I think as moms we all have this idea of how “the talk” will go, or how we will handle sensitive questions that our children throw at us… but the moment almost never goes as planned, because usually the moment is totally unpredictable and happens when we least expect it!! Such was the case when my 9-year-old son asked me about periods last week.
I honestly wasn’t ready for this talk with him! I have two teenage daughters who I literally sat down when they were 8 or 9 and very carefully explained everything to them. I planned for it. I bought books and everything! Maybe it was easier for me because they were girls? I was a girl, so I felt like I could relate to them! But when my SON came to me one evening while I was working and told me my 17-year-old daughter told him “girls have something happen to them every month that hurts and makes them grouchy”, I kind of went into panic mode. This is how the conversation went:
My son: “I want to know EVERYTHING, mom”
Me: “Are you… sure?” (Kid, this is your escape. Run for the hills!)
Son: “Yes. Everything.”
Me: Deep breath and silent prayers…”Uhh, ok”
“Well, as you know, girls and boys have different body parts, right?”
Son: “Yeah! I have a penis!!”
Me: “Right…well, girls have other parts that help them carry a baby inside their body.”
Son: “Like, their stomach right? I have a stomach too.”
Me: “No, babies don’t grow inside stomachs. They grow inside a ladies uterus, which is like a pouch down here” (motions where it is)
Son: “Ohhh, like a sack?! I have one of those too!”
Me: (heaven help me) “Well, actually this is on the inside of a woman’s body, down here (motions to where it is) And every month it gets ready in case a baby starts growing there. It gets really soft and comfortable and pillowy, the perfect place for a baby!”
At this point my son is completely intrigued. He looks as if someone just handed him 10 packs of Pokeman cards. And I’m patting myself on the back because I’m totally rocking this talk! Everything is going so smoothly…
I continue: “So, if a lady doesn’t get pregnant that month (please don’t ask me how she gets pregnant or I’ll poke my eyes out) her body gets rid of the old stuff in her uterus and it starts all over again”
My son: “Cool, ok, so how does she get rid of the old stuff?”
Me: “Well, that’s a period! It comes out as blood and stuff, from her vagina. She bleeds.”
My son’s expression instantly changes from intrigue to horror (I caught the moment with a photo. See below)
Me: (nervous laugh) Yep, so that’s a period. Aren’t bodies amazing?!! And sometimes it hurts and sometimes it makes girls a little grouchy. And that’s why we buy lots of pads and tampons around here…
Son: “Oh my gosh!” (makes connection) “the pads and tampons catch the BLOOD?!!”
He looks equally disgusted and mesmerized at the same time.
Me: “Well, yes. But even though women don’t like getting their periods, they are very grateful that their bodies can grow babies. Women’s bodies are beautiful and sacred and special.”
Son: “Well, that’s for sure”
This is where I felt like I might cry a little…
Me: “So, how are you feeling about this??”
Son: “Well, I actually feel really grateful that I am a boy right now. And I have something I would like to say to the girls…”
I wasn’t expecting what happened next.
He ran upstairs, found his sisters, and very sincerely and seriously said “Girls, I AM SO SORRY! I am so sorry you have to have periods every month for like 3 or 5 days, and I understand why sometimes you don’t want to talk to me.”
They giggled and laughed, but he was super serious about it, and it was slightly adorable.
Our talk may have been a little awkward, a little unpredictable, and a little messy, but we survived, and it went ok. I don’t know that there is a “right” way to have these talks, because every child and every parent is different. I think the important thing is to know that they will happen so prepare yourself as much as possible! And be sincere about it when they do happen. Talk to your child on their level, using ideas that they can understand and relate to.
The best part is watching my son revel in this new found information. He has a little more confidence now, like he’s discovered a hidden level on a video game. It’s cute, and he’s totally diggin’ it. I also love that it taught him compassion and respect.
And now this mama can breathe for a while…until he wants to know EVERYTHING about how babies are made…