How to talk to boys about periods

This is one of those blog posts that should really feature a question mark in the title.

How to talk to boys about periods? No idea. How about you?

It only struck me this week that it was a conversation I would have to have at some point (twice), if (adopts pompous voice) I want my boys to grow up into the kind of men I hope they’ll be. I’ve always known, of course, that it will come up sooner or later with my daughter; probably sooner, if the general trend of questioning from school friends with older sisters is anything to go by. Hopefully it will be more successful than when my own mum told me; after a long pause, when asked if I had any questions, I apparently replied “will I be able to do cursive writing?”

They’ve already got a hazy but fundamentally sound grasp of human biology. They know that daddies have seeds and that babies generally come out of holes in mummies’ bottoms, unless they’re like No1 and fail to ask for directions en route. We’ve so far magically avoided the issue of how the seeds turn into babies in mummies’ tummies in the first place, and how seeds work where there are two mummies or two daddies, but hopefully when we fill in that gap (so to speak) it won’t be quite as much of a shock as if they’d thought storks or cabbage patches had ever been involved.

So: sex and reproduction, yes. I knew they were on the parental to-do list eventually, together with the whole attempt to instil some peer-pressure-proof conviction that bedroom gymnastics are better not first attempted on a pile of coats in combination with Diamond White, or whatever fuels teenage parties these days.

It probably says a lot that I feel ickier about approaching the topic of periods with my boys than I do that of sex. I’d like to say that I don’t think they’re somehow dirty, but I think perhaps the truth is that I do, or at least I have done.

In the decade or so since I stopped taking the pill and have seen my body conceive several times and go on to grow, deliver and nourish three children, I’ve developed what I can only call a hippy-ish fascination with its cycles and seasons. I’ve discovered and brought myself to use mooncups; I can, with a moment’s pause, have a good guess at where in the month I am, even though I always forget to star my dates discreetly on the calendar as my mum taught me thirty odd years ago. I rather like it. It’s all quite clever, really; a rational, orderly progression, not the chaotic, hysterical, hormonal tyranny that a woman’s body is so often painted as being. Having learned to understand and appreciate what my body is doing and why, the messy and inconvenient business of menstruation has ceased to feel embarrassing and alien. It’s not that I count down the days with glee, you understand; more that I feel increasingly disinclined to be ashamed or resentful of it.

I am some way from announcing what my gran called “daisy time” with pride. I can’t see myself holding a party to celebrate my daughter’s first period, but I don’t want her to have to hide it all away from her father and her brothers either. A small but bolshy part of me argues: if she has to learn to manage the discomfort and bleeding and mess, her brothers should also be aware of what her daily (or monthly) existence involves. I don’t want to fall into shielding their sensibilities by demanding that she keep it all secret and hidden. I don’t remember ever openly talking about period pain in front of my brother or my dad. If my daughter is feeling rotten for any other reason she lets us all know: I am determined not to induct her into the language of euphemism and insinuation which turns womanly woes into a kind of secret code, the only way to mention the unmentionable in front of men. Nor do I want my boys to grow up thinking that women have to hide away their bodily realities to avoid embarrassing or inconveniencing them.

My boys – all my children – already know about periods of course, they just don’t know that they know. They have seen sanitary protection around the house (my 3 year old stealthily unzipped my handbag and, sitting on the floor behind me, waved a pair of Tampax above his head for several minutes during his sister’s Christmas show). At present, they just know that they are mummy’s special tissues (and yes, I know that I am thereby setting myself up to find a child with a tampon inserted nasally). They haven’t yet twigged that when they accompany me to the loo at certain times of the month there will always be a fast moving spider on the ceiling at one given moment. We talk all the time about children following their parents into the bathroom, but the sleight of hand involved in changing a tampon in the presence of an all-seeing toddler is one of the great unspoken triumphs of motherhood.

They are still little, but my eldest is at the age where girls in his class may well start their periods over the next year or so. I can’t change all the boys those girls will come into contact with, but I can do my best to make sure that mine, at least, doesn’t snigger or smirk or make things even more difficult for them.

I don’t know yet quite how I’m going to talk to my boys about periods. I just know that I will. I suspect that, after all, it will be pretty much like talking to my daughter about them. As it should be. And that they’ll be fine.

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11 thoughts on “How to talk to boys about periods

  1. Oh I hear you, my three year old son demands to follow me to the toilet which I don’t mind but…. I just don’t want him to watch when it’s ‘daisy time’. Mainly I wanted to write daisy time then. Loving daisy time 😉

  2. I know this is going to sound ridiculously ‘earth mother,’ (and perhaps I ought also to add a too much information alert here) but I really like getting my period. The first day always feels like a relief, and I get a comforting sense of renewal, like it’s a new start almost? I like the way my body works. I’m afraid I made a total hash of talking to my boys about this though. I just gave them a book to read and told them to come to me if they had any questions. They didn’t, unsurprisingly.

    1. No, I’m probably equally earth mother these days, but I know exactly what you mean.

      Re telling the boys, I still have no idea when or how to raise it. Might start to drop it into conversation though over the next year or so when the eldest is deep in Minecraft and see if it registers in his subconscious.

  3. I’m trying, and failing to access the part (s) of my memory as to when I had those conversations with my son and daughters. I suspect it was around the time at junior school when they the ‘talk’. Boys and girls were separated, which I never understood.as I feel it’s important that they each understand how the others body works just as much as their own. I have always been quite open with all of them not hiding my body or it’s various functions. They decided the point when it was no longer to their taste to come into the loo/bathroom etc with me. I have also been fairly open about the discomfort/inconvenience/mess/ etc. Having had terrible PMS and then early menopausal symptoms it was much easier for them to understand what was really going on and how it made me feel. All this was very different to what I grew up with!
    They are all adults now, and hopefully my son in particular is more understanding as a result. I look back in wonder at some of the conversations that we used to have during the school run, nothing was off limits fro religion to sex, why grass is green to whether aliens exist! Think Outnumbered and you have a good idea!

  4. I am not sure how old your kids are but I really recommend a book called Let’s Talk about Sex
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lets-Talk-About-Robie-Harris/dp/1406356042/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420391406&sr=8-1&keywords=let%27s+talk+about+sex

    I shared it with both my kids (boy and girl) when they were about 10…. Its really well written and put together and acted as a great starting point to further conversation and gave them something to explore in their own time and privately if they so wished

    Mollyxxx

  5. Opps I had NO idea that link would show up with a visual like that when I posted it, feel free to take that out if it looks too spammy for you, I truly didn’t mean for that to happen… damn internet too clever for its own good

    Mollyxxx

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