‘Dalaga Ka Na’ – When a girl becomes a woman
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - November 15, 2018 - 12:00am

Part 1

In 1991, I wrote a column on adolescence, Under the Heart is a Little Room. My introduction recalled my experience when I turned 13. One of my unforgettable experiences in my childhood was experiencing an unusual bleeding in my body. It was strange, for I was not wounded or in pain. I was 13 and I was on my way to church. Naturally, in my confusion, I ran to mama to ask her what was happening to my body. Mama calmed me down, “it’s menstruation. It comes to all girls when they become a lady. Dalaga ka na.”

Something strange is happening to my body

When puberty comes between 10 to 13 years, it is time for parents and teachers to teach a very special lesson. Since this story of love is different for each sex, boys and girls should be taught differently. For the girls, it starts this way: Under every girl’s heart is a little room, the womb. Mother Nature cares for it very carefully, so she calls the girl’s attention with several physical changes in her body. After her daily bath, a girl of ten would feel a button in her breast. In a few months time, it would feel heavier like a marble. Eventually, it would be like a siniguelas (a plum). By then, it is time to wear the first bra.

At about this time, Mother Nature would cover the private parts of her body with hair. In addition, the womb would develop a thick lining, a mattress of blood. Since it would not yet be used, it would flow out every month as menstruation (from the Latin word mensile or monthly). One day, it would nourish and carry life.

Celebrating God’s gift to a young lady

I came upon an article written by a French mother, Our Little Girl is a Young Woman. “When Jacqueline happily told me what had happened, I kissed her. Then together, we improvised a prayer, thanking God for His goodness to her. There was now in her a source of life, hidden but nonetheless real. Together, we went to tell her father who gave her the small gift that we had selected some time before. He told Jacqueline that from that day on, she would choose her own clothes. I would go with her, we explained, to make sure that her choice was not too expensive, but I would respect her tastes. That won’t be an easy thing to do.

“At dinner that night, we had a little celebration. We took the opportunity to explain things to her younger brother. We made sure that he has sufficient appreciation of feminine dignity so that he would treat women with proper respect. I thanked God for allowing us to live in the faith. All that God has made is good and how stupid we are to drag down to our human level – to deform and corrupt what God intends to be great and beautiful.”

The entry to adolescence is a conferment of an extraordinary dignity

An adolescent is not conscious of her dignity. It must be revealed to her. She is vulnerable and we must help her because she is weak and uneasy. She has, after all, just become a repository of life. The conferment of this extraordinary dignity as adolescence sets in also entails a responsibility. This noblest mission assigned by God to His sons and daughters was given to man at the time of his creation: “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth.” When they accomplish it in love, they resemble the Almighty. Like Him and with Him, they are creators. Every man must give life, either physically or spiritually. A life, which does not bear fruit, is a failure. Physical development is the sign in the flesh of God’s eternal plan for man.

The body of an adolescent no longer belongs to his parents

So far as the parents are concerned, this essential step by their child toward maturity is an invitation from God to purify their love. He reminds them that, although they have ‘given’ life, it is not theirs to hold on to. A young child is entirely in the hands of her parents: BODY, HEART and MIND. But they must let it go gradually however from puberty to adolescence. They must help the adolescent develop that body in a healthy and balanced manner. They must ensure that it is respected by others. 

They must help her learn to love truly in friendship and in giving herself to others. They must prepare her for the day when her heart is wholly her own. However, they must help her to think for herself, to form her own opinions, to develop her own taste, and to establish her own motivations. They must prepare her for the day when she will truly be a mature adult.

The parents must recognize that their child wishes gradually to free herself from the obligation of purely passive obedience. They must help her to make decisions for herself, judge for herself and claim the right to express her opinions. Soon, she will be ready to exercise her full freedom as a woman.

The painful detachment of loving an adolescent

It is difficult to love, because to love is to renounce oneself for the sake of another. Self-renunciation is always very painful. When a child comes into the world, it detaches itself from the body of its mother and the mother bleeds. When an adult comes into the world, she must likewise detach herself from his parents, and her parents’ hearts will bleed.

The greatness of a person is his ability to create oneself. The success of a teacher consists in being able to say, “My student no longer needs me.” The grandeur of parents consists in the mission to transmit that life, and to withdraw gradually when they see it begin to bloom in their children. How unhappy they are who, through selfishness, interrupt or break the cycle of life.

A public paradox

Thoughtful teenagers are puzzled by a prevalent public paradox. On the one hand, our society is sex-obsessed and money-motivated. For commercial enticement sex is smeared on screens, blown-up on billboards. On the other hand society says it believes in premarital abstinence. This situation creates conflict and tension. In matters of sex, attitudes speak louder than words. We have models of wealth and ideals of heroism but as a society, we lack models of moral excellence. As one 18-year-old said, “If society permits public source of stimulation, it cannot prohibit private sources of relief.”

(Part II – “To be a Man”)

(For feedback email to precious.soliven@yahoo.com)

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