“I got my period,” my daughter whispered to me on Saturday evening as we were getting ready to go out for dinner.
My heart leapt. I had been waiting for this. I got my first period at the age of twelve and it had been on my mind since my daughter’s twelfth birthday. I had a box of organic napkins stashed in my closet for a whole year, just for her. I even brought it along when we went camping last summer. Now a few weeks past her thirteenth birthday, her first period arrived.
I was glad I was with her. I was glad she was home. I went in the bathroom with her and showed her how to stick the napkin with the wings on her panties, then I left her alone. We all got ready to go out. The evening turned from just another Saturday evening together as a family into a secret celebration.
After dinner, my husband bought her six red roses and I bought her some dark chocolate, her favorite. We did not speak of it. She’s secretive and quick to roll her eyes at anything she deems embarrassing. We put our little offerings out on the kitchen island for her the way we would leave food out for skittish wild animals.
On Sunday she met up with some friends at the ice skating rink. When she got home, her best friend came over to visit for the last time. Her best friend’s family is moving to Florida in the next few days. My daughter baked a strawberry shortcake. The four of us had a little cake party. Without fanfare we had a farewell party for not only her best friend, but my daughter’s childhood as well.
I am writing this with tears in my eyes. I am in awe of the beautiful person my child is and is becoming. I am honored and graced by her presence. My daughter is a powerful force of nature, a wise old soul with one of the sharpest bullshit detectors I’ve ever seen in a human, and now she’s a woman. The world is richer because of her.
— May Ling Su (@maylingsu) November 18, 2017
If you have a daughter who is expecting her first period, here are 5 ways to prepare:
- Normalize the period. I started at birth. I was a work-at-home mom who toted my daughter with me always and everywhere. I wore her in a sling, a front pack, a back pack. When I went to the restroom, she went, too. It made potty training easy by being an example to her. The word “period” was part of her vocabulary pretty soon after she learned to talk. Don’t worry if your situation is different from mine. It’s not too late to start the conversation.
- Open the door to discussion. There is room for silly stories about storks and angels, but serious questions about sex and reproduction, no matter how young they were when they asked, should be answered honestly in an age-appropriate manner. Remember, you want to present yourself as a credible resource for information. If you don’t know the answer, google it.
- Stock up on supplies. Your daughter’s period will come at pretty much the same age as the mother. Keep a box of menstrual products in the bathroom cabinet. Pack a stash when going on trips, sleepovers, or even just in her school backpack. You never know when Aunt Flo is going to show up. Having supplies handy can make a difference in your daughter’s self-esteem during this stage in her life when embarrassment equals death.
- Don’t be pushy. Public schools have sex education classes. Even the all-girls Catholic school I went to had sex education classes. Whenever I started any conversation about menstruation with my daughter starting at age twelve, she interrupted me with, “I already know that.” Just back off. Don’t insist you have something more to teach her at that point. Let her know you’re there for her when she needs you.
- Encourage her to keep a calendar. There are period tracker apps available so that she can mark down her periods. She will be irregular for a while, but it may help her become more in tune with her body’s cycles.
Can you add anything else to the list above? How did you prepare your daughter for her first period? How did you celebrate it?