Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting, but always beautiful day of an older mom like you!
So, today I want to talk about first moon parties. What’s a first moon party, you might ask? Well, it’s a party you throw a girl when she gets her first period. Now, I found out about it because one of my acquaintances put on her Facebook feed that she was just so excited to be throwing her daughter’s first moon party. She already had all of these plans, of all these things that she’s going to do. She just thinks, “This is amazing!” Now, her daughter’s young. She’s not that close to the point where she’s going to be getting her first period. But the whole time, I was cringing. I was just cringing because, in all of this excitement, I wondered if she had really thought about how her daughter would feel or what her daughter would like to have the party. And, of course, it took me back in time. Back in time, to that point where I got my first period.
Now, you’ve heard me say this before, I love my mom, and I really honestly believe that given her situation, she tried to be the best mother that she could be. But as a tween, I really felt she failed me. She didn’t prepare me for the day that I would get my first period. She didn’t talk to me about my body. She didn’t speak to me about how to take care of my body. I had to find everything second-hand.
For example, in the case of my period, my first introductions to periods came from my paternal aunts, and they had the worst periods ever! Ever! One of them would get such horrific menstrual cramps, and she would literally pass out. Or I would see them cringing, taking really strong painkillers. This was pre-Advil and Midol. They would just take these incredibly powerful drugs that now would be considered inappropriate for this. But the pain was so bad! Some nosebleeds and migraines came along with it.
My mother never talked about her own period. The woman didn’t get any cramps. She was one of those people that just had a really easy time. She didn’t even drink tea. Nothing! You know, easy breezy. She also didn’t tell me that the start of the period also means the start of fertility. And she never told me about menopause. Nothing! Everything was just a big blank.
So, here I come into it. It’s five days before I turn eleven. And all of a sudden, I started noticing little dark streaks on my panties. I’m like, “What the hey?! I know how to wipe myself. Why is this happening?”
But you know, it would happen just a little bit, and then it would go away. Then it would happen just a little bit. I didn’t know what to make out of it. Now, in fifth grade, I had been in school, and we had gotten one week of instructions on the birds and the bees. Except this was way back in the ’70s in a primarily traditionalist conservative area. And so, for the most part, the film was actually about birds and bees.
In addition, the class was given in a coed fashion—boys and girls. So, the girls didn’t want to ask any questions. The boys didn’t really want to ask any questions, and everybody was embarrassed and disgusted. So, at least I knew to expect my period sometime at the age of twelve. So, of course, I had to be early.
At this time, I was staying with an aunt, and I wasn’t comfortable enough with this specific aunt to say, “Hey, something is going on.”
So, I waited for my mom, who came in late that Friday afternoon and asked me how the day had been going, and I said, “I need to show you something.”
And by then, it wasn’t just streaks! It was a thicker line but very dark, very pasty.
And my mom said, “Oh! We have to go home immediately! Immediately! Oh! We just need to go home!”
And I’m thinking, “Okay… Why? What’s going on?”
“You’re starting your period.”
She was not excited. She was upset, and she didn’t understand why I wasn’t reacting upset. I was like, okay, this means I’m growing up. I mean, just like the class said, I’m becoming a woman.
So, we go home, and it’s Friday. You can count on every Friday in my house, at that age, that a. my father was going to have friends over, and b. they were going to get drunk. This was not news to my mother. This had been going in for years. What does she do? She tells my father that I got my first period.
Does he say anything immediately? No. He waits till later that night, when he’s drunk, when his friends are drunk, to announce in front of me as I’m passing by the living room. I’ve gotten my first period. And of course, I have all of these grown men who are drunk, who have the sensitivity of a fruit fly, all turn around and look at me and start making comments about how if I fuck now, I can get pregnant. Well, that was an interesting piece of information.
But did I really need to hear those words from grown drunk men? No! Not really! Was I scarred and traumatized? Maybe just a tad. I ran into my room, and I hid under the blanket cause I was completely mortified. But you know what? I wasn’t upset with my father, who was an alcoholic. I wasn’t upset with his friends, who were a bunch of alcoholics. I felt utterly betrayed by my mother because she knew what this was like. She knew what would happen every Friday night in our house, and she should have known that was not the appropriate time and place to tell my father.
Monday wouldn’t have been a good idea either cause he was going to be on a hangover. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday—those would have been good days. Friday? No. She didn’t think about me. She didn’t, because if she had thought about me, she would have thought about my feelings and what a difficult transition this was going to be for me.
And by the way, the story doesn’t end there. At two or three in the morning, when my father’s friends left, he awoke me. He decided to tell me all about periods and pregnancies and how penises penetrate vaginas. And he tops it all off by saying to me, “And then one day, you’re gonna dry up. You’re no longer going to be a woman because you’re no longer going to have a period.”
With my mother standing next to him the whole time, and all she could say was, “I don’t think this is the best time for you to say those things.”
