“Oh, Mom. Seriously?” my daughter remarks. “Way more information than I needed to know.”
I hope she doesn’t see the blush creeping up my cheeks.
“Well, you should know about this stuff. All of it,” I reply. 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 and so much more. Wait until we start talking about S.E.X.”
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 I salute you.
For me, talking about this sort of stuff is painful. It makes me want to stick pins in my eyes. I feel like I may die of embarrassment.
But I do it anyway. Because I know it may make the difference in my daughters’ lives.
You see, I had an awesome relationship with my mom growing up. We often went shopping or to lunch. We ate dinner together as a family regularly. We were pals.
Except when I first menstruated I didn’t tell her because I was embarrassed. We didn’t talk about that much and I thank Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret for giving me the skinny on periods.
I didn’t talk to her when most of my friends started having sex with their boyfriends, and I started pushing boundaries myself. I would be 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 shook her head up and down while she sat beside me while I thanked God that I did not have to talk to her about the possibility I wanted contraception.
I was lucky. My mom was strict and by good fortune I did not put myself in too many precarious situations. I often wonder what would have happened if I had a more serious boyfriend in high school. Would I be brave enough to ensure I used protection every time? Would I have walked into a Planned Parenthood to obtain birth control?
I am not sure of the answer, but I know both are more likely than me going to talk to my parents about it. Anything but that.
It’s not that my mom told me never to bring difficult topics up. It’s quite the opposite in fact. She always said I could come talk to her about anything. But between her not bringing it up and me feeling abashed, it was easier to avoid it.
I don’t think it’s my mom’s fault. She is from a different era, and married at 18. She did not grow up in the same world that I did, and certainly not the ones of my kids where every media outlet is sexually charged.
But now with three daughters of my own, I know I must have these conversations — these painful, excruciatingly embarrassing conversations — with my girls, because their futures may depend upon it.
So, I continued to educate my daughter on tampons and cramps and what happens when you take a shower and you have your period. We talked about the menstruation process from beginning to end…well, at least everything I knew about it.
And she even asked me a shy question or two. I looked her in the eyes. I didn’t mince words. I was direct.
When I felt like there was nothing left to go over, my almost 11-year old daughter walked into the room. “Whatcha guys talking about?”
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, grabbing an apple and turning on her heel.
“Wait,” I called out. “Listen. I don’t love talking about this stuff either, but the more we talk about it, the less embarrassing it gets. And we need to be able to talk about it. I don’t ever want you not coming to me because you are embarrassed. About anything.”
I had their attention.
“So, we’re going to keep having these conversations. More and more. Because I want you to know you can come to me about anything. Even when you’re embarrassed. Especially when you’re embarrassed. And if we all talk about it, sometimes you can even go to each other if you’re not ready to come to me.”
I looked deeply into their eyes, looking for affirmation, a connection not their 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.
I’ll take that as a win.