When you're first told you're having a boy, a litany of things come to mind. You might think about how you hope to raise him. You might answer questions in your mind such as, if he wants to play with dolls or take ballet, am I cool with that? (Yes and yes, by the way.) But one topic that sort of snuck up on me was periods.
If you have a girl, addressing periods at some point is inevitable. They're going to have one, therefore, they're going to need to know about it. But with boys, there appears to be more of a choice. They don’t technically have to understand menstrual cycles. You could actually hide the entire thing from them and let them find out about it in health class, or more likely, the playground. But in my opinion, that would be doing both them, and the girls in their life, a huge disservice.
I admit that the idea of whether or not to hide my period from my boys didn’t occur to me until my cycle had returned and my toddler followed me into the bathroom. (If you have managed to use the restroom alone, please let me know how it’s done.) At that moment I realized that I had a choice: To treat it as something strange, gross, and shameful or as a totally normal bodily function.
Just because my sons will never experience it firsthand doesn’t mean they shouldn’t know about it.
My strategy was simply this: I would let them lead the conversation. I wouldn’t go out of my way to make my period known, aside for the inevitable complaint of cramps directed at my husband, but I wouldn’t try to hide it either. I would casually change my pad just as I had casually wiped in front of them many times. If they seemed unfazed then I wouldn’t even bring it up. If I saw a look of concern—it is blood after all—or got a question, I would answer it honestly.
I've explained in plain English that each month a woman’s body prepares, in case she is going to be pregnant. When you grow a baby you need extra blood and tissue to help it grow and keep it safe. If you don’t become pregnant, that extra blood and tissue comes out and then your body starts over fresh. It’s not an injury and it’s nothing to be worried about, it’s totally normal and kind of cool!
And when they inevitably rifle through my purse and produce a pad or tampon I don’t snatch it away in horror, I ask nicely to have it back. To answer their curiosity about the feminine hygiene products I say something along the lines of, "Having your period is not the same as pee or poop, I can’t control when it comes out so I wear a pad or tampon to catch the blood."
For women periods are a fact of life. Menstruation certainly isn’t fun to deal with, but the fact that it's directly related to our ability to create life makes it powerful and worthy of respect. Just because my sons will never experience it firsthand doesn’t mean they shouldn’t know about it.
I don't want my boys to be the ones on the playground teasing girls and saying, “Ewww” about a perfectly normal thing. After all, it’s a large part of the reason they exist! My hope is that my honest and positive example will help them become the well- informed, respectful young men I always imagined when I was told I’d be raising a boy. And more respectful boys in the world can only be a good thing.