Look around the playground at my daughter's elementary school, and what you see may surprise you: BOOBIES -- and I don't mean on the teachers.
Guest blogger Emma: The other day as I was picking up my daughter, Lauren, from school, a tallish girl was practicing some dance moves over by the restrooms. I couldn't help but notice some of her more, well ... noticeable features (and neither could a few snickering boys). Big breasts, curves, acne -- here was a girl practically stampeding into womanhood. Who was she? I wanted to know. Someone's older sister? "No," my daughter -- a third grader -- informed me. "That's Iree*. She's in Mrs. K's [4th grade] class." Excusez moi? I stopped mid-stride:
Me: "That girl goes here?"
Lauren: "Yes, Mother."
Me: "How many grades has she flunked?"
Me: "But she has boobs."
Embarrassed, she ran ahead and, I assume, got back to thinking whatever it is 9-year-olds think about these days. But I couldn't stop thinking about what I'd seen: Boobs! On a fourth grader! Dude!
When I was that age, Mary Kay Reeves* was the first to develop. She wore a bra, "went" with the cutest boy in class and -- thanks to an incident involving white jeans -- couldn't hide the fact that she'd started her period, too. For the most part, though, the rest of us fourth graders were still a few years from training bras and maxi-pads. Puberty, boys and the kissing of said boys -- which we figured Mary Kay was doing regularly (she had BOOBS, after all) -- were not quite at the forefront of our thinking.
Yet looking at Iree, I was pretty positive they were on hers. I was curious: Were there others like her?
I decided to perform an experiment. The next day, I did an on-the-sly boobie-check at Lauren's school. (I realize how pervy this sounds, but really, my research was purely scientific.) I can't say they were everywhere, but oh, they were there. I'd heard experts say kids are developing sooner, so I thought, Okay, this is just the proof in the pudding. Or on the playground. Whatever. At least I didn't have to worry about my kid getting boobs any time soon.
And that's when the gods decided to have some fun. Yes, that very night, I gave my daughter a hug from behind and felt the beginnings of two little buds. I cannot express the surprise and panic that went through me. First it's boobs, then dancing in front of restrooms ... oh God, oh God, oh God.
Since that night, I've calmed down. I've researched on the Internet and compared stories with my sisters and girlfriends who have daughters (one acquaintance's 10-year-old had already started her period!), and have learned that there are many factors that go into a girl's earlier-than-normal development -- environmental contaminants, body-fat content and genetics, to name a few. But most importantly, I've learned that while girls' bodies may be maturing sooner, it doesn't mean their minds are, too. Which means that my kid -- and all the other "sproutlets" at school (Iree included) -- are still just kids. Whether they dance in front of restrooms or not.
*Not their real names.