Imagine a community celebration in which girls entering puberty are honored with song, dance, stories and gifts. All their friends and relatives are there. It is an event to be remembered for a lifetime. To honor the creative force that is manifesting within them, their elders gather to offer encouragement and guidance. This has been the experience of many young women throughout history, and is a tradition in some places even today.
Girls in our culture receive a very different initiation. Indeed, it has been called the “Wrongs of Passage!” A resounding silence greets young woman at the advent of puberty. There is no celebration! Consider the ads that address menstruation. They all seem to carry the same message; that it is something to be hidden, and ignored as much as possible. How unfortunate that we have come to think of something so powerful and mysterious as a “nuisance!” Going through life resenting, or at best tolerating our cycles can erode our physical and emotional health.
Many of us were raised with little understanding of our bodies and cycles. The information we received was usually from textbooks, often technical and cold. How different it would be if a mother could welcome her daughter into a tradition of women, taking the time to consider her changes with her. Together they could create a sustaining ritual that would resonate within her imagination. Can we change the way in which we view our own bodies, and help our daughters approach this passage with pride?
This question and sense of celebration are at the heart of the Women’s Way Coming of Age Program. Here, girls have a chance to compare different cultural attitudes about women’s bodies and abilities. Girls learn about the way many cultures have celebrated puberty. This often gives them a new respect for their growing bodies and the deep creative nature of their developing feelings.
A girl’s new maturity is compared to the comforting rhythms of nature, and woven into the familiar context of the cycles of the moon and seasons. She learns how her monthly ebb and flow can actually help balance her life and take time for herself. These skills can help her build a foundation of health.
In the coming of age workshop for mothers and daughters, mothers may share personal stories, hopes and wishes, and make small gifts for their daughters. Girls make small crafts, crowns, and, in a younger group, decorate a rose to give to their mothers when they get their first period. The final celebration is a delightful close to a memorable event. You and your daughter will come away with keepsake crafts and memories, and material that may guide you into future conversations.
As a family, you can develop this sense of celebration at home in your own way, according to differing traditions, religious beliefs and personalities. Even very simple events, with a few meaningful words, can have lasting significance.
There are so many ways that we can develop new traditions, and empower girls to connect with their own creative potential, with pride in their body and abilities. Honoring this time of change has been shown to have a lasting effect on a girl’s feelings toward her cycle.