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Why I fear the first bra

My oldest has begun to excitedly ask me when I think that she'll get to 5 feet tall (she has a few inches to go yet). She seems to think that breaking the 5-foot barrier marks some sort of milestone on the progression to young adulthood. I have to be honest: It's not hitting 5 feet that worries me. It's all of the other indicators of creeping young adulthood. Among the biggest, to me, is the bra: a cloth marker of the passage from childhood into adolescence.

The bra is also tricky for me, because it marks the departure from a stage of her life that I understand relatively well into one that is far more murky. I have no idea when a girl needs to start thinking about adding an undergarment to the usual wardrobe, and I have even less of an idea how to be any assistance in shopping for that kind of stuff.

As I've written over and over here, I've tried my best to raise the kids in a gender-neutral environment where both parents are equally approachable on every subject, from bullies to the birds and the bees. The last thing I want to do is imply that there are certain topics that guys (or women) just can't handle. And, so far, that's worked out well. I don't always feel comfortable talking anatomy, but I'm prepared to do it. Not so with the bra. I'm utterly unprepared for the bra.

The reality is that I may end up taking a backseat on some of these upcoming milestones, much as it pains me. Of course, I suspect that as childhood fades, there is a certain gravitation to parental figures of the same sex -- first periods and nocturnal emissions seem like more natural conversations to have with someone of the same sex. I'd like to hear from moms raising boys and dads raising girls: How has your roll changed as your child has entered adolescence?

By Brian Reid |  November 5, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Child Development , Tweens
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"How has your roll changed as your child has entered adolescence?"

Roll or role or both?

Posted by: jezebel3 | November 5, 2009 7:15 AM | Report abuse

I am a mom to all girls so I can't tackle this whole question, but I can say that my oldest DD's relationship with her father has changed only slightly. They are still close and spend time a lot of time together, but she would rather die than discuss her bra with him. She does involve him in discussions about a lot of things, but not her period, not bras...those are questions reserved for me.

Posted by: thosewilsongirls | November 5, 2009 7:46 AM | Report abuse

I used to be all about the kaiser, but lately I've preferred a good kummelweck.

Posted by: 06902 | November 5, 2009 8:03 AM | Report abuse

As usual, jezebel3 doesn't disappoint. Or rather, does. Once again, nothing to comment on the topic or question. Just an opportunity to denigrate the author of the post. Is a semantics/spelling lesson really relevant? Have you never made a mistake? Do you enjoy having those mistakes publicly identified?

As to the question, my husband and I have a young son who we are trying to raise gender-neutral in the sense that we trade off on all chores - cooking, cleaning, taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, etc. We want him to know that men are capable of keeping a house and women are capable of lawn care. It has more to do with who has the time for a particular chore, not who's "supposed" to do it. As for the more personal discussions, sexuality, personal hygiene, and related topics our experiences and what we've seen with family members indicates that those are better done same sex. Mothers to daughters, Fathers to son. That isn't to say that Moms and Dads shouldn't be open or make themselves available, but that sons and daughters feel more comfortable going to the parent most likely to have gone thru the issue in question.

Posted by: hokie_girl91 | November 5, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

I say what thosewilsongirls says about bras and periods. I'm outta here on those discussions. And I would go so far as to say, if dad feels uncomfortable with doing diaper or bath duty for daughter, mom should give him a free pass. Stepdad and mommy's boyfriend should never be asked.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | November 5, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse

you could always educate yourself.
There are many, many sources to learn about proper fitting. The simplest way would be to find a department store that has informed sales staff and take your daughter there to be fitted. It's just an item of clothing for Pete's sake. You don't wear dresses either, but you somehow figured out how to get them for and onto your daughter.

When does she need a bra? When she has breasts.

Posted by: VaLGaL | November 5, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

And I would go so far as to say, if dad feels uncomfortable with doing diaper or bath duty for daughter, mom should give him a free pass.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | November 5, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse

If mom feels uncomfortable with doing diaper or bath duty for son, dad should give her a free pass?

Stepmom and daddy's girlfriend should never be asked?

Posted by: jezebel3 | November 5, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Ok - you don't regularly go to the lingerie section of the store. Or maybe even the junior's section. But I have a 7 month old, and was in Macy's buying her blanket sleepers (couldn't find her size anywhere else, a totally different issue). ANYWAY - in the CHILDREN'S SECTION of Macy's, they have "training bras" in the kids section. These are not for girls who are developing early. These are because tweens are interested in being grown up sooner.

