Holy Hormones!

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.



Risa I've followed your posts for years and have lost count of the number of times I've felt you could have been talking about my own daughter. She was 10 last March and I literally had one of those 'Duh, I should've had a V-8' moments myself earlier this summer. She has always been strong-willed and needless to say her will and my will don't always see eye to eye. But suddenly it seemed as if she could start an argument in an empty room. My child had been replaced with a hysterical, completely irrational being. One morning she was so bonkers she was insisting it was perfectly acceptable to go to school in her pajamas. I was tearing my hair out trying to figure out what was wrong with her and seriously considering taking her to see a counsellor when one evening she tells me her chest area (ie not yet existent breasts) has been sore for the last couple of weeks!!!! Oh my goodness how could I not have known??? She wasn't insane - or deliberately trying to drive me insane - she was hormonal. It was so obvious, i can't believe i didn't pick up on it. But I guess we don't want to think our little girls are growing up. We're still a couple of years away from periods (I hope!!!) but I can already see her body changing. It's kind of scary but as there's no stopping it I guess I'd better get used to it. We've had a few talks about what's happening to her and I hope we'll have more before she decides it's not cool to talk to her mom anymore.


I loved this post. My daughter is 10, but unlike your daughter - she's always been pretty emotional, prone to tears and also resistant to change so it took me a little longer to figure out the hormones were kicking in. I mean, isn't it early for this?? Well, now she's in fifth grade and it's just so obvious - we also had a similar talk (I loved how you stepped when your daughter was upset and told her it was okay) and now we're progressing a little further down the puberty road (think training bras). I know it's only the beginning - she's starting to get really judgmental and sarcastic - and also self critical. fun.


Thanks for a great post on a topic close to my heart. To me, the hardest part of watching my tween ride the wild waves of hormones is that I'm riding them too in the early stages of perimenopause! We both need more sleep, optimal food and more exercise! Oy is right. Thank you!

Sara Gottfried MD
Author of the forthcoming book, The Natural Hormone Cure


Excellent post, Risa. I have fraternal twin 10-year-old girls, and it's so hard seeing them acting like little girls one minute and like the Demon Seed the next.
One has already started with the crying jags, which seem to happen when she needs to make a decision, one that would have her choosing between a "little girl" thing and a "big girl thing." She also has replied to my queries about her crying with, "I don't know why I'm crying." Heaven help all of us!