My daughter is 11 years old and she is obsessed with the changes in her body.
"Look, Mama, they're growing! I have bumps and I can see a shadow underneath," she exclaims as she studies her chest in the mirror. She is not shy at all, so I just sit there and offer up a half-hearted smile — but inside I am freaking out. As a mama to four boys, raising a tween girl is unchartered territory for me. I'm used to video games, dirty socks and jokes about balls.
When she was 10, her grandmother bought her first camiseta to wear underneath her white T-shirts. It was a bralette, which is a soft sports bra type-thing, without any hooks or pads. It's more or less a training bra. She loved it! I noticed her satisfied little smile and the added bounce to her step. She was very conscientious to wear her "bra" underneath all of her clothing. As the year passed, she was still wearing them but I began to realize she needed the real thing. Her "bumps" are growing and suddenly it was time to think about a bonfide bra for my little girl, even though it seems she was just sucking her thumb and twirling her hair yesterday.
The challenging part of raising a daughter and preparing for puberty is that you have your own experience to contend with. When I was raising my sons, talking to them about puberty and their penises was all in the abstract — I had no personal experience to draw from so I could be very matter-of-fact. I never felt awkward or embarrassed. But with a daughter, I know what it's like to feel all the feelings. I've never stumbled over my words while talking about personal stuff more than I am now.
I didn't realize how bittersweet it would be. I find myself thinking back on my own experience and the conflicting feelings I had when my little-girl body began to blossom into a woman's body. Puberty came too soon for me; I didn't like the new breasts, the rounded hips and thighs that earned plenty of looks from older men.
Not that I haven't been girding my loins for this very moment. I knew the time would come for me to talk to my daughters about their periods, their changing bodies, breasts, boys, sex — all of it. But I didn't realize how bittersweet it would be. I find myself thinking back on my own experience and the conflicting feelings I had when my little girl body began to blossom into a woman's body. Puberty came too soon for me; I didn't like the new breasts, the rounded hips and thighs that earned plenty of looks from older men. I'm trying my hardest not to project any ambivalent feelings I had on to my sweet little girl with the big eyes, long legs and toothy smile. She is so fresh and excited, wondering about the whole transition. It's a whole new world that is opening up for her. If I'm being totally honest, I'm praying she belongs to the Itty Bitty Titty Committee. Amen.
Surprisingly, the actual bra shopping was pretty painless. We settled on a simple style, much like the sports bra she's been wearing for the past year. No lace, no molded cups, no heart attacks for Mama. She modeled it for me with pride and it made me chuckle, thinking back on how I used to hide my growing body from my mother as if I would turn into a pillar of salt if she even caught a glimpse of me nude. I hope my daughter continues being open with me, sharing these special parts of her life with her mama.