So your 10 year old may want, or even already have, a bra. Because the sizes in this section of the store only go up to a kids 16. Not even junior's sizes. And how will you handle it? If your kid needs a bra and doesn't have one, mom is likely to handle it. Don't tease your kids about puberty, don't make it an ordeal. If you end up running that shopping trip, ask your daughter if she wants you to wait outside the dressing room, help her pick things out, etc. Tween girls are quite capable of telling you what they want, what you're doing wrong, etc. And good luck.

Posted by: JHBVA | November 5, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

I have to disagree with WhackyWeasel on giving dad a pass on cleaning up after a daughter. As jezebel said... that gives mom a pass?

A step-father/mother can't clean a child of the opposite gender? Hallelujah! I will have to tell my husband that I can't volunteer for bath duty anymore!

I much prefer to be open about nakedness and sexuality. I don't know how much that is helping in the sense that my step-son has some pretty negative things to say about his sister and her private areas. I keep telling him that we don't say those kinds of things in our house and move along.

Posted by: Billie_R | November 5, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Dad-- please give your daughter some privacy.

Posted by: liziko | November 5, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

"that gives mom a pass?"

Nope Billie, Women don't get a pass on the hands on bathroom stuff. However, dangerous and life-threatening things, like chain saws and registering for the draft, sure.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | November 5, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

I'm okay with discussing pretty much anything with the boys - not enthusiastic, of course, but willing. What I've found is that they very definitely don't want to talk to me about "guy stuff" - they'll take it to DH. They're mildly embarrassed if the topic is "female stuff", but they're also obviously interested, listening, and remembering it for later when we talk about it.

Mom took care of bra shopping with me and my sisters. I didn't actually need one at 14 (late bloomer), but my 12 and 11-y-o sisters did, so we all got them at around the same time - the 12-y-o and I got them on the same shopping trip. If my Dad had been involved in any way, I would have been very uncomfortable.

When older son needed a jock strap for high school P.E., DH took care of it. When younger son gets to high school, I expect the same thing will happen again.

An old friend who's a single father asked his mother to handle his daughter's adolescent needs, and all three of them were happy and comfortable with that arrangement. I would expect most single parents with opposite gender children would try to make something like that happen for the kid - turn to the extended family, or maybe a close and trusted family friend.

Posted by: SueMc | November 5, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

WhackyWeasel -- From the dawn of human history until the early 19th century, there was arguably nothing more mortally dangerous than giving birth!!

I hear JHBVA on the retail push for early and unnecessary bra use by tweens. I seemed to satisfy my daughter's urge for one with a camisole that has a built-in "shelf bra." Bridges that gap between undershirt and training bra. Target has them.

Posted by: conchfc | November 5, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

How has your roll changed as your child has entered adolescence?

i think brian was talking about the time honored practice of rolling up tissue or socks to be stuff in bras

Posted by: anonymous_one | November 5, 2009 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Your daughter will deal with puberty better if you don't go around freaking out about it as if it has not happened for, lo, these million years of human evolution.

Not to mention there are a zillion books out there on the topic. Two good ones are Changing You by the American Girl people--tasteful basics about development, hygiene,etc. For older girls, Puberty Girl by a gal whose name I can't remember. She's from Australia and runs seminars for girls over there. It's got a lot more detail.

If you truly have no idea about when she should wear a bra, ask a female teacher at your daughter's school, or her coach if she has one, or an aunt or mom of one of her friends. Find out when the going age is. Most people will tell you fifth or sixth grade.

A lot of ten year olds have some beginning development and it shows through their shirt. They look much better with a trainer type bra or tank top with bra. And even if they don't really need it, this is one of those situations when people really are better off all doing the same thing (within reason of course). I think it's better for their body image to say you're at an age to need one, rather than put everyone through the pencil test.

Leg shaving, same deal, find out what the going age is. There are enough life or death things out there to be firm on without freaking out if an eleven year old wants to shave her legs. If you think it's silly, you can get the last laugh when the novelty wears off and she complains about having to keep doing it.

Posted by: di89 | November 6, 2009 12:33 AM | Report abuse

My roll has gotten a bit stale, thank you.

Posted by: carlaclaws | November 7, 2009 2:52 AM | Report abuse

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