How Judy Blume Made Me A Better Mom

One mom reflects on the way 'Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret' shaped her as a teen—and now a parent.

Are you there God still


Raise your hand if you ever remember feeling like your parent didn't understand you.

As a millennial, I grew up in the age of the internet. My parents couldn't comprehend the societal pressure of chatrooms or streaming, much less the gnawing feeling I got every time I walked past an Abercrombie or thumbed through Cosmo Girl. It's like they spoke a different language.

Now, I'm a parent who recognizes that the only thing harder than going through middle school is watching your kid go through middle school. Turns out I was right. We do speak a different language. Ask my daughters how awful it is to hear me jokingly toss out words like "bussin" or "lit." It's horrifying.

But the truth of it all is simple. Teens today live life by a completely different set of rules. They don't imagine what they'd look like if their face was as thin as a models. They can see it in real time as quickly as they can thumb through filters on TikTok. I'll never understand what it feels like to be transformed by a filter—this "perfected" version of yourself and then have to try and go to school looking like...well, an adolescent girl.

Despite the fact that each generation speaks a different language, we all have certain universal experiences, like puberty. Puberty hits every single one of us with the subtlety of a brick to the face. And worst of all, it is such an isolating experience so secretive we took to calling a period 'Aunt Flow' to make sure we go undetected. Back in my teen years, we couldn't talk about things like periods, puberty, or sex with anyone—no way! That was too risky. I might have carried that mentality with me my entire life too, except that I had a secret weapon. Forget Aunt Flow, I had Aunt Judy.

When Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, a coming-of-age novel—and now a movie, in theaters now—was published in 1970 it was radical. Let me tell you, Judy Blume didn't shy away from the taboo topics I was afraid to bring up at the dinner table. It was the first book for teens to tackle menstruation, and it didn't stop there. Aunt Judy wrote about religion too, and puberty, and sex. And those taboo subjects from the 70s still land her as the target of book bans today, 53 years after its release.

It's funny, isn't it? Fifty-three years worth of readers, 53 years worth of adolescence, and teens are still finding themselves in Margaret. Innumerable changes in the world and teens are still struggling with things that their grandparents struggled with. And parents are still trying to navigate how to deal with it. Luckily, we all still have Aunt Judy.

Aunt Judy never talked down to me as a reader. Those books weren't the after-school specials that preached abstinence. She trusted us enough to know that we probably knew more than our parents thought that we did, and created a safe space for us to get answers to every burning question. She taught us that we were perfect in our bodies and anything that make us different, also made us special—that part of growing up is questioning everything.

As a parent, Aunt Judy is still teaching me. I use her example every day when I talk to my kids. I trust them enough to know that they know more than I probably think they do. I try my best to create a safe space for them to get answers without reacting. I teach them they are perfect in their bodies, and anything that makes them different also makes them special—and that part of growing up is questioning everything.

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