By Tracee Sioux
I’ve been racking my brain, trying to figure out why we keep the monthly menstrual cycle a big secret from our daughters.
I’ve got nothing. Can’t think of a single developmental reason for keeping the biological fact of menstruation from my daughter.
Out of default I have attempted to be private and secretive about my period. My 5-year-old daughter, Ainsley, has questioned me numerous times about what tampons and pads are. Or why I was being so uncharacteristically private. (Like most mothers I have no real privacy whatsoever.) I’ve always responded with something super lame like I’ll tell you when you’re older. To which she responds, Like when I’m a teenager? Then I say something like, Maybe when you’re 9.
I was quite shocked when learning about my monthly period. I must have been 9 or 10. The only thing I remember was thinking along the lines of, Whose idea was that? Why? Come to think of it, those are the questions I still have.
I suppose it felt like a coming of age thing. I can’t figure out how my mother kept it quiet for so long. My daughter was tuned into the tampons and pads from the get go and I’ve been avoiding the question, waiting for the appropriate right of passage moment.
Shopping for tampons at the pharmacy my daughter wanted to know what was up.
What are those?
It’s for my period. Girls bleed every month. Down there.
It happens so we can have babies.
Then CVS sent me a Kotex sample.
Did anything come in the mail for me? What’s that?
It’s a pad, for when I bleed. So the blood doesn’t get on my panties.
Why did they send you that?
I guess they want me to buy this kind of pad.
So many teachable moments passed before I finally told her and it was completely without drama. I can’t figure out why I hid it from her begin with.
My advice to other mothers of young daughters? Tell them the first time they ask. Tell your sons too for that matter. The mystery doesn’t add anything to the experience. Knowledge of their own body and its biological facts can only empower girls. If it’s something a girl has always known, it’s not surprising, shocking, shameful, weird or dirty.
After the knowledge of the biological fact there’s the issue of attaching a value judgement to the monthly period. Is it a blessing or a curse? Should we celebrate with a party and go out for tea or something to mark the moment? Well, we have a few years for that. I suppose it depends on your daughter’s attitude about getting it. I wanted it desperately as a sign of womanhood, I have a feeling Ainsley will feel the same way. She’s already quizzing me about when she’ll be allowed to wear make-up (12) and date (28). Like mother, like daughter.