.  It wasn’t at all that big of a deal for me.  I think developing my breasts were a much bigger memory for me.  I really had some difficult cramping in high school and took a lot of Motrin during those years.  Did you know that I’m so old that Motrin was by prescription only back then?  Yes… yes it was! 

Lisa:  Breasts- that was a sad subject for me.  I was skinny and flat as a board.  I had nothing going on upstairs, which caused me great embarrassment in junior high. 

How are you preparing your own daughters for their first period? 

Sheri:  I am the world’s biggest embarrassment to the twins.  Whenever I talk about it, they say, “MOM!  We know! We know!”  They never want to talk about it.  They each have some panty-liners and are prepared to let me know when it happens. (Oh, and our school has had some really great classes over the past couple of years). 

Lisa:  Ours too.  My kids know how their bodies work from me, from the classes at school, and from books.  American Girl has a great book called “The Care and Keeping of You.”  It even has a diagram showing how to insert a tampon.  And I’ll be sharing My Little Red Book with them too.

We’ve discussed everything openly although my youngest would rather not talk about it.  The other day I took them to the drugstore and we purchased some “supplies” and cute little zip-up bags to carry them in so they can take them in their backpacks to school.  I want them to be secure in the knowledge that they will know what to do when the time comes.   

Sheri:  One of my twins does and the other doesn’t.  I guess we’re heading to the drug store before school starts.  Thanks for the head’s up! 

Lisa:  Your girls are a little bit older than mine.  Mine are 10 and 11, and as you know my 11 year old is really tiny.  She’ll probably be carrying pads around in her backpack for the next 3 years before she needs to use them.  Although she is very moody, and her skin is starting to break out a little, so you never know.. 

Sheri:  After her recent physical, the doctor told one of my girls that she will start very soon.  In my best estimation, the other one is probably 2-6 months behind her.  Seeing that they are both in women’s sizes now, have acne problems up the wazoo, have body odor issues, and greasy scalps… it’s just a matter of time.  It’s a challenge to get them to focus on their self-care and proper hygiene.  I actually asked the doctor to talk to them a bit about it.  She did and the twins seemed to take it more seriously coming from her than from me.  In fact, they were much better about the acne care after the doctor’s visit. 

Lisa:  That’s a good idea.  I should have the doctor talk with them about it.  It was almost funny last year, trying to get my 4th grader to start wearing deodorant, and her defensively asking, “Why?”  Um, honey?  I hate to say it, but.. you smell.  

Sheri:  Dude!  It’s bad enough with their hormones now… I can only imagine that cramps are going to turn my world upside down!  EEK!  What I’m really concerned about is having the 3 of us starting to all cycle together at the same time.  It will be total mayhem and grouchiness for 10 days straight.  And that’s like a third of the month!  OMG!  

Lisa:  I know, same here!!  My poor husband!  He is SO outnumbered. 

In My Little Red Book, there are essays about how families mark the occasion of ‘becoming a woman’.  Some celebrate with a special dinner, a cake, or a slap in the face.  One mom gave her daughter a dozen roses in a pretty vase, and the daughter kept the dried rose petals in the vase on her dresser for years- I really liked that idea.  I don’t have any family traditions but I think I may start one with my girls.  How do you plan to handle it with the twins? 

Sheri:  I hadn’t really thought about it until the book.  I think flowers is a lovely idea.  It is the beginning of an entirely new phase of their lives. 

Lisa:  Thanks, Sheri, for talking with me today!  This was fun. 

Sheri:  I appreciate you bringing up some great little reminders and tips.  And, you totally know that I’m going to secretly tell you/my other girlfriends when it happens!  It’s almost like a small rite of passage for us moms, too!  Don’t you think?  THANK YOU, for including me in your amazingly wonderful, always fun blog: BOOKS ON THE BRAIN! 

Lisa:  Oh, you are so sweet.  Believe me, I’ll be calling you too when things start flowing in my house!!  I will need to have someone to commiserate with.  It is a rite of passage, a beginning but also an ending too.  It kind of makes me sad that my babies are growing up so quickly.  Ok, I may start crying now.  Pass the tissues, the Motrin and the chocolate.  

And for a good laugh, watch this!

The Film

The paper came home with the fourth grade girls yesterday- the one that says they’ll soon be watching “the film”.

“Mom!  You have to sign this!  We’re going to see a film about growing up and I can’t watch it unless you sign!”  She is excited, of course.  

My 4th grader is immature physically and in every other way.  She watches Spongebob, reads Goosebumps, and believes in the toothfairy.  She is blissfully unaware of fallopian tubes and sperm and fertilized eggs.

On the one occasion I tried to discuss menstruation with her, she did not want to hear it.  She knows a little bit about it from an American Girl Book her sister has shared, but not in great detail.  She’s in denial (just like her mother) and would prefer not to know.

