‘My teenage boys helped me shop for their little sister’s first bras today…because breasts happen, y’all.’: Mom challenges ‘stigma’ of female puberty, ‘My boys know picking out a bra is no big deal’

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“My teenage boys helped me shop today, which included buying their little sister’s first bras…because breasts happen, y’all.

She comes down every night, short hair plastered to her head and still dripping from her shower. She never remembers to towel her hair.  She is wearing her first bra; a plain, nylon, sports number, and a pair of boxer shorts. She bends over me with baby-smooth cheeks and a smile as she kisses me ‘goodnight.’ At 10:50 p.m., she goes upstairs and reads her own book before bed. We don’t sing her bedtime songs anymore. She is changing, growing, and she is changing the rest of us along with her.

Our family TALKS about EVERYTHING. I am a firm believer that conversations with our kids need to be 1. age appropriate, 2. medically and otherwise accurate, and 3. without shame or taboo. From the time my first, now 16, stood up in the tub at age two to proudly show me how big his ‘pence’ was to talks about puberty, periods, sex, and relationships, it is all discussed frankly. I was hoping for a little break in early pubescent angst between our two boys, ages 16 and 15, and round two with our girls, ages 10 and 6. When Lucy came downstairs one night to ask if her nipples should be sore, I instantly realized that female puberty was circling the tarmac.

Courtesy of Tara Ahrens

Talk about changing gears. Six months ago this child asked to have all of her hair cut off ‘like the boys wear theirs,’ referencing her shorn brothers. In retrospect, I should have seen that as a sign that something was changing. At the time, I was lamenting the loss of braids and bows and other such frippery, while challenging my own, internal notions of what it means to be a ‘girl.’ It was a growing process for us all.  Hair, after all, is just hair, and being a girl is whatever she defines it to be for herself.

Courtesy of Tara Ahrens

A few nights after the night of the budding breasts talk, she came down and told her dad, who was sitting RIGHT NEXT TO ME, that she needed bras. I love it that our kids can go to their dad for ANYTHING, but I…the one with breasts…was sitting right there! Lucas responded, ‘I think your mom would probably be a better expert on that.’ I told her I would pick some up for her next time I was at the store and that was that.

We fast forward a few days to a trip to Target to buy Elijah, our oldest, his work uniform for his swanky first job as a movie theater lackey. Micah, 15, was so excited for his brother to get a real job that he asked to come with. (He is still under the impression that having a job means you can buy a Tesla after a few weeks.) After carting the necessary black wardrobe, I remembered that I needed to pick up some bras for Lucy. The boys and I went to the tween girls underwear department and I explained that Lucy needed some plain bras. Both boys seemed as surprised as I originally was that that time in her life is here already. They proceeded to ask some really good questions. What are bras for, technically? She doesn’t look any different, why does she need to wear them now? Does this mean she is starting puberty? As they knew I would, I answered their questions matter-of-factly and without fanfare.

Courtesy of Tara Ahrens

When we got home, both girls were so excited over the very basic three-pack of sports bras in the bag. Polly, 6, acted like Lucy just got her first prom dress. Lucy ran upstairs to try one one and came down, proudly displaying it. Polly was in awe. The boys nonchalantly nodded and went about their business. There was no shame or taboo attached to any step of the process. A precedent that will continue through all of the changes yet to come.

Courtesy of Tara Ahrens

When I posted my now viral post on Facebook, many people were truly upset that I took my boys with to buy her bras instead of taking Lucy. Lucy does not like to shop. I also feel like making a big deal, positively or negatively, adds a lot of hype to a situation that is actually just a normal, biological thing. By taking the boys, I was able to answer their questions with no pressure. My boys also know that picking out a bra is no big deal.  If they are ever in a situation (single dad) where they need to buy a bra someday, the stigma is already gone. Some people felt like I took away Lucy’s power over her own body and this would harm her body image. Lucy has plenty of time to adjust to the changes her body is going through. She has the rest of her life to choose bras. The important first step is that her family thinks that puberty is completely normal and none of us are afraid of it.

Courtesy of Tara Ahrens

The oddest comments were all of the people obsessed with jock straps. ‘Would you take your girls shopping for a jock strap?’ The answer: HECK YES! ‘This is a jock strap and athletic cup. This protects a boy’s penis from being hurt while playing sports. It keeps their penises safe like helmets keep your brain safe.’ That’s pretty simple.

The idea is to question taboo subjects as they relate to our kids. Should this topic be embarrassing? Is there a way to normalize it? If I’m normalizing it for my girls, don’t I have a responsibility to normalize it for my boys as well? The sight of a woman’s ankle used to set the world a‘titter and we didn’t get from there to the girl who shamelessly wears her sports bra as pajamas without change.

Now, if only I could figure out how to get her to towel dry her hair after she showers.”

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Courtesy of Tara Ahrens

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tara Ahrens of Fort Wayne. You can follow her journey on Facebook. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more from Tara

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