Don’t all moms prepare their girls for the natural process of menstruation?
Do young girls in healthy relationships with their father normally inform him when she starts her first period?
I suppose most Dads are completely absent from the whole episode. Believe me, I haven’t attempted to be super involved in this particular event. But because of the way things have gone down over the last few years I’m a little peeved that my oldest daughter didn’t tell me a couple of months ago when it happened… and still hasn’t. Yet I’m even more shocked that my ex-wife apparently didn’t talk much about it with our little girl ahead of time.
I pride myself on being as open and present as possible in my kids lives. I’ve got an “ask anything” policy that they utilize quite often. I want them to feel free to question and to explore ideas without judgment. More often than not, in the past, this has meant them asking me about sex and other bodily functions.
Over the years the kids have asked me everything from body changes in puberty to various sex question (all pretty age appropriate). A couple of weeks ago my son called me up and asked, “Dad, can I ask you a personal question? Have you ever gotten a zit on your penis? ‘Cause I have one and it hurts and I am wondering if that’s normal.” Just this last weekend one of them had questions about hermaphrodites.
It’s all pretty random.
All along I’ve gotten the sense that these questions come to me because they don’t feel as safe in asking them to their mom, but I wasn’t sure. Oh, I know they do talk to their mom about other things. But if it is even remotely sexual or about their bodies they come to me.
About 4 years ago on a drive to Target my then 8 year old daughter started asking me about her impending menstruation. Yeah, totally out of the blue…with me – her gay, divorced father. So, I explained the biology of it as best I could and then we stopped at the “woman’s section” of Target and I showed her the various methods of dealing with it that we’d just discussed in the car. At the time I was actually quite proud of myself for the way I handled it. Since then she’s made small comments about the coming change.
The one question I couldn’t answer was what it felt like. I told her she’d have to ask her mom for an accurate reading on that one. And I lazily assumed she would. I don’t think she did. Her mom and I weren’t communicating too effectively ourselves at point (we still don’t, but it’s better) so I never relayed the expectation. I guess I also just assumed that years later when it actually happened my daughter would let me know.
This past weekend when I was staying with just the kids at their other house for the weekend, we were playing Sardines. When it was my turn, I decided to hide in my now 12 year old’s bed under the covers. It actually worked well as they all came in the room and didn’t see me the first time. But the point is that I noticed some blood on her sheets…more than from a pricked finger and less than something you’d panic about. So, I waited until we were alone later that night when I was tucking her in and I asked her…
OK, OK … so, as I typed that last sentence it kind of sounds weird and putting myself in a 12 year old girl’s shoes I probably would have frozen.
Like she did.
She just stared at me and didn’t say anything… the same exact reaction I get when I ask her about her schoolwork when I see her starting to get poor grades. She just completely shuts me out and pretends she doesn’t hear me. Unlike with the grade discussions, this time I just let it go.
A few days later I spoke on the phone with her mom and asked he if our baby had started her period.
“Yes, I’m surprised she hasn’t told you. It happened when…” (She tells me the whole story and I tell her she need to wash the kid’s sheets)
“She’s going to have to tell me when she comes to stay with me, isn’t she? Because I’m going to have to buy her stuff.”
“Yes. She will. I’m wondering about our 9 year old already, because she’s developing early in every other way”
“Well, have you talked to her about what to expect?”
“No. She’s in fourth grade and that’s when they have the special class in school.”
Cut to me shocked but silent on the phone.
Really? We’re leaving it up to the school?
Keep in mind that she and her family are big Tea Party fans who prefer limited government and personal responsibility, but we’re leaving personal hygiene and sex education to them nonetheless.
I’m so glad I at least had a talk with my girl even if it was a lame biological explanation.
Guess who is going to talk to his 9 year old next time we’re alone together.