“I never want to be an adult!” my Big Feels 8-year-old announced, and promptly burst into tears, two pages into reading Celebrate Your Body by Sonya Renee Taylor aloud with me, a book about puberty for girls and those who identify as such.
“There goes my Mother of the Year trophy,” I thought to myself as I sought to console my hysterical child.
Clearly that talk didn’t go as planned.
“The puberty talk” — similar to “the sex talk” — is really something you really want to get right. I had envisioned buying this perfect book and snuggling up with her in my perfectly made bed (lol) to read this book about how glorious our individual bodies are, bask in our womanhood, and maybe show her what a maxi-pad looks like. I just wanted her to be prepared and not wake up on her 12th birthday like I did, convinced that my kidneys were failing. (Not that my mom didn’t prepare me, but I was a tad fatalistic.) When the day finally came, my mom burst into tears when she realized I “had become a woman” and brought out this “Maiden Voyage” box she had purchased that came with, like, a period collector’s bracelet? Not sure how to describe it. Just know that the embarrassment and wishing I could shrink into my flannel nightgown like a turtle retracting into its shell is still burned into my memory.
Despite what you might think from reading this intro, I do highly recommend Celebrate Your Body, which is written with girls 8-12 in mind. My approach with any book on a heavy (pun slightly intended) subject is:
- Read the book by myself first.
- Decide if my kiddo is ready for the content.
- Consider questions my kid might ask and how I’m planning to answer them (Fair warning: they typically throw me a curveball. I tend to think it’s a great opportunity to show my kids that adults don’t know everything. I then look it up on my own or suggest we research together!)
The reasons I selected Celebrate Your Body instead of other books are: it’s inclusive, it uses scientific words, it teaches body positivity, it focuses on friends, health, emotions (all the things that are also in flux during puberty), it tackles diet culture head-on and discusses consent. All of this in an age-appropriate, matter-of-fact way. It arms young girls with knowledge, and that can be very liberating and empowering.
Back to my sobbing child, whose poor Elsa-hued skin is probably still blotchy from this sob-fest. Clearly we’re not going to read this book in order. Instead, I asked her how this book was making her feel.
“Scared,” she replied.
“That’s ok,” I said, “Puberty is nothing to be afraid of, but I get it. What if we skip to a later chapter? This one is about the food rainbow.”
“Oh” [sniffle] “kay,” she replied. We read the chapter on food, which led into the chapter about friendships. Then it was time for bed. I figured that was that.
She surprised me the next night by asking if we could keep reading. So, we picked up where we left off and went into sleep routines and exercise, and then the book was over. “That’s it,” I said moving to put the book on my nightstand, “We can always revisit the beginning chapters when you feel ready.”
“Why don’t we start reading them now?” she inquired.
I didn’t let my surprise show, but instead opened up the book and started from the beginning.
Because life is messy and so is puberty, sometimes the best-laid plans go awry. This wasn’t my “Hallmark Channel” moment, but what is parenting if not 18+ years of improvisation? I hope she doesn’t look back on this time with embarrassment. I hope when she grows up she remembers that her mom really cared.
Even if she didn’t always get it right.
And that diet culture is a capitalist sham.
I found Celebrate Your Body by Sonya Renee Taylor via Bookshop.org.