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No More Menstruation Jokes. Period.

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Have you ever received an urgent text from your child like this one?

My Cindy tried to call me while I was out of town attending a writing conference; I sent her call to voicemail and replied by text. The event was underway, and I had just settled in for the first breakout session. That was her text to me. Part of me thought she was calling me to tattle on her sister. I figured it was NBD.

However, when I heard her voice I knew it was a big deal.

I stepped outside to the pre-conference area to take the call. Cindy said, “Mom, I think I got my period.” I squealed – quite loudly. In an excited voice, I told her how happy I was for her and asked her how she felt. She said timidly, “Scared…” and I told her, “Oh honey, I understand. I can tell you, though; you are not dying. In fact, this is your body’s way of telling you that you are a superhero because you can bleed for a few days and not die. Also, you can create life.” She laughed at this and then I asked more about her fears. “What are you scared of?” and she said, “Because I am not ready.” Again, I told her I understood but that her body thinks she is ready for growing up. I reminded her of a couple of her friends who already menstruate. I asked her to recall the time her friend called to tell us her period news, and how we went to her house and brought her a red velvet cupcake to enjoy. She remembered with what sounded to be a smile in her voice. Then, I asked her what else she was scared of — Cindy said, “Spiders.”

After a few more laughs, and some “can’t wait to see you’s”, we said our goodbyes. I went back into the conference session in progress and tried to listen to the panel speakers. I could not. I was bursting. This was BIG NEWS. News I had been waiting for, and to be honest, I was kind of expecting. If there’s anything to mother’s intuition, I had a spidey sense that one of my daughters would get her period soon. So I reached out to a handful of friends who menstruate to request a little something in writing about their experiences with periods – memories, feelings, humor – something that I could share with my daughters. I got a bunch of interest but nothing in hand yet. I mean, I just posted the request eight days before!

So what did I do next?

I sat in the conference room (still not paying attention, sadly) and texted screen shots to my daughter from the period tracking app “The Flow”. They have excellent information from Miranda Gray’s book “The Optimised Woman” and I hoped it would give her some fun bits to think about on this oh-so-huge day.

I was SO disappointed not to be home with my baby so I could shower her with attention and affection. This was such a big deal. My whole day was spent going off on tangents like googling ancient puberty rituals, researching period tracking apps, and sending her relevant youtube videos.

Later, on the phone with my partner, I tried to recall the cultural customs from the menstruation conference I’d just attended. There was one Apache ritual where the young girl blessed her people with pollen. When I told him, he stopped me and said that sounded like jizzing on people (he has a very wild imagination). Okay, so no, we will not do that. Maybe we should wear red? Maybe I’ll find a hematite crystal for her? That seems appropriate for the daughter of a newly-converted hippie (I use that term lovingly as I set out stones for a full moon bath). We will take some time to map out our family’s rite of passage. It shouldn’t be too hard – we came up with some ideas once before. I want to do something, to mark this step into adulthood and make it unique. Of course, now that we know it’s here, I’ll also ask the girls and find out what they want to do as their ritual. Conceivably, we have 28 days to plan something, so it falls in the next cycle.

There is one wrinkle. I should point out; this was my YOUNGEST child who started menstruating at age 12. My oldest daughter, who is not quite two years older than her sister, has not yet begun hers. That her younger sister has it already may fuel concerns that she does not have her period yet. It might also fire up more competition between the two of them (which is the last thing I want). The oldest is SO competitive with her sister. I will spend some extra time with her to explain that age of menarche is affected by some things like genetics, ethnicity, body fat percentage, nutrition, and activity level, which all play a part in this. I’ll tell her that I got my period once when I was 16 and then not again until I was in college. Maybe she’ll be thrilled that she takes after me.

Bottom line, I guess I will let some of my excitement die down and let my kids drive this. I hope my daughters want to create a memory they can enjoy and not feel embarrassment for this totally normal event in their lives. Heaven knows for lots of us who menstruate; the novelty wears off after a few years.

As I wrote this post, my partner was pretending to pout. When I asked him what was going on, he revealed that no one celebrated his first ejaculation when he was young, and he was feeling a little left out. If I had a son, I would probably have the condom fairy leave something under his pillow. But by then we would have had lots of conversations before condoms showed up unannounced.

Do you know how you and your family will handle these rites of passage into adulthood? Will you celebrate? Has it already happened, and if so, what did you do? Please write below in the comments section or email me.

xxoo

The MamaSutra

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