For some reason, be it in the western world or India, the topic of puberty has always been a touchy one. When it came to boys becoming men or girls becoming women, the occasions are commemorated in India through festivals. There are villages in the country where these monumental occasions are celebrated as grand as weddings yet the words ‘puberty’, ‘menstruation’, ‘periods’ are never said out loud.
While growing up, I remember I received all my knowledge on menstruation and periods through the sex education class in school and the secret conversations with friends. Despite having two super cool siblings, I don’t remember ever discussing this with them. My parents, already in their 50’s then, belonged to a different generation and never discussed these things with me.
When I became a parent myself, I knew for certain, I would be as open and free as I could in every aspect of life. I wanted to be the mother who would be approached for every big and small worry, fear and thought in my child’s life.
Probably why, when my three year old pointing at a packet of tampons in our supermarket trolley asked me why was I purchasing diapers for her, I told her the truth. I have never felt embarrassed or ashamed or the need to hide my sanitary napkins in a ‘brown’ bag and I told my daughter that these are napkins which look like diapers and are worn my women like her mother as they become older.
I told her that life was funny that babies have to wear diapers when they are born, women have to wear it every month as they grow up and men and women both wear it sometimes when they get older.
Obviously, my daughter was pretty clear that she would never need to wear ‘mom diapers’ as she’s toilet trained. Now, at 8, she has a pretty decent understanding of what periods are and she is aware that in a few short years she could start bleeding, it could happen anytime and it is not a reason to panic and worry.
When I discussed that I had ‘this’ talk with my daughter, my friends were a bit appalled at my progressive behavior. For some reason, even in 2022, our thinking in these topics seem to be as old fashioned as back in the 1960’s and 70’s. Even today, the sanitary napkins and tampons are covered with a newspaper or packed in a brown bag before being handed over to you. The modern men aren’t as modern as we make them out to be.
They can buy a condom with ease but send them out to buy a sanitary napkin, their face turns red. While I can’t do much in changing this regressive behavior, what I could ensure was that my daughter wouldn’t partake in these thoughts.
The times have changed and just as how parenting relations have changed, the way we and our children approach the world have changed too. My daughter should have full understanding on how her own body works. It really didn’t make sense to spend lacs on a world-class international education but lying and hiding facts about how her own body works. Periods, sex, hormones and puberty are a natural human phenomena and every person should have a complete understanding of their own body.
While she’s too young to understand reproduction and sex, I will definitely educate her on that when she grows older. No topic is too big or small, embarrassing or not important enough to be discussed with me.
I always tell my daughter, if a question or a doubt arises in your mind, do not dismiss it. Every seemingly ‘silly’ question matters.
Let’s practice what we preach. Let’s change with the changing times. And be parents, who set the right message to our kids and the coming generations.