My little girl is 10 years and 4 months old.  Aunt Flo came to visit me for the first time at 11 years and 2 months, the summer after 5th grade.  I was at Girl Scout camp and truly thought I must be dying.  I knew nothing.  I hid my messy underwear in my duffle bag and didn’t tell anyone.  My mother made that lovely discovery when I got home from camp.  We never talked about it, but some ‘supplies’ magically found their way to my bathroom.  I remember she also handed me a book called Growing UP a couple days later, with lots of information about a woman’s cycle, and a single paragraph about intercourse.  I read that paragraph in horror and fascination, checking the dictionary for unfamiliar terms, and discussing it with a neighbor girl who was equally horrified and fascinated.  

I can’t keep my daughter from growing up, but I can spare her the fear and embarrassment of not knowing what is going on when the time comes.  I just didn’t think the time would come so soon.  She may not want to hear it, at least not from me, but she definitely wants to know what’s in this mysterious film that only the girls in her class get to watch (no boys allowed!).  And I’ll take her along to pick out the products she’ll need and answer all her questions.  

At least she won’t ever have to wear a sanitary belt.  Raise your hand if you don’t know what I’m talking about (go ahead, make me feel reeeeeeally old!).

The Last Girl on Earth Without a Cell Phone

My preteen daughter, 10 years old, going into 6th grade this September, frequently claims to be the last girl on earth without a cell phone.  This comment is generally met by a slightly sarcastic remark from me, such as  “You poor deprived child” or “That’s because it’s my goal in life to make you miserable” or “I’m sure you’re not the ONLY girl without a cell phone”.  Sometimes I even roll my eyes (and then I wonder where she gets that annoying little habit!)  She’s been bugging me for a couple of years to get her a phone, but lately this has intensified.  She claims I am overprotective.  Sometimes she declares I am the meanest mom ever.   But I do have my reasons.

She rarely uses the house phone- if she’s not calling people from home, who’s she going to call from her cell phone?  We have a rule- she can get a cell phone when she enters junior high in a year, or if we feel she needs one before then (if I’m dropping her off for long stretches at one of her activities- not the case right now) and in that case the phone would be for MY convenience and peace of mind- so that I can reach her when she’s away from me.  Which right now is hardly ever.  And texting is out.

My daughter’s two closest friends have phones, but I thought that was more the exception rather than the rule, and one of those girls has already had a “situation” with texting, where she was the victim of some bullying.  I feel my daughter is too young and immature to handle something like that.

So wasn’t I surprised, then, to find that in our Girl Scout troop, she is one of only 2 girls who do not have cell phones!  And of the 8 who do, 7 have unlimited texting (and the other one hates her phone for not having it and doesn’t understand why her mother won’t allow it!)  One girl is actually on her second phone already.  All this talk just gave my kid more fuel for the fire.

Am I really that far behind the times?  Do I cave to “peer pressure” from the girl scout group of parents and get my kid a phone?  Does a not-quite-11 year old girl really need a phone, and if so, WHY?

I’d love to hear from other moms.  Am I overprotective?  Mean?  Are you a mean mom, too?

Review: Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl is a memoir of the editor of Gourmet magazine’s childhood. I love to read, and I love to eat, so this book, combining two of my favorite things, seemed like a natural choice for me. It’s about food, yes, but it’s more about growing up in a dysfunctional home and finding comfort wherever you can.

Ruth has a complicated relationship with her manic and delusional mother, aka The Queen of Mold (“I can make a meal out of anything”). Mom brings chaos to the family with culinary disasters that include poisoning the entire guest list of her son’s engagement party with soup made from crabmeat that was left out for two days to thaw. While it smelled iffy even to her, she just added more sherry to the soup and declared it fine. Later, when guests started calling to let them know how sick they were and wondered if it had been the food, she said, “Nonsense. We all feel fine. And we ate everything!” You had to have a strong stomach to grow up in the Reichl household!

Her dysfunctional parents leave young Ruth to her own devices much of the time. A lonely Ruth finds love and affection through food preparation with other people, picking up lessons and learning to care for others while expressing herself creatively in the kitchen.

She makes apple dumplings and potato salad with a grandmother (who isn’t really her grandmother) and was later sent to boarding school in Montreal where she meets a true gourmet. The book follows her through high school (where she makes devil’s food cake for a boy, again connecting food with affection) and college (learning to make coconut bread with her roommate’s Caribbean mother) and into young adulthood, where she works at a doomed French restaurant in Detroit. She later marries Doug and has adventures and wonderful meals, the best one being on a hill in Greece. She even becomes a cook in a commune in California, where on one memorable Thanksgiving the idealistic group makes dinner entirely from supermarket discards. I worried that this meal would poison others, completing the circle with Ruth’s mom and that fateful engagement party in the beginning of the book, but Ruth’s meal turns out fine.

It was interesting to see how much the people she met and cared for influenced the way she felt about food. Throughout we see how food and relationships shaped the life of the future famous restaurant critic and editor. Food is “a way of making sense of the world” according to Ruth.

Packed with colorful characters and recipes, this is a sweet and charming memoir of Reichl’s early life. I read and enjoyed Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires a while back, which is a memoir of her days as a restaurant critic for the NY Times. Tender at the Bone was even better. I highly recommend it for foodies and non-foodies alike.