Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret's DadSeth Taylor
I’m doing some preemptive worrying this week. I can trace it back to a conversation my daughter and I had in the car a few days ago. We were driving to the store, and talking idly about movies. I asked her if her favorite movie was still The Hunger Games, and she said yes. (She actually said, Duh, of COURSE.)
“What is it about the movie that’s the most awesome?” I asked. “The story? The main character? The archery?” All of which she’s waxed on about before.
“Yea, all that,” she said. “And also, you know.”
“I don’t. What?”
“Ah.” Of course Peeta. She’s mentioned him, both the character and the actor, before. She has a t-shirt with his face on it. She’s Sweeta for Peeta. Heh.
“So we still like Peeta, eh?” I asked, amused by her Child Crush.
“Oh yea. He’s totally H-O-T, HOT.”
WHAT??? (Swerving into oncoming traffic)
And that’s how I learned that we’re calling certain boys “hot” now. She’s said similar things before, but it was always in a playful tone that told me she was just being silly, mimicking other girls at school. But this time, she was emphatic. She doesn’t think he’s hot — She thinks he’s… hot.
I know this is normal development stuff. She’s had pre-pubescent crushes before. This is just another one of those with a little extra yikes! involved for the dad. I get it. And far be it from me to overreact (shut up), but… this is a Moment I’m experiencing here. The kid’s just a tween, but it’s occurring to me now that tweenhood doesn’t last. Tweenhood does in fact beget Adolescence, the real deal, with the crushing on the boys and the playing of the too-loud Taylor Swift behind bedroom doors, the resentment of the father, and the getting of the periods.
GAH. Maybe that last one is what I’m actually worrying about the most. She’s 11. Until recently, I was assuming we had years to start preparing for the, uh, monthly visitor, but it’s now occurring to me that this could happen any minute. Which means I have to prepare. I have to buy Girl Products to keep under the sink. I need to make sure we start talking about what happens as bodies change I need to go back and reread some Judy Blume.
I read Blume’s novels about puberty back when I was a kid: both the boy and the girl versions. The boy book, Then Again, Maybe I Won’t, seemed ominous to me. I read it a few years before entering puberty myself, and instead of preparing me, it freaked me out. Mainly because Blume’s descriptions of the various physical changes I’d be facing were incredibly vague, even murky. The book was published in the early 70s; Blume no doubt was limited in how much detail she could give about what a wet dream actually was.
But reading Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret didn’t scare me a bit. It was about girl stuff, and I knew that Margaret’s puberty issues wouldn’t be happening to me. Reading that book was fascinating, like learning about some other species in National Geographic. Afterwards, I walked around my school, looking at girls and thinking I knew some deep secret about them.
So how will I navigate my daughter’s looming adolescence? I really don’t know. Times are different. Kids mature more quickly, it seems. My 11-year-old daughter thinks someone is hot. Next thing, we’ll be buying tampons. From there, it’s a short trip to birth control pills and sneaking out of the house at night to meet boys in the park and LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA I’M NOT LISTENING I’M NOT LISTENING.
Judy Blume will undoubtedly be helpful for my daughter as she navigates adolescence. But I don’t think she’s written a book that’ll help me get through it.