What Happened When My Daughter Told Me She’s Getting Boobs

Photo: Pauline M. Campos
What Happened When My Daughter Told Me She’s Getting Boobs

As a mother of a young girl, I consider myself pretty well-versed on what to expect in the milestones category.

I mean, I used to be one myself, so Hands in the Air for Team Life Experience!!!

I’ve smiled and laughed and cried my way through every stage so far, starting with the day my Not-So-Little-Anymore girl learned to roll over (that was the end of total control in motherhood and a hard pill to swallow).

I dutifully bit my tongue and kept offering each new food as she learned to exercise her newfound mobility and hand-eye coordination by insisting she hated every food she once loved (or at least tolerated before she figured out how to pick things up with her tiny fists and throw it all as far as she possibly could because "No, Mama! No!").

And instead of curling up into a tiny ball and crying because that’s what I wanted to do when she was learning to walk, I sucked it up like Buttercup and grinned my way through the official end of infancy, welcoming toddler-hood like the proud mama I always have been.

We’ve weathered the Testing Parental Authority phase (which we know is an ongoing cycle, so no need for the Just Wait For When statements).

We’ve survived the Monsters Under The Bed and high-fived after she returned home — all smiles, thank you very much — from her first Sleepover At Somebody Else’s House.

We’ve even conquered the Time For Deodorant, which we marked with giggles and a new catch-phrase to serve as her daily reminder, lest she forgets to apply it in the morning. “Have we prettified our pungent parts?” is always met with laughter, and for that, I have to thank Disney for Olaf and Frozen.

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She has mastered the side-eye.

She's done the Staying Up All Night With The iPad Under The Covers thing, and she took it like a champ when she got caught.

Mama didn’t raise no fool, my friends. If anything, this mama raised a little girl who, at only eight-years-old, is secure and confident in her voice, her body, and herself.

It’s mind-boggling to me that I’ve managed to guide her so far through all of this when I was the exact opposite at her age.

Take, for example, the moment I realized she needed a training bra. To be clear, I was in denial and doing a nice job of just waiting it out. But my girl, unashamed of her body and aware of its changing form, proudly announced to me how her “chichis were maximizing” as I washed her long curls in the bath one night, thereby forcing me to deal with the reality I’d been trying to dodge.

She went on to tell me that she is “In Puberty” and to be specific, “Stage Two, thank you" — which served to demonstrate the book I’d checked out for her a few weeks prior had been read and memorized.

It took every ounce of self-control in me to keep a straight face and not burst into hysterical laughter right then and there, but I did it. And I’m proud that I didn’t rob her of one tiny bit of the pomp and circumstance she was feeling in that moment.

She went to bed smiling and self-assured — just as she should be.

My own puberty experience was much less WOMAN POWER and way more HOLY AWKWARD, in retrospect.

One day when I was her age, I wore a pink T-shirt emblazoned with a red, white, and blue arrow outlined in gold glitter pointing skyward, and the words “This End Up” in black block letters, I noticed my mother looking at me funny. I remember it was bright, sunny, and hot; we didn’t have air conditioning yet.

I can’t remember where I put my car keys five minutes ago, but I can paint a clear picture from the random moments stuck in my brain — like the nasty kitchen wallpaper we walked by as my mom guided me over to the back door for a consult with my dad. The spring had broken on the backdoor screen and my dad was busy with his tools and a Miller Lite, so he didn’t notice us until my mother cleared her throat.

Honey? Do you think Pauline needs a bra?

My mother turned me to my side, giving my dad a better view of my budding 8-year-old profile.

I remember wishing the hole in the floor I was imagining would just hurry and open up already so I could disappear. 

The look of absolute horror on my father’s face would have been funnier to me had I not been so utterly mortified myself. Inadvertently, his eyes traveled to my chest before snapping back up to my mother’s face. I’ve seen this look as an adult. Usually on deer frozen in horror right before a vehicle runs them over.

Why are you even asking me, Dorothy? I don’t know!” 

Well, I just figured…

Figured what?” My father sounded like he was in pain.

Place your feminism and equal-partnership ideals aside for a moment and spare me the soapbox. My childhood understanding of moms and dads was that dads from Mexico didn’t change diapers, feed babies, or acknowledge the chichis growing on their little girls.

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Dads worked two jobs, drank Miller Lite almost every day except during Lent, and then never made it to church on Easter Sunday morning — the one day per year Mexicans come out in droves to be Catholic in public — because Lent ends at midnight the evening before.

This was not a conversation he was comfortable having.

Mahhhh - aaaaahm!” I was pouting.

Somehow, my 8-year-old self already knew this moment would be in a book someday. As well as described on all intake paperwork for any new therapists I may meet under the “Major Issues” tab.

Like most memories, little pieces are missing from the timeline.

Rationally, I am aware that the next moment was very probably a few days later, but I’m still going to swear to you that immediately following the Most Embarrassing Moment Of My Life, my mother was on the phone with her friends and suddenly the doorbell rang and I was in my room trying on all of the old bras brought over by the village that was raising me.

There may have been cheap wine involved. I’m not sure, because nobody offered to share it with me. 

But I was sure of two things by the time I had modeled every option presented to me:

1. The world had lied to me, because a B-cup is not a training bra, and I could never go to school again, and…
2. I desperately needed it to be Sunday so I could have my turn to drink from the wine representing the blood of Christ. Twice.

This is my frame of reference for training bras and puberty, y’all.

I have pretty much been praying every day since I found out I was pregnant with a baby girl that I would not hit Replay on The Game Of Life and fuck this shit up — and I totally earned myself a cookie for how I handled it, I think. 

I waited until Eliana was asleep before sharing the story above with The Husband.

We both cried a little as we clutched our sides laughing, partly from the pure humor in the situation and mostly from the reality check that comes with every milestone.

It’s the end and it’s a beginning and it’s happiness and pride and wistfulness and it’s tears and sighs and wishes for time to slow down just to allow us more time to enjoy the children who grow up on us too fast and it’s all these things at the same time.

And so, we’ve come to the Maximizing Chichis Milestone. We will buy training bras and we will discuss why we don’t discuss Maximizing Chichis during Sunday School or announce to perfect strangers at the post office that chichis means boobies in Spanish and that Mama couldn’t say the name of a popular Mexican restaurant food chain as a kid because it was vulgar and utterly hilarious.

Mama is inappropriate and can’t contain her laughter when these things happen, so it’s really all for the best.

I know there is so much more to come and I know she will grow into an amazing young woman. I know there are so many Just You Waits for us to experience.

But where she will be then can wait — because right here, right now, I’m holding on to today.

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Pauline Campos is a body-image, mental health activist, and author of BabyFat: Adventures In Motherhood, Muffin tops, & Trying to Stay Sane. She is also the founder of and blogs at

This essay is an excerpt from the upcoming book On Raising Wonder Woman: Reflections, Perceptions, & Well-Placed F-Bombs.