Sunday, August 1, 2010

Adolesence revisited

Saskia and I went to the bookstore yesterday to pick up a birthday present for a friend, and of course while we were there we got her and her sister a book. It was so much fun for me to see her oohing and ahhing over all the books; she found at least 10 in the first few minutes that she wanted, and as time went on the list just kept getting longer. At the top are 3 of her current favorite authors, Beverly Cleary, Andrew Clements, and Judy Blume. How I remember pouring over these exact same authors as an adolescent and pre-teen! Books like 'Dear Mr. Henshaw', 'Blubber', 'The Report Card', and 'Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing' spoke to me about exactly what I was feeling at that age. The characters could have been me. The fear, the anger, the confusion, the sadness, the changes! How did those authors, those adults, speak to me and other kids so well? How did they remember with such compassion how truly awful it is to go through puberty and to be a pre-teen or teen? I didn't ask those questions then, but I do now, because if I am going to be the best parent I can be, I need to remember too. So with this in mind at the bookstore I picked up the epitome of adolescent literature, 'Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.' Saskia, seeing it was a book by one of her favorite authors, thought it was for her. I explained that it is for her, but not quite yet. That this book is required reading for a girl, that it is part of the right of passage into becoming a woman, and that she will read it some day soon. Her interest was piqued, to say the least. But she respected that she needs to wait a year or so before she is ready for the book.

Last night I picked up the book and didn't put it down again until I had read it all the way through. Oh, the memories! I honestly had no idea that the book was as relevant to our current religious quest as it is. All I remembered was the sneaking of the anatomy book and Playboy, the 'We must increase our bust' exercises (as an aside, what girl DIDN'T try those exercises in secret at some point?!), the first menstruation, the bra shopping (the horror!). And while as an adult now I recognize the importance of the religious questions pursued by the character Margaret, it is still the issues of puberty which I think the book deals best with (and the reason it is one of the top 100 banned books of the 20th century).

While reading, I was transported back to the time of those firsts for me. I remember I was given the book by a friend in secret because our mothers didn't want us reading such things. Our mothers didn't want to tell us much of anything! The feeling that I remember the most is one of being so alone! Going through these changes in secret, not knowing or understanding what was going on. NEVER talking to my mother, because what did she know (or care!)? As an adult I'm horrified that I, and so many other girls of my generation (and every generation I suspect) went through that time alone. After all, our mothers and grandmothers had been through it before us. Why didn't they talk to us?! Why didn't they prepare us?! Didn't they remember what it was like? The raging hormones, the growth (or not) of our bodies, the feelings, both physical and emotional. What a horrible time of life it can be when you are all alone.

Rereading this book, I vowed to remember what it felt like to go through those changes. I vowed to be there for my daughters, to prepare them, to listen to them, to have sympathy for them when they are raging, or crying, or shutting me out. I hope I do better than my mother did. I hope, for the sake of all the girls about to become women out there that we all do better than our mothers did!


geotech14 said...

I hear ya sister and share in your sentiment!

I highly recommend reading the following book *together* with daughters at an age appropriate time. They will have questions, and that's why it's important to be there. The Care & Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls (American Girl Library)

Thanks for the post.

leaner said...

Beautiful post. I agree 100% that its sad that we didn't learn these rites of passage from our mothers and grandmothers. Have you ever read the Red Tent ? Although this is way to advanced for our girls, I wish we had the camaraderie that women had then. (Not normally a book I would have piked up but it came so highly recommended and I pass that on to all around me.)
Like you I hope to be a good friend to my girls through puberty. To recall the distress the emotions, the upheaval of all you knew before. To help them embrace adulthood. Now if only I knew how to do that!

Sweet Mama said...

I am definitely going to pick up "Are you there god? It's Me Margaret!" Thanks for reminding be of it!

Sweet Mama said...

Thanks for reminding me about "Are you there God? It's me Margaret!" I also love listening to your dialogue about your conversion to Judaism.