I don’t really remember having a talk about menstruation when I was a kid. I grew up in a household with three other females: my mom and my two sisters. I was the middle child, so I watched as my older sister went through the roller-coaster rites of puberty while I was still flat-chested and rocking Wonder Woman Under-Roos®. From my perch in the family tree, puberty looked uncomfortable, kinda grouchy, and required a lot of pimple products. There were boxes of pink plastic-wrapped Kotex pads that seemed to rapidly transfer from inside the bathroom cabinet, to inside the waste basket. I wasn’t stoked about the future.
Fast forward a few decades and I’m a mom. I’ve been talking frankly with both my kids about bodies and menstruation since they were littles learning their body parts, back when they could say “vulva” or “penis” without giggling. Just a few weeks ago we had my daughter’s well-child visit with the pediatrician, and we talked about puberty. The doctor gave the rundown on what we’d already been through together at home: stinky armpits, hair between the legs, growth spurts, the whole shebang. Then the doctor turned to me and said, “When you need to have these conversations at home, make sure you two are alone, and sit side by side so that you avoid eye contact and no one’s uncomfortable.” I chuckled. “Oh that’s okay. She and I have had all these conversations already, and we’ve been eye to eye.” I looked over to my daughter who was sitting on the doctor’s papered table and she smirked.
A few years ago as I was on the GladRags website my daughter peeked over my shoulder and said, “What’s that? Does it go over your eyes???” She was pointing at a strawberry print cloth pantyliner. It did kinda look like an eye mask! I said “No, that’s for periods. To catch the blood that comes out of vaginas a few days every month.” And she didn’t flinch. She didn’t look grossed out. Instead she said “I want one with owls on it!” She was stoked.
She’s nine years old now, and may still have a few years in front of her before her first period makes its debut. But I want her to know, right out of the bloody gates, that cloth pads and cups are the new status quo. That menstruation is normal, and even though at times it can be uncomfortable, it’s still a remarkably cool thing that our bodies do, and should never be the source of shame. So I presented her with a GladRags First Periods Kit. It comes with 3 Day Pads, 3 Pantyliners, 1 Carry Bag, and a copy of Passage: A Girl’s Guide. She asked why there were two different pad sizes, and I explained it was because some days on your period the bleeding will be lighter than other days. “But how will I know what to be ready for???” she asked, wide-eyed. It was a good question, and I told her that with time her period would become more predictable and she would know when to anticipate using different sizes of her pads. She still looked a little perplexed but shrugged and said, “I like this leopard print bag.” (She didn’t comment on the fact that there were no owl prints at this time … phew!)
She laid down in a sunny spot on the floor and opened her new book, and I asked her if I could take a quick photo. “What for?” (slight eye roll …) “Well,” I answered, as I strategically placed the contents of her new First Periods Kit near her as she laid on the floor, “so that I can help other kids feel good about getting their periods, too.” She gave me a nod of approval, then flipped through a few pages of her new book before carrying her First Periods Kit to her room. She tucked it in to the top drawer of her dresser, and then headed outside into the sunshine to play.