A couple of months ago, the fam and I hit the beach. When you go with three little kids, you end up packing enough supplies to keep an average person comfortable on a deserted island for a week. Jack and I end up trudging from the parking lot to the beach like mules, bags strapped on our backs and arms holding a cooler and a beach umbrella while instructing the girls to hold onto our shorts, but please, please stop pulling them down.
We spent a few hours at the beach and it was lovely. When it was time to go, we were tired and hot and at that point just started unceremoniously shoving things into bags. We trudge back along the sand and all of a sudden I’m like… uhh.. am I dropping things? It feels like I’m dropping things.
I turn, and I AM dropping things. Not just any things. Tampons. They’re spilling out of my bag like I’m Gretel and they’re freaking breadcrumbs. I can’t leave them there because littering is wrong and I’d hate for a seagull to swallow one and have its stomach explode (or is that with alka seltzer?), plus I’m surrounded by people, so I call to Jack to stop for a second. I drop all of the equipment in my hands to the ground, and I retrace my steps, picking up tampons one by one like I’m doing some weird walk of shame.
“Hi how are you don’t mind me I just dropped a tampon right in front of your towel. Hi sorry forgive me. Sorry I’m a woman. Sorry I menstruate. Sorry I said menstruate. UGHHH sorry I said it again.”
I’m not really graceful about this sort of thing. When Jack and I first got married, I couldn’t go shopping for feminine hygiene products without being embarrassed. So I’d text him a little shopping list, and he’d buy them for me. When the wonder of online shopping came into full swing, I stopped buying them in public altogether.
It’s dumb. I’m over it, but I didn’t get over it until I was in my twenties.
Now that I’m a mom to THREE girls who will all get their periods, I don’t want this to be a source of shame or embarrassment for them. Which is why I really appreciated a recent commercial that came out, starring a 9 year old girl who unapologetically discusses getting her period for the first time. (We discussed this on Facebook if you’d like to see. The comments are great.)
I was 13 when I first got my period. Girls as young as 7 are getting it for the first time, which means this is a conversation that we need to have with our daughters earlier than we ever expected. Remmy turns five in a week and a half, and I realize that time is coming soon. I have to talk my daughters about getting their period, because I want them to hear about this sensitive topic from me, their mom, and not their classmates or friends. And I don’t want them to get it without knowing that it’s coming.
I had a frank discussion with my mom when I was about 12 or so. But for me it quickly turned into a major source of embarrassment. I kept pads hidden in a pencil case at the bottom of my backpack, and I’d shove one into my sleeve before I headed to the girls’ bathroom, sweating the whole time. I wasn’t allowed to use tampons, and I think many of us are stuck in this weird “young girls shouldn’t use tampons” mentality. Why? I had to make up many a swim class in high school because I couldn’t get in the pool when I had my period.
I realize that my discomfort with discussing this stems from my preference to not discuss private things publicly (haha except for now, hi guys!) or turn them into a source of humor. For example, no one guffaws at the dinner table if the baby burps after drinking her cup of water. We’ve taught them to say “excuse me” and be done with it.
While the aforementioned commercial advertises a service I don’t need (a monthly box subscription for feminine hygiene products), I appreciate a commercial that can relate to a younger girl. In a couple of years, my girls aren’t going to care about a commercial with an older woman wearing white and floating down a beach which cuts to a scene of a mysterious blue liquid being poured into a maxi pad. Advertising teams have shown us that they can do better. There were a couple of moments in the commercial that I didn’t love (the doll + the ketchup bottle made me cringe, for example, but that’s just a personal opinion), but I am grateful for a frank discussion.
I want them to feel safe with me, and for them to feel that their emotions are safe with me. I want to be there for them and not embarrass them. I want to plug in the heating pad and make them hot tea and sympathize when the cramps hurt. ”OOOH GIRL I KNOW I KNOW.”
For the dad readers out there, if you have cringed during this entire blog post, I get it. But if you have sons, you have a whole host of topics to look forward to, and if you have daughters, here’s a life pro tip: your daughters will forever appreciate you if you don’t make fun of them , if you don’t make light of the pain they’re in, if you don’t feign disgust when you buy them a pack of pantiliners, and if you offer them a hug and a candy bar each time their period rolls around.
Bonus points for milkshakes.