Somewhere during the first week of school, I noticed that my daughter was not acting like herself. “Herself” is usually (not always, but usually) a bubbly, happy, confident, energetic kid who generally tends to let things roll off her back.
But during that first week of school, she seemed more sensitive than normal; she was getting upset at little things and she was crying a lot. I mentioned it to a few of my friends, but nearly everyone had the same response: it’s the first week of school, it’s a lot of change, they’re all tired, she probably misses camp, it’s an adjustment period. Okay, I thought. I can live with that. Even though she’s never tired. Even though it’s never taken her more than five minutes to adjust to anything. Even though camp ended nearly three weeks ago. I tried not to over-analyze, though. My plan was to just see what happens.
What happened was not much. The second and third weeks of school were more or less the same as the first. It wasn’t anything alarming, mind you - I wasn’t worried that she was on drugs or anything like that - it was just subtle changes in her behavior. Where last year, a joke about her hair being messy in the morning would have gotten a laugh, now it got watery eyes and a shuffle off to her room to fix it. Where last year an accusation of meanness by her brother would have solicited an eye-roll, now it caused tears and a slammed door.
I tried talking to her. Is anything going on at school? Are you having problems with your friends? Do you feel like you’ve got too much on your plate? Is fourth grade homework too overwhelming? Through tears, she insisted that everything was fine. Then what’s wrong? I finally asked her. How come you’ve been crying so much lately? Her answer: I don’t know why I’m crying.
If there were ever six words in the English language that resonated more with me, I don’t know what they could possibly be. Okay, maybe "I need a drink right now." Or, "I must buy some new shoes." Then again, "I’m not answering to ‘mommy’ anymore" could be another. But anyway, the point is, with "I don’t know why I’m crying," the kid was definitely speaking my language. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I utter those very words at least once a month, and usually around the same time each month, if you catch my drift.
It was one of those classic, smack-yourself-on-the-side-of-the-head, I Should Have Had a V-8 Commercial moments. She wasn’t tired, or adjusting, or missing camp. She was hormonal. Oy.
Now, the kid is only nine. I know some girls do start that early, but given that she has no other signs of puberty, I don’t believe we’re in menstruation territory quite yet. What I was thinking is that there had to be some kind of early, pre-period hormone phase, and sure enough, when I sat down to Google “hormones in nine year old girls,” I found an article about pre-puberty, which “typically begins in girls between 8 and 9 years old, or three to four years prior to their first period.” Well, hello.