Why I'm proudly teaching my sons about periods

"Mommy, why is there blood?"

Why I'm proudly teaching my sons about periods
Halfpoint Images/Getty

I was 12 years old the first time I looked down at my underwear and saw blood.

I remember feeling so disoriented—like the first time you see a positive pregnancy test. A new stage of life had been hoisted upon me; I was "becoming a woman." But back then, the only thing I could feel was embarrassment and red hot shame.

I rode my bicycle down the block and threw the first pad I ever used into a neighbor's trashcan.

It took me a full day to tell my mother that I got my period.

That's why I love to see Pantone destigmatizing menstruation by releasing a new color called "period." And it is why I am teaching my sons about what this all means. They won't experience what I did but they need to know that there was no shame in what happened to me that day and what happens to girls and women in this world every day.

When I was 12 my body was healthy. I was starting a normal part of every girl's life. It was functioning exactly how it should. And I couldn't even speak a word of it out loud.

Like many girls of my generation, I was ashamed of my period. I was taught that it was something to keep quiet. Something to *NEVER* let other people see, but especially boys.

Do you know what it's like to spend one week every month of your teenage years absolutely terrified that someone might find out. . . THAT YOU'RE A MENSTRUATING WOMAN?

Add in the Maxi pad ads that emphasize just how leak-free the pads or tampons truly were. Get the point girls? NOBODY IS TO EVER KNOW YOU BLEED.

I might not have been explicitly taught that periods were shameful, but the silence around menstruation made the message loud and clear: periods were something for girls to hide.

But if girls hide their periods, what else are we taught to hide?

Our desires—for sex, for love, for total independencewere longings we should keep hidden away.

Our fertility is something we shouldn't talk about.

Our pregnancies too private to be taken seriously by policymakers.

Our traumas, violations, and vulnerabilities all things we should keep locked away.

So when I became a mother, I decided that the silence around menstruation was a code of secrecy I didn't want to keep.

I decided to teach my three sons about periods.

It happened a few years ago when my then-4-year-old son walked in on me in the bathroom.

"Mommy, why is there blood?" he asked, a look of genuine concern on his face.

Within moments, my second son joined the potty party, poking his head in the bathroom behind his younger brother. (We all know moms can never use the bathroom without an audience.)

"Oh honey, I know it looks a little scary," I told both boys. "But actually, it's totally normal and healthy! Every month, girls and women like mommy have some blood come out of their vaginas. It actually is from their womb and it helps make a nice home inside if I were to grow another baby. The blood helps my womb stay healthy."

"That's cool!" they said in unison. And then raced off to play with their legos.

At first, talking to my kids about periods, and where babies come from, and how their bodies work felt really uncomfortable for me. But I knew how important it was to just say the words—however imperfectly—so I've just kept talking.

I'll remind them about body safety rules while we're driving to school, trying hard to keep my tone of voice normal. I'll drop in a mention of my period when I am taking a break from Charades: "Be right back, mom has her period so I have to go change my pad real quick." I even answered a direct question about how babies get into my tummy with a simple truth "Daddy's penis went in my vagina and the sperm he put in there mixed with my egg and made a baby!"

"That's cool mom," I was told.

Every month, my sons see remnants of menstruation around the bathroom that we share: a soiled pair of bloody undies in the laundry basket, a rolled-up pad in the trashcan. I'm not purposeful in leaving things out, but I don't go to lengths for them to be hidden. I just want them to see it as completely normal.

I know that more conversations around sex, social media, porn and consent are coming around the corner.

The amazing news, the liberating truth that I wish I could have told that ashamed 12-year-old girl that I was, is that the more I talk about these things, the easier it is, for all of us to keep talking. And if I can talk to them about bodies and sex, then perhaps one day they will be able to talk to me.

I no longer have a stressed feeling of heat in my face, or shortness of breath, that I used to experience when these topics came up.

I just feel like a mom telling the honest truth about what it means to be a girl or woman in this world, no shame required.

And then maybe, if they turn into boyfriends, or husbands, or friends, or fathers, of other girls and women and people who menstruate, my boys can react with empathy, understanding, or even, perhaps best of all—a shrug.

