My own puberty was one of mattress-sized pads and a no questions asked policy.
Now that I have a teenage daughter, I vowed to not approach things with her in the same way. Even though the idea made me cringe, I wanted to have more open, informative talks with her than I ever had.
Our paediatrician had commented that based on her height, puberty was likely around the corner. I kind of knew because there were unexplained tears and slamming doors. I was always the tallest kid in my class and my daughter was also well over five feet tall by fifth grade.
Along with the height, she did begin menstruating at only 10.5 years old. Fifth grade. There were only a few girls to talk to at school. That made me double down on my efforts to eliminate any confusion about her body and what was happening.
With a goal of open-mindedness, we had many uncomfortable conversations that I wouldn't have broached with my own mum at age 12 (or even 48). We started with books on puberty, and went from there.
After our initial discussions, she researched carefully what she wanted to use for a feminine hygiene product. And makeup. And hair ties. Our computer search history is undoubtedly interesting.
She came to me with a request that I knew was well thought out: a Diva Cup. "Can you please order it on Amazon so no one sees us buying it in the grocery store?" I explained I had tried a Diva Cup and hated it.
She was insistent. And came to me armed with her research. She had talked to her friends. She didn't want to get Toxic Shock Syndrome. She was tired of feeling messy. "Not every woman is the same, Mummy."
That statement hit me hard. In one swoop, she was expressing her newfound womanhood but still using the "Mummy" moniker with childlike endearment. Even though thirty-five years separated us, we were going through the same thing. She also knew at 12-years-old that not every woman is the same. Not every girl-woman is the same. Not every Mummy is the same.
It was a well-founded and thought-out argument so I stopped debating and made the Amazon order. It was an entirely new way Amazon Prime has come in handy. Plain brown box. No embarrassing moments in the grocery store aisle. I handed everything over to her still in the box.
She sanitised everything and reported back she loved the device. It struck me this not-girl/not-really-woman was so much more in control and aware of her own body than I ever was (or maybe am). It is an oddly appropriate and shocking realisation all at once.
Shortly after the Diva Cup purchase, I also placed an order for requested teen Thinx underpants. And with that my role as feminine hygiene procurer was seemingly complete. However, the journey wasn't yet done. We both have period apps now (at her suggestion).
And she still comes to me with requests for Midol and heat wraps. She also gives tips to her girlfriends about thing like using a bottle of hot water on your crampy back.
Even with all her awareness, there were still misconceptions. We had a discussion that monthly cycles don't end when a woman decides she doesn't want to have kids anymore.
She very honestly and hopefully thought it all had stopped for me when I had her at age 35. It was honestly easier buying the Diva Cup than it was explaining that to her.
As I placed the orders, I thought about how empowered and educated this teenage child of mine was. Did I help her move towards that path with these purchases? I can only hope the open communication pushed her at least a little in that direction.
She already has a healthier and more open approach to the entire process and to her life in general. She also recognises her limits and goals and stress levels in an enviable way. I know these won't be the last discussions we have and I appreciate that even as it is uncomfortable.
She's still testing out her decision-making skills. Around the same time, I took her to buy her well-researched make-up purchases. For two or three weeks, she carefully got up early to put it on. Sleeping in eventually won out over full make-up every day. However, she also has introduced me to Lush's lavender products and the best under-eye concealers.
In the end, it is all a cycle itself. I think back to my mother and my 13-year-old self and try to give her some retrospective grace. She was coming from the days of a belt around her waist once a month and even less discussion.
In comparison, me buying a Diva Cup isn't all that earth-shattering. But maybe it is just what Mummy Earth intended.