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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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The puberty party

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As my twin daughters’ bodies start to show the first signs of womanly development, I can’t help but think back to my own experiences.

My first trip bra shopping was a department store nightmare. It felt embarrassing enough just needing this extra piece of delicate clothing to hold my body parts in place, but to have a nosey salesperson in the change room with me, adjusting, inspecting and viewing the goods was way too much.

In those days the 13-year-old version of me suffered the indignity silently, returning home with a hideous bra that spoke nothing of the sensuality of growing into a woman. I’m determined that my daughters’ experiences will be completely different.

I’m imagining a celebratory mom-daughter shopping trip for that first bra, of scouting out the cutest, perkiest options online and finding bra-panty sets that are chic and make the girls feel good about their changing bodies.

My first bra looked comparable to the ones my mother and grandmother were wearing – that dull, flesh-coloured piece of apparel with no lace, ribbon or anything remotely pretty in sight.

My daughters’ bras are going to be colourful, cutesy and practical. Sexy I don’t need – hopefully it will be many years before a boy’s fumbling fingers reach to undo those back clips. But the bra does have a significant dual function: it needs to hold “the girls” in place, and it needs to make my daughters feel good about the fact that their breasts are growing – not embarrassed, annoyed or self-conscious.

The onset of their first period is another milestone I want to be prepared for – with a planned celebration for that, too.

“We’re going on a special mom-daughter experience when it comes,” I announced to my girls today.

I’m thinking some cute, new underwear will fit the occasion, along with a nice dinner out at their favourite restaurant and a mani-pedi to festivize this bloody occasion.

There’s nothing fun about the tampons and sanitary towels they’ll learn to use, nor the stomach cramps that often accompany “that time of the month.” So we have two choices: a morose acceptance of the implications of the first period, or a celebration of healthy, changing bodies. The latter sounds way more fun.

Every woman remembers the arrival of her first period, and when those stories are divulged the word “celebration” isn’t commonly used as a descriptive adjective.

Mine – in a restaurant washroom while I was on vacation, far from home – stained my memory with disgust, embarrassment and annoyance at the sheer inconvenience. I’d known it would come sooner or later, but, I remember wondering, did my body really have to surprise me right then and there?

At the time it was a big, ugly pubescent secret and with it came excruciating cramps that forced me to learn how to swallow pills for the first time. Now that’s a skill I can say I’ve mastered. But that stain of embarrassment is hard to erase.

I don’t want my girls to feel that way. It’s why I’m going to find bright toiletry bags to keep in the car, stocked with new underwear, hygiene items necessary to take care of the details, and a little gift that somehow says mazal tov!

If nothing else, I’m going to be prepared on their behalf, ready with solutions, a big smile and a willingness to celebrate their entry into womanhood.

It’s going to be a rocky road, so we might as well make it a fun one!

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