My Daughter’s 11-Year Old Friend Got Her Period

Right after the fifth grade culmination ceremony yesterday, Clare’s good friend Gabriella (a pseudonym) got her first period.

Sweet Jesus.

It felt to me like the beginning of the end, as this lovely child’s body is now weaponized, a walking, breathing hot zone.

And I’m sure Clare’s right behind her. She has her first smattering of pimples on her forehead.

When I saw them, I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or pop them. But I did feel my heart go tender as an uncooked filet mignon.

She is heading into that phase of physical development which is like the Middle Ages of civilization where everything feels mucky, dark, smelly and unattractive.

It’s also the time when your hormones can fell you like a crossbow and self-consciousness can bludgeon you like a flanged mace.

I thought I’d break down at yesterday’s culmination ceremony and mourn my daughter passing from her safe, sweet elementary school bubble into the unknown wilds of that medieval forest known as middle school.

But as I watched her walk up and accept her diploma and embrace her beloved teacher Miss Ellman I realized I’m ready for her to take the next step and, better yet, whether she knows it or not, so is she.

However, I’m hoping her first period won’t descend for at least another year or two, but just to be safe I ordered the Dot Girl First Period Kit and a cooler of martinis for me.

Rowan and Samuel braids
But I’m NOT ready for her to lose the braids.

Parents — did you daughters change drastically after they started their period? Anything I should be expecting?

32 thoughts on “My Daughter’s 11-Year Old Friend Got Her Period”

  1. I have three adult daughters. When each of their periods started, we threw a period party (this was back before kits were available). My husband picked up a black forest cake — gotta have the cherries! — the honoree was gifted their first box of pads, and we blasted and danced to Urge Overkill’s version of “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon.” It was cheeky fun we shared only with our family — no guests at this private party! All three of my girls fondly recall the transition. So do my husband and I. (I’ve written about it here and there but didn’t want to do the impolite thing by commenting with a link.) 😀 Have fun!

    1. Lisa — what a great idea. When I had my first period there was sort of this sense that life as I knew it was ending and the evolution wasn’t so great. I love the idea of making it a celebration!

  2. Such angst about the first period – too soon, too late? No girl wants to be either first nor last among her friends to be getting it.

    I was a late bloomer (14) – ALL my friends were getting THEIR periods and I was still stuffing my unneeded bra with Kleenex and praying for the Breast Fairy to arrive with her pump (thanks Bill Cosby). Yet the Pimple Fairy was an early and frequent visitor, sometimes with that light rash of many small bumps, other times with the moon-sized ones. It’s wonderful being a teen, but it can sure be rough, too.

    1. Re: the Bill Cosby story of the Breast Fairy, and his daughter getting her period while his wis was away from home …..
      How can I find this ? I have looked on tube, but cannot find it

  3. Shannon,
    I am in the same boat as you, but my daughter is a bit older: 12-1/2 finished 6th grade this week. I bought her the American Girls “The Care and Keeping of You” in 5th grade and we talked about all the changes to come. We have the tween kotex box which was packed last year in her summer camp trunk, returned unopened, still sitting under her sink should she or a visiting friend need them for the big day. We came away from her annual checkup recently feeling like it is likely to happen anytime… really hoping it is not while she is away at summer camp this year!!!

    1. Hi Nicole — my first period decided to strike the week I was camping with my grandparents. I was mortified that somehow my ex-cowboy grandpa would figure out I was menstruating. I remember ferrying my feminine protection in and out of that tent like I was smuggling Bolivian White. Also I was pissed I could swim. I was afraid people would know I was bleeding into the water and they’d evacuate the pool.

  4. Lucky I only have sons, because I have never found periods to be a beautiful expression of womanhood so I’d probably make my daughters also dislike the visits from Aunt Flo. They are just annoying (well except for a couple of times where they were really welcome). I never understood Anne Frank’s or Judy Blume’s Margaret’s desire for their period to begin. That being said, menopause can stay away, too. Maybe I don’t like change.

    1. Jane it sounds like the whole thing is just a pain in the ass. Pun intended. I’m actually looking forward to menopause. It seems like it will be liberating. Am I just in denial? Will I instantly grow a full beard?

  5. My daughter is 33 and I still remember the exact day and words when it happened for her….on the very first day of 7th grade she came out of the bathroom and indignantly thrust her underwear in my face, “Is THIS what I think it is???!!”
    Compassionately I replied by busting out laughing and saying, “Yes baby, it is, hahahahaha! You’re a woman now!”
    Then I was a good mom and helped her get ready for her first day of junior high as a young woman. 😀
    My granddaughter is nearly ten and has been developing rapidly over the last year, hair, breasts, pimples, b.o. We know what’s coming and at this rate of development, it will likely happen younger than her mom. We have prepared both houses with supplies and talked about it. I told her last weekend should she ever start when she is away from us to go to any woman, we all know what it is and all of us will know how to help her. And reminded her to definitely not get upset, that it’s natural and normal, and you’re not dying. I will continue to do this because she was a kid who freaked out at boo boos….I need a bandaid, I’m bleeeeeeeding!!! I think she’s better now but still. LOL.
    I am not looking forward to two girls with massive pms in the same house. I was good with that until menopause hit lol, but my daughter always has been and still is a bear for at least a week every month (duck!) and I can see the same fluxuations in my granddaughter. Yay.
    Good times.
    By the way, I love menopause!!! I am free!! And wow, the money not spent on feminine supplies is awesomely spent elsewhere!
    Good luck!!

