As a mom to an 8 1/2 year old girl, I have become recently acquainted with a term that has sent shivers of horror up my spine: breast buds.
In case you aren’t familiar with the them, breast buds are the first little “budlings” that pop up on the chest of girls, signaling the onset of breasts and, shortly therafter, puberty and everything that whole hormonal nightmare entails…. aaaaaaggggghhhhhh!
Now why would a grown woman be afraid of such a natural part of life and a girl’s development? Well, it’s because according to studies and recent rumblings in my hood, it is happening earlier and earlier!
Now I had heard a few years ago, when Julia was a baby, that girls were getting their periods earlier these days. They attributed it partly to better nutrition, but mostly to the fact that there are more hormones in foods, specifically milk and chicken. Because of this I have been careful to try to give Julia only organic milk and chicken that have not been injected with hormones. But the truth is, I cannot protect her from these additives. They are everywhere and she doesn’t always eat at home.
Still, I have felt confident that I have done my part to keep early puberty (and little breastlings) at bay and wasn’t worried…. until recently.
Why, you ask? Because a fellow MAMMAKAZE told me that in her daughter’s 4th grade class last year there were TWO 9 year-old girls who got their periods!
NINE YEAR OLDS MENSTRUATING! Holy cow! Are you kidding me? My kid can’t even get all the conditioner out of her hair when she showers and now I’ve got to worry about her having to deal with a period while she’s still playing with Barbies?! Seriously, I shudder at the thought of her or any of these little children having to deal with the maintenance involved in coping with a period. Or the taunting if some jackass of a 9 year-old boy should find out!
How would he find out, you ask? Well, naturally, when girls start their periods that early, teachers must be told because of the obvious issues that could arise in class.
The next step is that parents of other girls in the classroom need to be told because, in addition to getting breast buds, little girls talk. And they share things. And mommies need to prepare their daughters for such conversations because, well, I think we mommies all agree we don’t want our kids finding out about stuff like that on the playground. First there’s the shock factor. Then there’s the gross factor. Then there’s the misinformation. And finally there’s the sense of betrayal on the part of the kid whose parent didn’t tell her which resulted in her looking stupid in front of her BFFs. Because in addition to getting breast buds and talking, girls do not want to look like the only one in their cliques who are not in the know.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before on this website, but I was a victim of the “playground sex talk” when I was in 3rd grade and it was indeed a traumatic thing!The source was Dee Dee Rettigheri who, judging by the fact that she clearly shopped in the women’s C cup bra section, had been visited early by the menstruation fairy. As a result, her mother gave her the total lowdown on the birds and the bees which, Dee Dee in turn felt the need to impart to a handful of her classmates one day during recess.
Never once mentioning a bird or a bee, she regaled us with the gory details. And lemme tell you, I felt shock (what? this is news to me!), disgust (ew!) and denial (my parents DO NOT do that, no way, uh-uh, absolutely NOT!). And yes even betrayal because my mom neglected to mention a word of this to me and now I looked stupid in front of my peeps – although we didn’t call them that then – I think we used the word girlfriends or pals.
For the next few years I carried this knowledge with me, living in mortal fear of the day I would get my period and then my breasts. And vowing that even if it did, I would NEVER engage in this disgusting behavior called “sex”! We know how THAT turned out. Still, NOT a way for a little girl to approach her puberty.
Meanwhile, I never, not once, heard a word about any of it from my own mother until I got my period at age 12 and she informed me that “now I could get pregnant.” And that, as they say in certain circles, was that. Okaaaaay. Short, sweet and totally lacking in any pertinent or helpful information whatsoever. As she left me standing there, ill-prepared for my journey into womanhood, I wondered if somehow she had discovered that Dee Dee had already given me all the details. Nah, the only possible explanation was that she was as uncomfortable with the whole thing as I was.
So now, as a mom with a daughter of my own, I look back on my own experience and tell myself that I must be strong for my daughter. Yes, this rash of breast budding and early menstruation is terrifying me. But I don’t want my kid to experience what I went through.
So, I will face these breast buds head on, with the courage of a warrior, prepared should an army of hormones strike my daughter prematurely. I will do what I have to to make sure that she is not ill-informed, or afraid or grossed-out. Because I want her to embrace the changes she experiences and accept them as the natural and beautiful part of life that they are.
Also, I’m really, really counting on the fact that all the years she’s spent trying to get those teeny, tight little tops on those perky-breasted Barbies will soften the shock of puberty and the onset of breasts, whenever they arrive.
The body image nightmares that arise as a result of the breast-to-hip ratio of Barbies is a whole other issue. I’ll fight that battle when we are attacked by it. Sigh.
For more information – and generally scary %$#@ that will keep you up at night - about the effects of this early maturation, click on this PINK LINK.