Today, I read a Facebook post and comments about when Indian men first learnt about periods and the attitude to periods in their families. While most of the men who responded were of a liberal bent of mind, most of them seemed to have properly understood menstruation in their late teens. I was pretty surprised.
I learnt about periods when I was about eight, maybe even earlier. Now obviously, I’m a girl so I was bound to learn about it sooner rather than later when my own body changed, but my parents didn’t wait till then or maybe I didn’t give them opportunity. I’ve mentioned in a previous comment how my parents were pretty free with their bodies around us, and our toilet door was never locked (because the lock broke and the door expanded and was not easy to fix.) In our house, a closed toilet door meant someone was using it, but if it was my mom or sister especially, that gave us licence to barge in and ask burning or non-burning questions anyway. And if it was urgent, we’d barge in on our dad as well.
Anyway, during one such barge-in, I noticed the blood in the loo before my mom flushed. I was alarmed. So my mum took the opportunity to give me a quick intro to menstruation. Honestly, the idea of blood leaking out of the body every month astonished me less than the idea of a whole baby coming out of a vagina. First, I had to be convinced that there were indeed two holes down there. Then, I had to be convinced that an entire baby can come out of said hole. I was pretty sure my mom was making it all up, because she had a scar on her abdomen (from an appendix operation) which we had assumed was where we had exited from and that seemed more plausible and palatable than some stretchy hole .
So, that’s how I learnt about menstruation, and that’s how my kids learnt about it at the age of four or thereabouts.
In the glorious tradition of my family, I regularly leave the bathroom door unlocked, even though I now have a properly functioning lock. I’m not sure why I do it, I don’t think it’s because I’m an exhibitionist. I think maybe because I’m just not used to locking doors before the urgent matter of sitting down to do my business. And of course, it’s a rule of the thumb that when mum goes in somewhere that could mean a moment’s peace, the kids will barge in. While most parents complain about how their kids bang on the door of bathroom, mine just waltz in and unload whatever urgent matter needs resolving (e.g. look at me eloquently scratch my elbow).
I think I tried to make half hearted attempts to lock the door when I’m on my period, but of course I wasn’t rigorous about it and the kids walked and wanted to know about the blood. So I told them. They already knew that babies live in mummies tummy for a bit. So I told them that every month, mummy’s tummy makes a nest out of blood in case a baby needs to come live in it. If no baby happens, the blood comes out. They asked me a couple of times, and then were satisfied with my explanation.
There you go. Menstruation done. They sometimes assist with removing pads from the pack and handing them to me, but usually, I try to lock them out mainly because I really would like some peace and quiet.
On the other hand, I find sex harder to explain. The idea of a penis going into a vagina is not going to go down well, I’m pretty sure (and anyway there are more than one way to have sex and/or to make a baby). I think I’m going to stick with daddy has a seed which he gives mummy and when you put them together they make an egg.
How did you learn about menstruation? And how and when do you plan to explain it to your kids?