    1. Dorothy you sound like a great mom and grandma. We absolutely have to have a sense of humor about the ignominies of our bodies at every stage of life.

  6. Shannon,
    NO! Don’t wish for menopause! It is anything BUT liberating. Went through it twice. Once at 42 after a total hysterectomy, then 10 years later when they yanked me off HRT when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Menopause (and the lack of periods) is not your friend. Be your sexy, vital self, and take whatever you can to extend your beautiful vitality. It sucks that it’s fleeting, but as you said, we must have a sense of humor about our frailties. Our men, however, are tested by this stage of our lives. Luckily my guy has a lot of patience, plus he grew up with three sisters. Bless them for his training!
    Best to you,

    1. Hi Joanne — alright I’ll do my best to stay fecund, but my husband is already dealing with more than usual irascibility on my part. Sometimes even I get sick of me.

  7. I am almost 50 years old and I still haven’t forgiven my mother for not taking me out of school the day I started my period and taking me to lunch and shopping to celebrate. I don’t know where I got the idea that that’s what you should do, but it persists to this day. 🙂 In my mom’s defense, she had a lot of trouble with her cycles and it never occurred to her that it was something to celebrate. I, on the other hand, was almost 15 and DYING to get on with it already.

    As a side note, I went through menopause early – my last period was at 42 – and it was a breeze. Maye yours will be too!

    1. Sandi your menopause story is inspirational. Maybe it will be a breeze! And you’ve given me a great celebratory idea for when my daughter has her first visit from Flo. xo

  8. It might be a good idea to have a back-up plan in case your daughter thinks it’s whack to celebrate such a thing. 😀

  9. It’s the two years before a first period that a girl changes–puberty rears.

    We’re Jewish–for holidays and supersititions. My mother said “I’m going to slap your face. It won’t hurt. I just have to–tradition.” It didn’t hurt and then she gave me $10 which was a lot of money in the early 1960’s. I was just 11; my maternal grandmother–the great one a Communist and clothes designer had died a few days before so I guess this was life-affirming to my mother.

    I begged my mother not to tell my father but when he came home he walked around with a giant smile on his face. I wanted to die.

    We were allowed to have soda at dinner along with desert. Real desert–not fruit but a bakery cake–the type we would serve to company.

    I had known about periods since I was 9 when my mother took me into the bathroom and showed me what she did. When I told my friends we were going to bleed some days a month none believed me. When I asked my mother, years later, why she showed me so early she didn’t remember “must have had a feeling.”

    Though my parents did everything right–except for my mother telling my father I had horrible periods–5 D&C’s. My mother didn’t believe me at first; when my father worked at home and I got my period I would have the nurse call him from school and go home. It was the only teen-rearing thing that flustered him! This was a man who told me when I was 21 the two most important things in life were a good bowel movement and a good sex life

    And now that I have written a post!

    1. Pia I love your story. Over and over again I am hearing the stories of families celebrating their daughter’s entry to womanhood and that’s just so life affirming. I was always embarrassed when I had my period. I love the idea of setting the tone that this is a positive rights of passage.

  10. Okay well I’m 11 and just started my period. I was really upset when I got it, for example in the first month I lost 10 pounds because I wouldn’t eat, I cried, and wished my live was over. I don’t know if I’m early but I think I am. I honestly don’t even have breast, they’re very small and I don’t even where a bra, just a tank top. The thing that’s hard is that this is my second period and the next one I have I’ll be on vacation? What a great time to get it. I got it 6 days before Christmas, and I honestly felt like it would never come, I knew it existed but I never thought I would be stuck in this kinda sictuation, in the begging (First day) I got it at school and the last day of me being a child was spent taking a test in every class! Then finally I had time to go to the bathroom and I was wearing dark purple under where so the blood looked like poop… Thought it was gross but couldn’t do anything about it. So then I wipped and started to cry! I only knew 2 girls who has it! None of my friends did, not even my cousin who’s 9 months older than me! My mom and her mom both got it when they were 13 but I didn’t… Is that normal? But anyways I didn’t want to celebrate, if it was up to me I wouldn’t have told my mom. So next month when I go on vacation I can’t go swimming! Yay! My mom won’t let me where a tampon so guess I’m not gonna go swimming cause I’m not gonna look like I’m wearing a dipar. Nothing could make me feel better, nothing, I was depressed and just wanted to die… But know I just want to be somone else… I don’t like my new body and I never will, the feeling of pads are horrible. I don’t have anyone to talk to cause my mom got sick of me talking to her about it and crying. Please help me. I took several quizzes on depression and they said (all) I was sevre. I just want to go back to summer… Not even my friends who are older than me have it. I just want to be normal again.

