This morning, my daughter was in the bathroom with me (like every other morning). The difference is I am on my “lady days” (aka period) and she was watching me intently. When the questions started coming about pads and tampons, I made the quick decision not to hide anything. This is mostly to make my life easier because it would be a real hassle trying to hide in the bathroom every month and avoid my children who follow me everywhere like little ducklings. It would be stranger for them to randomly be pushed out of the bathroom one week every month and face a locked bathroom door (followed by banging, screaming and crying). It’s simpler for me to just tell them about tampons, pads and periods. Also, I figure if she just knows periods are a part of life and this happens to every women then we won’t need the formal “talk” in years to come.
Here’s what happened when my daughter watched me change my tampon:
4 year old daughter: Mama, what’s that (pointing to tampon)? Why is there blood there (pointing to pad)?
Mama: This is called a tampon and once a month I bleed from my vagina. It doesn’t hurt and it happens to every girl when they are grown up.
4 year old: Why do you bleed?
Mama: When there isn’t a baby in my uterus, I bleed, but it’s OK (I did not mention cramps because some things can wait). I put the tampon in my vagina to keep the blood from spilling into my underwear and the pad is like a diaper to catch the blood. Pads keep me from having accidents.
4 year old smiles and says: I’ll get to use tampons and pads when I’m a grown up?
4 year old: You’ll show me how to use them?
4 year old: I put food in me so it’ll come out of my vagina! (I think she’s referencing how we say when you eat and drink it comes out as pee and poop.)
I grew up in an environment where discussing anything related to our reproductive systems was very taboo. When I asked questions, I was told lies and anything close to the truth was considered dirty and covert. Needless to say, when I got my first period, I was VERY confused about what was going on and I learned how babies are made on my elementary school playground. I would like to have more influence over how my children learn these life lessons (better from me than a 5th grader), so I’m taking a different approach with my kids. Moreover, I have two more little girls who look to me and their big sister to be their role models and tell them about the world. It never ceases to amaze me how kids take new information in stride.