Period Talk! One would think that a mother of a 4-year-old girl would not have much to share on this subject. I concur because I have still not reached that stage when a parent actually gets into the elucidation of the biological process and the other nitty-gritty of menstruation to the child.
But, should period talk start only once a child is nearing puberty?
Should only the parents of girls be preparing themselves for this important conversation?
Should only the parents be responsible for making the young generation conscious and aware of this topic?
In my mind, the answers to the above questions are definitely in the negative. A couple of months back, my 4-year-old inquisitive tiny tot saw a sanitary napkin in my hand.
“What is this Mumma? Is that a diaper?” she was quick to inquire.
Before I could respond, a friend of mine interjected talking about some cartoon character in an attempt to divert the attention of my daughter. However, I took over the conversation and explained to my daughter in a simplistic manner that older girls and adult women bleed for a couple of days every month which is why they make use of such pads.
She further asked if it was because we get hurt, and I assured her that that’s not how it is. After a brief exchange between us, her curiosity was quelled and she seemed satisfied. From then on, during my periods, she no more shoots questions at me. In fact, she is quite considerate and ensures that I get some rest when she senses I am uncomfortable.
I know it doesn’t end here but the point I am trying to make is that this is how it begins.
I believe that when children ask a question, they are ready for its answer. So, instead of going hush-hush or ignoring their queries, it’s best that we, as parents, answer them in an age appropriate way. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier for them to gradually understand all about menstruation like this, rather than bombarding them with all the information one fine day which we deem is right to talk about it?
The only way we can make the dialogues around this taboo topic normal is by approaching it normally ourselves. While it is erroneous on our part to consider menstruation as something revolting or impure, glorifying it or regarding it as pious is just as specious. While it should not be talked about in suppressed or embarrassed voices, we do not need to scream about it from rooftops either.
We need to get over our own awkwardness for our children to not feel awkward when we talk to them on this subject. In fact, the responsibility of this lies not just with the parents, but also with every adult who plays a key role in the life of any child.
As a creative writing mentor, I strive to ensure I have these conversations with the grown-up kids in a matter-of-fact tone. Like during one of my classes, a girl penned a story which revolved around the topic of periods. I treated it like just another story while giving her feedback and also appreciated the compassion in her narration.
When one of the teenage boys happened to get a glimpse of her story, he at first giggled and then exclaimed, “Ewww! That’s gross!” I gently but firmly enunciated to him why there was nothing gross about it and how his birth was related to the menstrual cycle of women. He had learnt about it in school already but as a mentor, I thought it was important to not let go of that opportunity to make him more sensitive towards periods and understand it for what it is. It took a few minutes of my time but the impact would hopefully last much longer.
This goes back to my initial question about whether period talk should be limited to only young girls. Every gender must be as aware and involved in these discussions so that each girl going through it is comfortable to speak about it to her friends/relatives when needed. I remember a heartwarming post which was viral on various social media platforms about how a teenage boy helped a classmate during her periods. This is possible only when our conversations are all-inclusive, regardless of any gender. This also helps us to debunk myths around menstruation for the young generation who might be absorbing a whole lot of random stuff from their milieu. They need to get the right information from the right people and it is on us to make this happen.