Inside:If You’re Embarrassed About Talking To Your Daughter About Her Period, Don’t Be. Your Relationship May Depend On It.
“Oh, Mom. Seriously?” my daughter remarked.
“This is way more information than I needed to know.”
“Well, you should know about this stuff. All of it,” I replied.
I was desperately hoping she didn’t see the blush creeping up my cheeks.
I was in the middle of a play-by-play of what it was like to have your period, and I wasn’t sparing details.
“Mom, can’t I just read the book? And they told us most of this at school,” she begged.
“Nope. We need to be able to discuss this kind of thing, it’s only the beginning…”
And that was when my daughter’s head exploded.
Well, not really. But I think she was hoping it would.
This may not seem too big of a deal for you. If you have openly been talking about penises and vaginas since your child’s first bath, then you deserve some sort of parenting award.
As for me, and I bet a lot of other moms out there, talking about this sort of stuff is painful.
It makes me nauseous, anxious and and a little bit dizzy all at the same time.
It truly feels like I may die of embarrassment.
But I do it anyway.
I do it because talking to them about this stuff, stuff that is uncomfortable and awkward and hard, could make a real difference in their lives one day.
You see, I had what seemed like an awesome relationship with my mom growing up.
We went shopping and to lunch and ate dinner together as a family regularly.
My mom and I were close, we were pals.
But as I entered the teen years, despite our good relationship, there were things we didn’t talk about.
Like when I first got my period and I didn’t tell her.
I was embarrassed and a little freaked out and I just didn’t know how to approach her.
I will be forever thankful for Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret or else I might not have known what to expect or what to do.
It wasn’t that my mother had made certain topics intentionally taboo. She always said I could come talk to her about anything.
But between her not bringing it up and my natural adolescent bashfulness about these subjects, it was easier to avoid it.
As a result, my period starting was only one of many things I didn’t share with my mother as I got older.
I didn’t talk to her when most of my friends started having sex with their boyfriends, or when I started pushing these intimate boundaries myself.
I would have felt so ashamed if she knew I was even considering having sex.
And I literally almost cried with relief when at 17 my doctor said, “Your blood test shows you are anemic, so I’m going to put you on a birth control pill to help regulate you a bit.”
My mom sat beside me and simply agreed for my health.
Little did she know I was letting out a huge exhale, thankful that I didn’t have to actually tell her that I wanted contraception for other reasons.
I was lucky, I managed to make it out of my teen years fairly unscathed.
My mom was strict and that combined with good fortune kept me from ending up in too many precarious situations as a teen.
But I often wonder what would have happened if I had been more of a risk taker or if I’d had more serious boyfriends in high school.
Would I have been brave enough to ensure I used protection every time?
Would I have been bold enough to walk into a Planned Parenthood to obtain birth control?
I am not sure of the answers, but I know any of these scenarios was far more likely than me actually talking to my mom about any of it.
Anything but that.
I don’t think it’s my mom’s fault.
She was from a different era.
She married at 18 and didn’t not grow up in the same world that I did.
Her outlook on my teen years was shaded by the innocence of her own experiences.
And my own more cautious personality probably saved us both from the most dire consequences of our lack of communication.
But as different as the world was between when my mother and I were teenagers, it’s nothing compared to the differences that exist for my girls.
I wish having a more open relationship with my daughters these days was as simple as talking to them about their periods and sex.
Now with the internet, cell phones and social media I’m going to have to tackle topics that would have made my mother faint – sexting, porn, sending nude selfies.
I know I must have these conversations with my girls — these anxiety provoking, awkward, excruciatingly embarrassing conversations — because their futures depend on it.
So, we’re starting with their periods.
I talked with my daughter about the whole menstruation process from beginning to end…well, at least everything I knew about it.
And yes, I used the word menstruation and period and time of the month and your friend “Flow”.
We talked about cramps and pads and tampons and what to do when you go swimming or you end up bleeding on your clothes at school.
And after all that, she even asked me a shy question or two.
I looked her in the eyes. I didn’t mince words. I was direct.
As we were finishing up, my almost 11-year old daughter walked into the room.
“Whatcha guys talking about?” She naively asked.
I waited for her older sister to shout: “Run for your life! Mom is talking about disgusting stuff.”
But instead, she casually stated, “You know, just about getting your period and stuff.”
I sat in shock.
The girl who turned crimson when I even said the word menstruation took it all in stride.
“I’m outta here,” my youngest said, turning on her heel to flee.
“Wait,” I called out.
“Listen. It isn’t easy for me talking about this stuff either, but we need to talk about it. The more we talk about it, the less embarrassing it gets.”
I had their attention.
“So, we’re going to keep having these conversations. Because you need to know you can come to me about anything. Even when you’re embarrassed.”
“Especially when you’re embarrassed.”
“Oh, and if you don’t come to me, I will come to you.”
I looked deeply into their eyes, looking for affirmation, a connection not there before.
“Yeah, mom. You can talk to us about periods and sex, and Dad can talk to us about soccer and farts. We’ll totally be covered.”
They turned and hurried up the stairs before I could even think of a response.
But I felt like I won.
My prude, Pollyanna self got through an embarrassing conversation and I didn’t die.
We all survived and next time I know it will be a little less mortifying.
Most importantly, I’m know there will be a next time and a time after that…..
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