“On the day that happens, we’re going to go out and have a steak dinner and celebrate the fact that God is making you into a man.”

“That” in this sentence is a boy’s first nocturnal emission, or wet dream. The original speaker of this sentence was a father talking to his son, lovingly and honestly preparing him for his journey into manhood.

I first heard this story at a parenting seminar I teach with my friend and coworker, David Thomas. David is a counselor for boys in Nashville and the author of my favorite book on boys, Wild Things. He told this story to highlight the importance of ushering a boy into puberty and his evolving sexuality with truth, grace, and even celebration.

At the end of that seminar, a mother came up and said, “I heard that story David told today. I tried to do the same with my daughter. I told her that soon she would be entering puberty. I talked all about the changes that would go on in her brain and her body, including her period. I told her that, when she started her period, I wanted to take her shopping to celebrate how exciting it was that she was becoming a woman. My daughter’s wry was, ‘Really, Mom? We’re going to celebrate the fact that I’m bleeding?’”

And there it is. As a counselor who has worked with girls for more than 21 years, this sentiment is a tragically apt reflection of how girls often feel about their womanhood and evolving sexuality. For many girls, there is a sense of shame bound up in being a woman. As a mother, you may be lost for how to talk to her about it.

Girls don’t want you to tell them about what’s changing about their bodies. They don’t want you to talk about ...

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