There Will Be Blood

Do any young girls react positively to the news that they’ll bleed for several days each month for the next forty-plus years?

When I recently explained the basics of menstruation to our daughter, Ava, she cringed and moaned in disbelief, throwing her hands up to cover her face before warning me that she might throw up.

I wanted Ava to hear the details from me, before she heard them from a stranger at school next week during a Health & Human Development seminar. Although Ava is unlikely to start menstruating for at least another year or two, a few girls in her fourth grade class have already begun. I’m grateful her school addresses the subject, but I knew my daughter would be devastated hearing these life-altering details for the first time during a class with her peers.

Although I was prepared to explain to Ava the blessings of a fully functioning female anatomy, the truth is I’ve always dreaded getting my period and hated its personalized accoutrements:  bloating, exhaustion and flash anger. It’s only recently, now that I’m galloping toward menopause, that I’m grateful to feel the pang of cramps every month. (My appreciation is momentary, only long enough to swallow enough ibuprofen to shock Lance Armstrong.)

And at least one of us is terrified of her growing up. In my mind, menstruation signals the loss of “little” in my little girl. I don’t know how to navigate the pain of this inevitable part of parenthood. Or how to help her celebrate this routine rite of passage.

Even with my reservations, I envisioned sitting with my daughter for a mother-daughter chat worthy of an Oprah magazine feature article. I even wore my favorite flannel Scooby-Doo pajamas to lighten the mood.

But as Ava freaked, I choked, unable to find any sugar with which to cloak the facts.

I tried focusing on the future baby angle, but Ava was too far gone.

“I’ll only bleed once, right, Mom?” she said, peeking out from behind trembling fingers.

I wanted to lie, to restore some semblance of order to her world, to reassure her that yes, a period is a one and done gig.


“No, honey, you will bleed once a month,” I said, looking around the room for stray sharp objects.

I may as well have told Ava she will gouge her eyes out with a Sharpie twelve times a year. And who could blame her?

“What happens to boys?” she asked, once her breathing returned to ragged.

“Boy’s bodies go through lots of changes too,” I said. “They get hair on their chests, under their armpits and around their genitals just like girls do. Oh, and their voices get deeper.

Her face twisted in astonishment.

“That’s it? Are you telling me that girls get breasts and bleed and boys get sore throats? I’m going to throw up.”

Maybe I should have softened the news with Oreos. Or tequila. Remind me to bring both when we have the sex talk.

65 thoughts on “There Will Be Blood

  1. I. Am. Dreading. This. I can’t remember if I dreaded getting my period or if I was just happy to fit in. Knowing me I was just happy to fit in. Gah. Ava’s got the right attitude, which is WTF????

    • I really don’t remember my reaction either. I think I was excited for any change – something, anything! I talked with some of Ava’s friends and their parents over the weekend and all the girls were pretty freaked. Did you hear Ava’s screams at your house?

  2. You didn’t link the blood talk to the sex talk? Whaaat? That was your moment to kill two birds. When you bleed, it means you can have babies! {and we don’t want none of those for a while, daring!}

    Also, boys have unplanned erections and wet dreams! Of course, I haven’t talked to Tech about any of these things, but he thinks girls have it pretty good. So there. Shows you what HE knows.

  3. haha! we didn’t have that class till fifth grade and from what i understand, the girls were all pissed that boys got off easy. life lesson, ladies..
    but just to pass on the info they told me – no sex talk right now. and even regarding puberty, they told me to answer all questions as briefly as possible, that their young brains can’t process and don’t want to process too much. fun stuff, right?! 😉

  4. Great blog, Mary! I think you are so brave for bringing this up and not letting her hear it at school first. Brave, brave, brave!

  5. Yup, I’m with Ava – unfair! My daughter is now 17, but when she was younger the only time we could talk about the, er, anatomical things was when we were driving in the car so she couldn’t run screaming from the room with her hands over her ears!

