I first noticed it in the team huddle after the game I had just coached. It was a familiar smell, one that I grew up noticing from years of playing indoor team sports. The intoxicating scent of natural body odor, mixed with sweat, mixed with the smells of an overheated gym after a basketball game. “BO,” as it’s so fondly known, was taking over my 4th-grade girl’s huddle, and I couldn’t escape fast enough. I mumbled some congratulatory phrases and quickly stumbled out of the huddle thinking, how in the world is it possible that these girls are old enough to need deodorant? My little, tiny (she’s one of the smallest in her class) firstborn is old enough to wear deodorant. I had to let that simmer for a bit. How is this possible?
Once I came to terms with the fact that this was only the first of a series of bodily changes we would begin to experience with our firstborn, I realized certain conversations would need to be had. I was ill-equipped to have these without a little assistance. I could easily do a Google search and find a plethora of books on the topic of parenting through puberty, but that’s never been my style, and I much prefer to text my friends to get their take before I consult Google. Misery loves company, right?
Thankfully, our Girl Scout troop leader was five steps ahead of me and found a class at the local hospital that teaches about “growing up.” In Kansas, the 4th graders learn about puberty as part of the curriculum. I had that to fall back on, but before then, I wanted to have my own conversation with my daughter, and I didn’t know where to begin. Insert “Girls Growing Up,” a guide about puberty for girls in 3rd through 5th grades, offered at our local hospital. I quickly signed my daughter up along with others from her Girl Scout Troop and off we went to learn about life as a woman.
We arrived and the most patient nurse greeted the girls and led the course, amidst giggling and whispers. She was well-versed in how this was going to go down. I was so thankful for her patience with the girls when they had questions but giggled their way through asking them. She was thorough and gave the parents the correct language to use when discussing things like menstruation and body development with our daughters. I highly recommend checking out your local hospitals or doctor’s offices for something similar. We attended this course in Olathe, but I’m sure there are similar options across the Kansas City area.
It was a great starting point for our family, and now I feel more confident to answer my own daughter’s questions. Plus, believe it or not, I even learned a few new things as well, which only embarrassed my daughter a little. Overall, it was a positive bonding experience between my daughter and me, one that was a conversation starter for the car ride home, and one that I will use in the future as we continue to navigate these new adventures together.