Last week there was a major tantrum in my house. There was rage, there was yelling, there was a banshee scream – “YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND!” – and then a door slam.
There was a flop on the bed and a big cry. The dog howled, my son hid and the neighbours grimmaced.
That tantrum was mine.
A few minutes later there was another tantrum. This time it was my 12-year-old daughter. As she lost all reason amid many tears, she looked to me for strength, calm and reassurance.
The major problem was that those were the very things that had completely escaped me only moments before.
We trigger each other, my daughter and I, so our house is becoming a collision zone. There will be casualties.
My daughter looks so much like her father it frightens me, but in this perfect storm we girls have become more alike than ever before.
We are both getting swollen breasts and hormonal pimples. We are both sometimes irritable and cranky, at others teary and bereft. Sometimes we need cuddles, at others we can't stand being touched. We are both struggling to adapt to living with a new body that scares us.
She is going through puberty and I am going through perimenopause.
She is in denial and I was in ignorance until our Just Between Us podcast this week. On it, I heard about the rise of the third boob, the bone tiredness, the changing sleep patterns ... and I had an a-ha! moment.
(You can have your own by listening here on iTunes or below on Soundcloud).
Perimenopause is the time before menopause – it usually begins in a women's 40s and ends with their last period in their 50s.
And perimenopause is on a crash course with puberty in more and more households around the world.
I am part of a generation that got married late and had kids late. And while our girls are going through puberty, on average, two years before our mothers, it still means our daughters are turning teen as many of us are hitting our mid to late 40s.
Wham bam thank you man.
Perimenopause is puberty backwards. I feel like I am looking into a distorted looking glass. My daughter's estrogen hormones are on the up and mine are on the down, but both of us have levels that are all over the place. Hence we are sometimes tired, often cranky, sometimes joyful, others just jack of it all.
My daughter is reading Peter Pan and taking it way too literally – she doesn't want to grow up. I can’t blame her. I’m not ready to grow up either, let alone grow old.
There’s grief in seeing a daughter bloom before she’s ready. In watching her deal with a body that’s betraying her. In watching freedom furl in on itself as she becomes self-conscious, confused and cranky at the world that seems different, difficult and strange.
There’s grief in feeling my own body change. In noticing my gradually slowing metabolism and diminishing height in relation to the rising of hers.
It’s also confronting to see her lips swell as mine thin. Her hair get thicker and glossier as mine becomes limper and flatter, her body become curvy as mine become square. It’s the cycle of life. It’s no great surprise. But it’s nevertheless confronting. We both feel at times powerless, even though our bodies can both do the most powerful act of all. Create life.
In a few years I won't be able to make children and she will have to stop hers from doing so.
As she shuts down and seeks her friends for openness and conversation, I too am shutting down, but in a different way. So we are both quieter and more withdrawn. When we are not screaming.
We both have to work out new ways of living in the world as we absorb changes to how the world responds to us. She doesn’t want to be a woman I don’t want to be a crone. We are dealing with these changes reasonably well ... except when we are not.
Then we both want chocolate. Only one of us can have wine.
Both of us are entering a time of freedom and change. Transformation and growth. Coming into our own.
And if anyone has advice about how to handle the next few years, I am all ears.
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