One particularly warm evening in June, I observed my 12-year-old daughter having, shall I say, a cranky moment? No, it had been a cranky day – maybe two. Not that she wasn’t the cranky sort, or didn’t have it in her to be cranky, but her “spells” generally did not last long. She had always been a child with “bounce back” ability, meaning that if she got mad or upset at something or someone, it didn’t last very long. I always admired her greatly for this (actually marveled at this) as it was something I didn’t necessarily possess. It always took me longer to straighten out my attitude. Fortunately, she had always been a fairly upbeat and even-tempered person which is a joy indeed. She had also been raised to “talk it out”; in other words, if something was bothering her, she learned how to discuss it or process the situation.
On this afternoon and evening, however, there was no talking it out when asked. The not-so-subtle look of disdain shouted loud and clear, “Could you be any dumber, Mom? Leave me alone!” Now, I don’t always claim to be the brightest light bulb in the socket, but I knew that not allowing a friend over when she had just come from a 6 hour birthday/swimming party and heading to a slumber party the next night wasn’t normally cause for such dismay. After scanning my brain for any other transgressions I may have committed, I chalked it up to adolescence and the dreaded “roll-the-eyes-at-the-parents” teen phase. It started slowly the previous year or two, but had really gained momentum recently. “Oh boy”, I thought. “Here we go.”
I also had the distinct revelation: she’s going to start her period soon.
Now, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a 12-year-old girl is going to start her period at some point within the year or so. It’s inevitable of course. We had been preparing for this since 4th grade; she had done a couple of puberty classes and we did a Mother/Daughter weekend retreat. But it occurred to me that she is in major “summer” right now (summer is the week I equate PMS to in my Four Seasons in Four Weeks strategy). She’s irritated; everyone else is stupid; it’s real to her, end of story. I wondered how long “summer” would last and when “fall” would begin.
That night as we tried to get to bed, she sat in the hallway, claiming the entire house was too hot and she wasn’t going to bed until I cooled down the joint. I explained we don’t sleep with the air conditioning on, but opened every window in the house and turned on the fan. I thought this all a bit overdramatic, as I’m the one with the whacky temperature gauge – the one that can’t handle heat anymore and can never get enough fresh air! And this evening I was fine. Yes, warm to the point that I would start out sleeping with a sheet only, but not miserable. She was burning up and mad about it. She was irritable and weepy.
The next morning, after letting her sleep-in for as long as she wanted, she allowed me to cuddle up, play, and talk with her a bit as she debated whether to get up or not. She seemed to be back to her normal self. It was Saturday, and even though she had chores to do, I allowed her to watch a movie, letting the day unfold organically. However, the rolling eyes and bad attitude returned when she, after the movie was finished, wanted to keep watching TV rather than do her minimal chores and I was not keen on this idea. Never mind that we had a birthday present to buy and the slumber party to get to in the late afternoon.
After finally pulling it all together, we headed downtown to shop for the gift. Her cheery disposition returned and we had a good time. In the middle of the store, I found myself observing her – watching her pick out assorted bath items for her friend and noting her thoughtfulness in trying to find just the right thing. Several times she asked for my opinion.
On the way home, somehow our conversation turned to the previous evening and how hot and sweaty she got. She explained how it felt; that she just couldn’t handle it and just wanted to cry. The heat would hit her all of a sudden. Come to think of it, she (or we) had experienced many of these from her over the past few months.I somehow started telling her about hot flashes. Then it hit me. I think she is actually experiencing hot flashes! And why not? We have them when we are leaving our menses, why not have them when we are starting? These days we honor our girls after they start their moon cycle with a celebration of some sort perhaps, but I believe we are unaware of the “change” they are going through prior to the event. Of course, leading up to this we watch their bodies evolve. We all know so well the excitement and the humiliation that comes with this body altering. People can see it and there is no escaping it. The physical changes on boys are slow to show and not as noticeable, but a girl’s breasts betray her by “telling all” and is often the topic of conversation. Just as a woman has a 5-10 year phase of irregular periods, hot flashes, body restructuring and hormonal destructuring, culminating in no period at all, I contend a girl has a 5-10 year span or phase of body restructuring and hormonal building, hot flashes, and irritation, culminating in menses. Both are going through “the change” I’m now realizing the young girls deserve far more respect and patience during this phase than I had been giving in the past. Both are on opposite sides of the mountain. You can decide who is going up and who is going down.