I've been in denial about something for a while.
I think Maya may be starting to go through puberty. I don't want to go into too much detail (as I am already pushing against the privacy boundary by writing this) but over the last year there have been the telltale signs of her body readying itself for womanhood.
It hurt to type that. Physically.
I've done all the reading about it and although she is a little early compared to her peers, many sites that cover this topic report that pre-pubescence typically starts between 8-11 years of age and is considered normal. Plus, nowadays many girls reach puberty a lot sooner than their mothers and grandmothers, historically the best predictor of when a girl would reach puberty, but nowadays it is much more unpredictable, personally I think environmental factors like chemicals, drugs and hormones present in our foods helps speed up a girl's biological clock.
If I want to be truly honest, I started noticing very small changes last year so that's the amount of time I've been in denial about what is going on. Throughout the year I have noticed her body continuing to change. Her body is no longer indistinguishable from a boy's. Actually at a birthday party a couple of weeks ago a friend told me that a few of her friends asked how old Maya was and couldn't believe she was 9 because she already was developing.
I am pretty sure that every parent of a daughter goes through a little mourning period when they can no longer deny that their little girl is growing up and beginning the journey of becoming a woman.
My little girl, however still has the attitude of a 6 year old but is starting on the journey of becoming a woman.
It's definitely scary.
Maya still can't eat without getting food in her hair. Hygiene is just not her strong suit. She does pretty okay with keeping her hands and face clean nowadays but I still have to remind her when she is distracted. I still wash her hair for her and if I didn't remind her to brush her teeth, it would probably never happen (okay, that's most kids). I can't imagine adding menstruation to the mix and not only explaining the changes happening in her body but the whole practical aspect of how she has to deal with it, how she has to learn her cycles and be prepared.
All the books, even the ones dealing with autism and puberty say the most important thing to do is to talk with your child about puberty and the changes happening. I get that preparing Maya is way better than not preparing her but my daughter is caught in a world largely of her own imagination, of Thomas the Train and her dolls and her stuffed animals. A good percentage of the the time when I talk to her, she runs away or retreats back into her own pretend world, a world that she understands and can cope with easier than the real world, where she has to try and cope without her senses being on overload. The pretend world is her way to keep her senses in control.
I am pretty sure Thomas the Train doesn't have an episode where Percy or one of Thomas' other friends gets their period.
What do you do when your child is developing into a woman but her head and her heart are still very much a little girl? The irony is not lost on me that here is a girl who developmentally and emotionally is well behind her peers but her body is developing way ahead of her peers.
It's almost like her body is trying to overcompensate for everything else.
But I know that no matter how hard it is, I have to find a way to talk about these things with Maya, to try and explain . My mother never explained anything to me, I got my period at 13 and my mother showed me where she kept the sanitary napkins and that was pretty much it. I didn't understand until a couple years later what menstruation meant, that what was happening to my body was it's preparation for womanhood, for the possibility of bearing children. No one told me that. I figured it out all on my own one day when my dad went to the University of Pittsburgh for some meetings and he took me with him. I spent several hours in the nearby Carnegie Library and came across the book Our Bodies, Ourselves.
I won't let it be like that for Maya, but I also don't want to give her more information than she can handle. So far from what I've read, I've not found any approach to this that I think will work for Maya, that she can understand what is happening to her body and why, in a way which she will both understand and which will not frighten her.
I have my work cut out for me.