Lady Of The Manor: ‘Mommy, What’s A Tampon?’

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A couple of weeks ago I found my 3-year old son sitting on my bathroom floor surrounded by tampons. “Look!” he said, “Mommy’s markers.” Because the unbleached cotton Kotex ones come in a rainbow of colors, they do kind of look like markers. But after trying unsuccessfully to draw with them, he threw the lot down the toilet and moved on.

My sons have no clue what a period is. And I haven’t quite figured out how to tell them. They know where babies come from, as well as how they get there, but periods are still not on their radar. That’s not to say they haven’t played around with the accoutrements. While one used the “markers,” another asked why I wore diapers. And yet another told me that some ladies have pink pee. (That one took me a while to figure out.)

I tried being both scientific and accessible with my explanation, but their eyes glazed over soon once I passed “uterus.” In their minds, I’m telling them girlie stuff. The only cycles they’re interested are the wheeled variety: bi-, tri-, even uni.

They’ve also started to notice that I can be a little cranky at certain times of the month. For no reason they can discern. After hearing them blame themselves and each other, I tried to explain about moods and hormones. Again, they hit the wall before I even finish the word, and thus the vicious – erm…cycle … continues.

I was eight years old – the same age as my oldest son – when I first learned about periods. I was at my friend’s house and her dog was walking around in her dad’s underpants. I thought the dog was dying. My friend’s mom explained that the dog had her period. And, she continued, one day I would, too. I immediately called my mother and begged her to pick me up and take me home. I had nightmares for weeks.

I’ve obviously gotten over any phobias I had. In fact, now it’s gone the other way. Rather than of dread the dawning of the red tide, I count the days until I ride the crimson wave. I also have started collecting euphemism – my new favorite being “have the painters in.” A far cry from The Curse, when that time of month comes I thank my lucky stars that a) I’m not pregnant and b) I’ve still got it! I wouldn’t necessarily describe menstruation as a beautiful thing that women are lucky to experience, but it’s a part of life – and one I’d like to explain to my guys before Aunt Flow and urban-myths of the schoolyard take over.

Some women I know have been straightforward from the start. Their sons could teach a class on sex-ed by the time they could talk. Others have told their boys that Mommy “needs a Ban Aid sometimes.” And then there are those mood swings. Grown-up men don’t really get it, so I’d be hard-pressed to find a pre-pubescent boy that does. Uterine shedding aside, a boy well-versed in how to cope with PMS is a bonus to his mother, let alone any future girlfriends or wives. It’s hormones. Period.