being a mom

My Five-Year-Old Son Knows What A Period Is

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Woman-holding-tamponIf there’s one thing that every parent can agree on, it’s the challenges of going to the bathroom by yourself after you have kids. If they’re not babies screaming because you’re leaving them alone, they’re toddlers or preschoolers barging in because they need to wash their hands, or to get a drink of water, or because their favourite toy in the whole wide world is, naturally, in the cabinet under the bathroom sink.

So Ben wasn’t even two and a half when this scene, which probably repeats itself in homes all over the world daily, happened: I was in the bathroom when Ben came in…and noticed the pad I was wearing in my underwear.

A few weeks before that he had given himself a pretty decent scraped knee, so he knew what blood looked like. I could see the wheels turning; his brow furrowed. And with a trace of worry in his voice, he asked, “Mommy, what’s that?”

My husband and I had always said we would be open with our kids about sexuality education. We have always used the anatomically correct terms – vulva, penis, testicles – rather than nicknames. When I was pregnant with Alicia only a few months before, we had explained that an egg from Mommy and a sperm from Daddy had combined to make the baby that was growing – in Mommy’s uterus, not her tummy.

But when I imagined the first really awkward question we’d have to answer, I’d sort of imagined it would be, “How did the sperm get to the egg?” or “Why does my penis get hard sometimes?” and not “Why is there a bloody something-or-other in your underwear, Mommy?”

So there I am with my pants around my ankles and a choice staring me in the face. But while I was somewhat uncomfortable with having this discussion quite so soon, the choice was easy for me.

“It’s a pad. I’m having my period.”

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