Every day I am rocked by the reality that my kids are growing up at an accelerated rate. Call them threenagers or 7-going-on-17, it is a common topic when stories are swapped on soccer sidelines, at play date pick-ups and even over adult drinks. Observing my girls (5 and 7), I can’t help but wonder if more mature experiences and influences are triggering bigger emotions sooner. Proof: My 7-year-old displays a whole slew of symptoms typically triggered by the good old crimson wave.
My moms-of-second-grade-girls friends say I am not alone, reporting their otherwise sweet and reasonably well-adjusted girls snapping into crazy mode in an all-too-familiar cyclical manner. A doctor, psychiatrist or educator could explain the physiological and social-emotional reasons for this. But I am just a mom on a self-preservation mission and therefore have diagnosed my dear daughter with pre-pre-menstrual syndrome, or PPMS.
No, I am not making light of early puberty. My daughter is showing zero physical signs of maturity – just the ugly emotional ones that have robbed me of my sanity a quarter of every month since I was 14 years old. That is more than 1,600 days, accounting for Aunt Flo’s extended vacations during my three pregnancies and breastfeeding. That hater probably went somewhere tropical to mock my beached whale status.
Back to my daughter and why I swear she is menstruating. Used as a verb, that word still has a fifth grade sex ed “ick” factor for me. I am not ready for this and had the scientifically unsound fantasy that my cycle would be nearly done when hers started. Circle of life stuff. Instead, here’s evidence – measured by PMS hallmark symptoms – that we’re having the pleasure of parallel periods a few years too soon:
1. Anxiety – Sometimes NOTHING in her closet looks good; EVERYTHING looks weird. These conclusions are huffed and puffed as she tugs at waistbands and hemlines in front of a mirror amid piles of discarded duds. Just yesterday she dissolved into a crying heap because her sister said her much-planned plaid-dress picture day “look” actually made her look like a farmer. I told her I’d take that as a compliment. Farmers rule. Not to her. Not yesterday.
2. Crying spells – Can cry more than a toddler over a Rainbow Loom fail, misplaced Beanie Boo or homework hiccup. I thought emoting to this extreme would require the death of a pet or her first unfriending. It is not rational. Neither is (P)PMS.
3. Irritability – Often cannot articulate the reason for said tantrum and does blubbering, self-loathing Steel Magnolia’s-style Shelby-in-the-beauty-shop-post-blood-sugar-attack apology, “Oh Mama, I’m sorry!!!” I snap into M’Lynn/Truvy mode, give her a drink, stroke her hair and say, “It’s all right. It’s all over now” and “Oh, I’ll fix it! We’ll fix it!” I only wish we had the awesome 80s hair to boot.
4. Trouble with concentration or memory – Frequently forgets things. I can’t count on two hands the number of times we’ve returned to school, Target, a museum or church in the last month in search of a sweater, purse, water bottle, book or lunch box.
5. Joint or muscle pain – Occasionally experiences achy legs. Maybe not growing pains? Even as a PMS pro, I didn’t realize this symptom fell under the menstruation rainbow of fun.
6. Upset stomach, bloating, constipation and more – Gut Issues Galore could be her social media handle. Many days include an array of reasons for spending excessive time in the bathroom.
7. Feeling tired – See numbers 1-4.
Plenty of these symptoms could just be part of getting older, but labeling it PPMS helps me cope. As in, it’s not me, it’s her.
Maybe the silver lining is that we’ll both be better prepared when a double dose of monthly madness truly commences under our roof. No doubt I’ll be waiting with open arms, an empathetic ear, stretchy pants, a fistful of Advil and a well-loved heating pad.
For now, to explain her occasional public outbursts, I picture uttering the same line women (myself included) use to excuse a whole bevy of bad behavior and hormone-fueled hysteria: “Sorry, she’s PMS-ing.” Saying it silently and imagining people’s reaction is almost as satisfying.
And just like that, my PMSy mood lifts, too.
This piece originally appeared on Sammiches and Psych Meds.