I have two daughters; the eldest has just turned eight years old. So it’s fairly safe to say that at some point in the future, there’s going to be a whole lot of menstruating going on in our house. My poor husband may decide to move into the shed. But how do you decide how much or how little to tell your children about puberty? How do you even begin to have that conversation?
For me, it starts young. As anyone with children will know, there is very little that can be kept private when you have inquisitive children around the house. As soon as they could walk, mine have always followed me to the loo. It’s safer than leaving them unattended for a couple of minutes and I figured it was a good way to introduce the idea of potty and toilet training.
Of course a side effect of this is that they often catch a glimpse of my knickers while I’m on my period. My youngest is vaguely aware of my pads. She still wears a nappy at night and calls cloth pads “mummy’s nappies”. She hasn’t really asked any questions about it yet but I’ll answer her truthfully at a level she understands, if and when she does ask. I figured that if she is used to seeing and speaking about periods from a young age, by the time she needs to know this stuff it’ll be completely “normal” and not taboo.
My oldest girl takes a huge interest in my cloth pads. She gets just as excited about inspecting my fluffy post as I do. She knows what they are for; that mummy bleeds at certain times of the month and that when she is older, she will too. She knows that the different sizes of pad mean that sometimes there is more blood and sometimes less. She’s curious about it but not concerned.
We recently had a conversation about how many “holes” girls have and what they are for. This happened out of the blue on the way home from school one day because a girl in her class had told her that sweetcorn came out when she peed! It took a fair bit of quick-thinking mum skillz to set her straight! But I was also really pleased that she’d come to me to ask for clarification. It must mean she trusts me to tell her the truth. It means I’m doing something right!
Another time (at home this time!) she asked if it hurts when I bleed and I admit I said no. I didn’t want to scare her. My own aches really aren’t so bad that they are unbearable and at this stage I want her to look forward to the changes that are coming. I don’t see any need to worry her unnecessarily so I’ll deal with that one when the time comes!
Over the last couple of months I have started building her a little stash of pads. She kept asking if she could have some and I didn’t see any reason to say no. There really are a lot of fun fabrics around for young girls.
She is allowed to get them out of my bottom drawer to look at if she likes. She has asked if she can wear one at night but I said no to that. I told her that they are special and only to be used when she is old enough. I wouldn’t let her wear a bra at eight years old and I feel the same about cloth pads.
I found puberty really hard. I had crushingly low self esteem and was excruciatingly self conscious of my changing body. EVERYTHING was embarrassing and it wasn’t really something we spoke about at home. I’d hate for her to feel that way. I want her to look forward to it and celebrate it when it happens. Part of that celebration will be handing over her very own stash of pretty cloth pads.
She has always been physically ahead of her years and I can already see little signs that puberty might not be too far away. I love that she is so open and accepting about it all and I hope that never changes. I hope it rubs off onto my younger daughter too. Because actually, as most fluff-lovers already know, periods can be fun!