To this day, I think back to that moment, and I think what a complete fail as a mother. She didn’t prepare me. She didn’t protect me. It really damaged my ability to trust her when I, as a young woman, needed her most, needed her guidance the most. I didn’t seek it out. I closed within myself and began making decisions for myself very early on. This was not her only fail, but this one was really catastrophic in our relationship.
So, back to the first moon party. I really think it’s wonderful that today we can celebrate the beginning of womanhood. And it sounds like a really neat idea. Still, I firmly believe that despite our excitement as moms that our daughters are moving on in their lives, moving on to a different stage, growing up, maturing mentally, physically, emotionally, we shouldn’t let our excitement get ahead of ourselves. The first period doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to our daughters.
Listen, if they want to throw a party and announce it to the world, put it on Twitter, put it on YouTube, great! But it’s our daughter’s decision how to share it, whether to celebrate it with a party or celebrate it with a gift, celebrate by eating chocolate in bed all day. Whatever the case is!
The first moon, it’s not about mom. It’s about our daughters. And by the time that they get to the first moon, they should be prepared by us, by mom. Not by the media, not by Twitter, not YouTube, TV shows, Netflix, Amazon. Whatever! But by us. We should have already prepared them to understand how their bodies are changing and what it means in the short and long run.
And I have to admit that I think the biggest challenge that I see here is that many of us, myself included, were not always ready. We think, well, they’re only nine. Well, they’re only ten. Well, they’re only eleven. I mean, even though I got my period one week before turning eleven, in my mind, my daughters were not going to get it so young. I didn’t have to worry about this until they were sixteen. Because you know what? My sister didn’t get her period until she was sixteen. Of course, she only has sons. So, she didn’t have to worry about that.
But it’s not realistic because the average age of a girl today when she gets her first moon is nine. Nine! Isn’t that stunning? I couldn’t believe that. I see the challenge because there are many things that I don’t think are appropriate to discuss with a child of nine. So, there’s a different preparation that should go on based on our children’s development. But the thing is that even though we’re not ready for their bodies to change, we can visually see those changes. And the unfortunate thing, let’s be honest, is that those changes typically happen before we as girls are ever ready to accept them or deal with them.
But in such an oversexualized society, our children know more about sex, reproduction than we did at their age. I have to admit. I really did a lot to protect my kids’ childhood. Nevertheless, the media exposes our children to a lot more than we would like. I had aunts that were not very guarded when they talk about these things. But still, it’s our responsibility as moms to serve as guides, as travel guides through these changes for our girls.
So, I guess you can say my first moon party was a complete failure and disaster. And frankly, had someone asked me if I wanted one, my answer would have been, “No.”
But, I also grew up in a culture where we were taught to be ashamed and embarrassed by our periods. And that’s something I think is very important, not just to prepare our daughters for those changes but also to help them understand that there is no shame in having a female body, a wonderful female body. Not just because it has curves, not just because we can carry babies, but because it belongs to us; it’s part of us. There should not be a disconnect between our mental selves, our emotional selves, and our physical selves. It’s all interconnected. And if we don’t teach our girls that, who’s going to?
Don’t leave it to the media, who are going to twist everything. Don’t leave it to the teachers who might have different values than you do or may want to do things at a different schedule than it’s right for your child. You know your child, do what is right for them. And again, remember, there’s more than one version of a first moon party. Yup, it can be a party. It can also be mom and daughter watching a favorite movie, having their favorite take-out. Or our girls saying to us, “You know what, I wanna spend this day in bed alone eating chocolate.”
It’s okay. It’s a major adjustment, and we need to give our girls space and the support to go through it. We need to help them be comfortable with it. The whole time encouraging our girls and supporting them. Reminding them that being a woman is a beautiful experience. It’s a wonderful experience. Ultimately, it is a journey of their making, just like it was a journey of our making.
Am I still angry with my mom? Am I still hurt? No. No, I’m not. I’ve let go of that hurt, that anger, and that resentment. But I really wish she would have prepared me better. I really wished she had supported me better in that transition because it would have meant that she and I had a better relationship. There would have been a lot of things that I wouldn’t have to go through alone.
But, despite all that, I know, given the situation, that she did the best she could, and she loved me. And even though she’s not with me anymore, we are at peace, and I believe she knows, wherever she is, that I love her very much. I also believe that she’s proud of the fact that I learned from her mistakes. I also learned from the things that she did right, and I’m sure she’s proud of the fact that I’m trying my hardest to be the best mom that I could possibly be.
So, first moon party or not, let your girl decide, and let her decide what kind of party she wants.
So, hey! I think I’ve provided some pretty good content, especially today. If you enjoyed the show please, please rate and review it on Apple Podcasts or, hey, YouTube or the blog. I would love to hear about your first moon party or how your daughter decided to celebrate. Keep that private, though.
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