From the day she was born, we've been taking our eldest daughter on a non-stop test drive.
Even when we thought we knew the way, parenthood has taken us down unfamiliar roads.
Noelle is always willing to help us navigate, and she paves the way for her three younger siblings.
Last month, when we were invited to a mother-daughter event sponsored by Always and Tampax, the timing felt perfect.
I've been sensing a coming of age for her lately, and I've been wondering how to handle it.
She's 11 years old now, and over the summer she left home for the first time to spend a month at summer camp. I knew there were some discussions we needed to have, especially because she'd be staying with several girls around the same age.
But I struggled with knowing how to discuss puberty so that it wasn't intimidating or embarrassing, especially because she hasn't started to experience herself. More than anything, I wanted our talk to be a positive one. I didn't have an open or ongoing discussion during my own experience, and with three daughters to raise, I want to get it right.
I started by buying an age-appropriate book, and leaving it on her pillow a few weeks before she left for camp. I wanted to be the first one to answer any questions she might have about what was going to happen over the next few years.
She read it without me—in the privacy of her own space—and said she didn't have any questions when I asked a few days later.
I could sense some embarrassment, and didn't want to push. I knew we had at least started "the talk."
I hoped attending the Being Girl event together would be an opportunity for both of us to see we weren't navigating these years alone.
And right away she surprised me by enthusiastically joining the breakout group of girls, so they could ask questions and openly chat about their concerns without having any moms nearby.
It seems after reading the book I had left for her, she wondered how she would know her period was coming. She also worried about getting her period at school. And the mood swings? She wasn’t sure how those were going to feel.
She later admitted that talking about it with me, before it had even happened, felt too soon and, yes, embarrassing.
I sat across the room from her with a group of moms, about to enter the turbulent teen years with their own daughters, and I could feel myself relate. As we shared our stories and concerns, I was reminded that we are mothers of a different generation. We can have open conversations with our daughters. We are confident in our femininity, and we are eager to pass that confidence on to our daughters.
When the moms and daughters met up later, I could see a new confidence in her. I know that seems impossible—it was only half an hour—but I could sense it. She knew the questions she'd been holding inside weren't silly or strange. She realized other girls her age had been thinking about them, too.
She was radiant and a little more grown up than she was before we entered the room.
Together, we learned about resources like BeingGirl.com, and I watched her face light up with excitement at the mention of the Q&A videos on the website. She asked if I would let her watch them, and I was confident saying yes because I know they will help both of us to keep the conversation going.
We left the event knowing it wasn’t too soon to start talking about the changes that lie ahead. And we learned that putting together an emergency kit for school, would give both of us peace of mind.
On the way home, the questions kept coming, and I could feel that we had both experienced something special.
I saw her beaming face in the rearview mirror, and knew that this road we are about to travel is going to be a good one.