    1. Hi Elizabeth — Please let me know if you would prefer I email you privately in the future. You can send me your email address to — First let me say that having your period at 11 is normal. I had mine when I was 11, two weeks before my 12th birthday, and the day before I was to go on a camping trip with my grandparents. I was absolutely mortified (I didn’t want my grandpa to know I was on my period) and really annoyed because I too couldn’t go swimming. I was so jealous of my little sister getting to swim when I couldn’t. However, I don’t think I had the intense reaction you seem to be having. If you are truly suicidal it would be a good idea to let your parents (or and adult you trust) know so that they can get you the help that you need. Depression is like any other illness. If you had diabetes you would have to go to the doctor for treatment and it’s the same with depression. It’s an illness and there are treatments for it and it’s not your fault. So go to an adult you trust (even if it’s not your parents) and ask them to help you to get medical treatment. If you are NOT suicidal then your feelings of depression and anxiety are normal because your body is going through major hormonal changes. You can still seek help to deal with these changes, but they aren’t an emergency. I’m not a professional therapist, but if you need to talk privately you can email me. In the meantime know that you are not alone. This is an emotional transition for most girls.

  11. Hi, so I’m 12 and got my period the day before yesterday. And, I still haven’t told anyone except for on of my friends. I don’t want to tell my mom because I don’t want her to treat me different because I’m a “woman” now. I’m still young, and it came really suddenly, and I don’t want her thinking I’m all grown up now. I wasn’t ready for this, and I don’t know how to tell her without her going through the whole, “You’re growing Up” thing. I’ve been crying about it over the last two days because I hate the thought of me not being a little girl anymore. I hate this. What do I do?

    1. Hello anonymous — As a mom I, annoyingly, just want to give you a hug. And I want to confirm for you that you are still a child. In fact, by law, you are considered a child until you are between the ages of 16 and 18. So you have, at the very least, 4-6 years of childhood before you. Our bodies aren’t always in perfect synchronization with our emotional development. In fact, sometimes I think they’re at cross-purposes. I just consulted with my 11-year old daughter on how I should respond to your question. I think I managed to make her a little uncomfortable, as we mothers are prone to do. Her advice was to say you should tell your mother. But that you should also let her know that while your body has changed, you still want to be seen and treated like a child. That just because you’ve had your period, you don’t want to be viewed as an adult or a woman. That you would still prefer to be treated as a child in all the best possible ways (to be loved and protected as a child). I’m not a perfect mother. I can make my kids nervous and jumpy. I do my best. Sometimes I need them to let me know when I mess up. Or when an approach I’m taking just isn’t working. Sometimes adults are afraid to tell their children that they don’t know exactly what they’re doing, that they’re making it up as they go along. But it’s true. We adults don’t always know what we’re doing and sometimes we need you guys to tell us when we’re out of bounds, or to guide us in how we should treat you. Honestly dear girl, we’re all in this together, doing the best we can. So be patient with your mom. Let her know (specifically) what you need. And saying a little prayer to the powers that be won’t hurt either. And know this, you are not alone. There are so many girls out there who feel just as nervous, alone and uncertain as you do. xo Shannon (and if you have any other thoughts you need to express feel free to do so here.)

  12. Hi Shannon,
    I’m not sure if I changed lots after it but I do think that based on how hormones attack us and all the mood swings we go through, that would be a yes.

    I got mine when I was 12 and I never ever talked to my mom about it. My mom is super open and I know she would have LovEd that we talked about periods )bc she’d always talk about hers) but I was always way too embarrassed. I’m now in my 20’s and I can talk about periods with my friends but not with my mom, I just can’t, weird huh?

    1. Hi Laura — You know it probably is just too close for comfort for daughters to share too much with their moms. I guess this is the beginning of the individuation process. Sigh.

  13. I’m 19 years old and I got my period at 11 and u always hated when the doctor always asked when my last period was and my mom always embarrassly yelled it out in the whole room so when I was really sick I didn’t go to the doctor so later I found out I was really sick and had to take all kinds of pills each day so my advice is to not be afraid to tell them and don’t make the same mistake I made

    1. Hi Ansley — what is it about menstruating that is so damned embarrassing for us when we’re young? And the training bra. God forbid anyone know you’re wearing a training bra. I’ll never forget my mom walking me into the lingerie section of JCPenney and yelling out, “My daughter needs to be fitted for her first bra!!!” Oh the mortification.

  14. Hey everyone!! I’m 12 years old and I haven’t started my period.. But I think I’m close: here are my signs; 32a breasts, pubic hair, underarm hair, cramps, moody lately, acne, and discharge for about six-eight months.

  15. Hey I’m 11 and my bff just got her period. I’m older than her by a few months and I thought I would get it before her. I don’t know when I am gonna get my period. That’s the thing that concerns me. My mom said I was close to getting it but I don’t know. I have black pubic hair and armpit hair. I get b.o. I am also growing everywhere from breasts to foot size. I’m breaking out in pimples really bad. I just want to know if I’m going to get it soon.

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