by D.L. Fields
Reaction to the words "my period."
"I thought I was going to have my period!" blurted my eight-year-old daughter.
I was surprised to hear my baby girl talk about a mature subject, but not really. Yes, it was unexpected, but for the last couple of years I've been informing Sarah about periods and how she'll have one someday. I think she was four, maybe three the first time it was mentioned. Anyway, we haven't had a formal "birds and bees" talk. Just every now and again I'd mention something and she'd ask a question. Example: I'd mention that I have to put sanitary napkins on the grocery list. Sarah would ask "What are those for?" and the exchange of information would begin. I figure it's her body; she needs to know how it works.
Which completely opposite of how I was raised. When Mom gave me "the talk" she sat me down in my room and told me that "your body is going to change..." I got the feeling from her hushed whispers that this information shouldn't be discussed with anyone, even my older sisters. I didn't get another talk until two years later when I announced that I had started my period. Begrudgingly Mom gave me a calendar and told me how to keep track of my cycles in a "I told you once, I don't have to tell you again" tone; this information proved useless to me because I never, ever had a regular period. Instead I reminded myself to carry a purse full of pads and Pamprin. At least Mom gave me some information; when my Grandmother started the first time nobody told her anything. Grandma told her mother who made the "shame, shame" sign by rubbing one finger down the length of another. And this ignorance of biology doesn't end with women; my sister admitted that when she and her husband married twenty five years ago he didn't know anything about periods. His older sister--a nurse--had to explain it to him.
After a lifetime of hearing horror stories my husband and I decided that the real "curse" wasn't the period, it was the lack of communication and information. We are raising our daughter without shame of knowing how her body works. If Sarah wants to ask us when she is going to develop breasts or what is the function of pubic hair, she can and we won't try to distract her with a cookie and change the subject. We treat all inquiries with a "that's the way it is" manner. We want Sarah to be comfortable, that way she'll get correct information from us, rather than hearing something from her peers that's a cross between an old wives tale and something scrawled on a bathroom wall.