Because if I can raise three little men who see the lives of girls, women and non-binary or trans people with periods as completely normal—even perfectly boring—I will have done my job.

In This Article

    An expectant mama's to-do list can feel endless… but here's the good news: A lot of those tasks are actually really exciting. Planning your baby registry is especially thrilling: You get a say in what gifts friends and family members will buy for your new addition!

    But it can also feel a bit overwhelming to make sense of all the gear on the market. That's why we suggest mentally dividing your registry into two categories: items you need to prepare for your baby's arrival and items that sure would be nice to have.

    Here at Motherly, our editors have dozens of kids and years of parenting experience among us, so we know our way around the essentials. We also know how mama-friendly the registry-building experience is with Target, especially thanks to their recently upgraded registry and introduction of Year of Benefits. Just by creating your baby registry with Target, you'll snag a kit with $120 in discounts and samples. The savings keep coming: You'll also get two 15% off coupons to buy unpurchased items from your registry for up to a year after your baby's expected arrival. Change your mind about anything? The Year of Benefits allows for returns or exchanges for a full year. And as of August 2020, those who also sign up for Target Circle when creating a baby registry will also get the retailer's Year of Exclusive Deals, which includes ongoing discounts on baby essentials for a full year.

    Here are 10 items we agree deserve a spot in the "need" category on your registry, mama.

    A crib to grow with your baby

    Delta Children Farmhouse 6-in-1 Convertible Crib

    First-time mamas are likely creating nursery spaces for the first time, and that can get expensive. Adding a quality crib to Target registry gives friends and family members the option to join forces to make a large purchase through group gifting.


    A safe + convenient car seat

    Safety 1st OnBoard 35 LT Infant Car Seat

    The list of non-negotiable baby essentials is pretty short, but it definitely includes a car seat. In fact, most hospitals will not allow you to leave after delivery until a car seat check is performed. We recommend an infant seat, which can easily snap into a base in your car.


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    Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

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    4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

    A dependable swing can be a real lifesaver for new parents when they need their hands free (or just a minute to themselves). Because many babies are opinionated about these things, we appreciate that the mamaRoo has multiple modes of motion and soothing sounds.


    An easy-to-clean high chair

    Ingenuity SmartClean Trio Elite 3-in-1 High Chair - Slate

    Our best registry advice? Think ahead. It really won't be long before your child is ready for those first bites of solid food, at which point you'll need a high chair. We like one that transitions to a booster seat atop an existing dining room chair.


    A diaper bag to share

    Eddie Bauer Backpack - Gray/Tan

    When you're a mom, you're usually toting diapers, wipes, clothing changes, bottles, snacks, toys and more. You need a great bag to stash it all, and if you're anything like us, you'll choose a backpack style for comfort and functionality. Bonus: This gender neutral option can easily be passed off to your partner.


    A hygienic spot for all those diaper changes

    Munchkin Secure Grip Waterproof Diaper Changing Pad 16X31"

    We can confidently predict there will be a lot of diaper changes in your future. Do yourself a favor by registering for two comfortable, wipeable changing pads: one to keep in the nursery and another to stash elsewhere in your house.


    A way to keep an eye on your baby at night

    Infant Optics Video Baby Monitor DXR-8

    Feeling peace of mind while your baby sleeps in another room truly is priceless.That's why we advocate for a quality video monitor that will allow you to keep tabs on your snoozing sweetheart.


    A comfortable carrier to free up your hands

    Petunia Pickle Bottom for Moby Wrap Baby Carrier, Strolling in Salvador

    A wrap carrier may be about as low-tech as baby items come, but trust us, this product stands the test of time. Great for use around the house or while running errands, this is one item you'll appreciate so much.


    A full set of bottles + cleaning supplies

    Dr. Brown's Options+ Complete Baby Bottle Gift Set

    Whether you plan to work in an office or stay at home, breastfeed or formula feed, bottles are a valuable tool. To make your life as simple as possible, it's nice to have an easy-to-clean set that is designed to work through the first year.


    Target's baby registry is easy to create from the comfort of your own home. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with the Year of Benefits featuring exclusive deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

    This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

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    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

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    Detective set

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    Water play set

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    Mini golf set

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    Vintage scooter balance bike

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    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

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    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


    Wooden digital camera

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    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


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