I am the mother of a daughter who is aging at an usually fast rate, or so it seems. I obsess over impending milestones: periods. I think about the upcoming talks: condoms. I am pre-saddened by the certain disappointments: underage drinking. I wake in the middle of the night about probable near-death scares: suffering through driving instruction.
In short, I am the mother of a pre-teen.
I have been planning the period talk in my mind for the last 33 years. Why 33 when my daughter is clearly still young? Because the talk I received about Aunt Flo was so traumatic, I vowed that day to right the wrongs. To stop the cycle (yes, I just said that). I vowed to forge ahead on into that dark night… or that dark red spot. You pick.
To say that I was raised in a non-traditional household might imply something different these days. In my childhood, it meant that I was raised by my single father. My mother is alive, but she lived in a different city for most of my formative years. The bulk of my parenting was my father’s doing. The bulk of my therapy was my mother’s doing, but that is a story for another day.
Being a girl raised by a single father has its advantages and disadvantages. Advantage number one is that my father didn’t fully understand me, so I got away with more than I could have with my mother. That my father didn’t understand me is also dis-advantage number one.
Case in point. Periods.
I was really late getting my period, and I think my father assumed that I had already had it and was dealing accordingly without parental intervention. So when I announced through
my panic room the locked bathroom door that I needed something, hysterical giggles from my father was the response, and it was followed closely with ‘can’t you just use toilet paper?’ Not according to the TV, which was my source of information. I needed expensive products with packaging, wings and marketing! But toilet paper was all I had.
I must have put my hand up 20 times that day at school checking and rechecking the status of my make-shift feminine hygiene. It was exciting. It was stressful. But it was nothing compared to what I would encounter that evening.
You see, my dad enjoyed the company of much younger women. Who could blame him? He also enjoyed the company of his buddies which were all my new uncles. His group of friends met almost daily to play cards at the strip joint. Normal? In my family, yes. So my father’s access to younger women was from, you guessed it, the peeler bar.
Since my dad had these wonderful friends, he knew who to call when I needed it most: a stripper.
When I arrived home from school I was greeted with a fully clothed friend of my dad’s and my dad nowhere to be found. I don’t remember her name but I do remember her advice. “Shove this super extra thick giant cotton broom handle up your vagina and it will stop the blood. Do you know where your vagina is? Good luck kid.” Sheer genius. Smile, nod and back away from the 20-year-old. Enter the panic room and get some toilet paper for those tears and those panties.
Now I take you to the other advantage of being raised by a single father. Deception = dollars. When the lovely girl left the house having performed her civic duty, on her way to perform her next civic duty, I turned to my father and asked him to drive me to the drug store. He asked how much I needed. I, of course, didn’t know but I seized the opportunity. I asked for $50. It took me forever to read all of the packaging on the products while my father grew more and more impatient in the car. I veered away from the tampons because the scar was still fresh. My father never asked for the change and I never offered. We returned home to the sanctity of my panic room in silence. I felt that the change was my payment for pain and suffering. The silence was his payment. Come to think of it, maybe therapy is more my dad’s fault after all.
So my mantra is simple. I will go bravely into that good talk about Aunt Flo. I will be prepared for that locked bathroom door. I will refrain from introducing the Super-Plus-Ultra the first day. I will not giggle, despite the temptation. I will survive, but more importantly, my daughter will survive. There will be no silence and there will be no change to discuss.
There quite possibly could be tissue and tears but they will be mine because next on the list is condoms.