  6. I was waiting and actually had a pact with my best friend to inform each other at the first signs! I dont surround the event with nearly as much ritual although now that Im 50 I am starting a whole new ritual of counting…I had a boy and we had the talk … boys have the wet dream problem and spontaneous erections….

  7. I remember my mum showing me a tampon and giving me the leaflet out of the box to read. I’m kinda looking forward to this chat with my little girl, so that I can make sure I do it SO much better. In my head we have a lovely mummy/daughter moment! Fairly certain in reality I’ll mess it up though.

  8. Oh, man. I guess that one good thing about having only boys 🙂 I remember crying and crying when I got my period and I was a really late bloomer. I found the whole thing to be so traumatic. I didn’t want to be thrust into this womanly world and forced to grow up. Alas, time does not wait. I love your daughter’s response though. And yes, Oreos and booze seem to be in order for the sex talk.

    • I love that you remember crying and “didn’t want to be thrust into this womanly world.” That’s exactly how I feel about Ava. I’m not ready for her to grow up and to come out of denial that she’s on her way. xo

  9. This is a challenging topic to have to talk to a girl about! Obviously I wasn’t involved but I remember our daughter taking it surprisingly well. Someone did mention above that boys have the wet dream issue and as exciting as that sounds… yeah… ummm… not really! And at least it doesn’t last 40 years!

  10. Wowza!!!! This is awesome . . . hilarious . . . scary . . . and wonderful!!!! What a gift you are to your children to be as thoughtful and forthright in sharing “the facts of life.” I have to say I agree with Ava, boys sure do seem to get away pretty easy!

    In addition, you’re one hilarious writer. There are many “zingers” in your story that still have me laughing long after my first read. (One and done may be my new personal favorite!) Witty is your middle name!!!! Love you to the moon and back.

    P.S.: Happy, Happy Birthday!!!!!!!

  11. Oh, how I dread this talk! But I am going to take a cue from you and soften the news with my 9 year old with oreos! And the sex talk. Sigh. I may have to call you in for help with that one!

  12. Oh, man… I’m not looking forward to this one, times three. Or four, as I explain to my son that he’s living in a house full of women, which means that he’s in for a rough road…

  13. Is that American Girl book any good?? My 8 year old daughter is really into AG, so I was thinking about getting the book next year to start some of those conversations. Better yet, I’ll just opt for the oreos & booze.

  14. Holy god, this it the part of parenting that I’m dreading the absolute most. My mom was actually masterful at the sex/period talks, and now I’m trying to remember if we did them both together or separately. This post is compelling me to call her right now and ask her if it was weird and awkward for her when it was my turn since I’m the oldest.

  15. I successfully avoided having to deal with any of these female body issue discussions by purposefully impregnating my wife with male children. 3 times.

    Something nobody has mentioned, is that when you have boys, besides the wet dreams and inconvenient erections, puberty also comes with a terrible smell. A smell so vile, you find excuses to not even walk past their rooms. Ain’t no amount of Febreeze even touching that smell!

    Well done on your awesome parenting skills. 🙂

  16. I still remember the shock of learning that my period meant bleeding for 5-7 days. “How do we not die?!” I couldn’t figure this out. I also couldn’t figure out how to work a tampon, so thank goodness for mothers! It doesn’t really seem fair, does it?

  17. I actually had that exact book for my daughter – I love how simple it was to get the message across – my daughter was in 10 when she got her period – some of her friends didn’t get it until high school!

    • I agree – the book is excellent. I’m amazed at how many girls are getting their periods at ten or so. It wasn’t on my radar yet so it’s a good thing the school addressed the topic. Thanks for visiting!

  18. You have no idea how timely this is for me as my daughter is presenting as…how should I say it…precocious.

    So I loved the topic (kinda). And your daughter’s response? Perfection.

  19. Great post! Have you gotten your daughter the book you have pictured? If not, you definitely should. I got it for my daughter when she was about the same age as yours. She gagged and made faces when I gave it to her after having “the talk,” but then she locked herself in her room for hours, reading it cover to cover.

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