That’s Why

“Daddy.”

I knew from the sound of my 9 year old’s voice, she wanted to know something.   She was in the backseat of our car on the way home from their grandparents’ house with her sister. My wife and I were up front.

“What’s up Hannah?” I was expecting something mundane like changing the song or asking to stop for ice cream.

“Daddy, why don’t boys get periods?”  I was not expecting that.

Before I could say anything, the 6 year old chimed in, “Daddy, what’s a period?”

I blame my wife for this.  She took Hannah to a seminar for young girls and their mothers at the hospital.  The seminar was on menstruation, becoming a woman, and what I could only guess were the details of a ceremony that involved waterfalls, harps, and someone combing my daughter’s hair.  As luck would have it, cruising down the highway after a nice meal with my in-laws, the particulars of that seminar popped back in to my daughter’s head.

I don’t get shocked or taken back to easily.  I’ve been surfing the World Wide Web since the mid 90’s, I’ve seen, heard, and read things that would make milk curdle.  But the questions posed to me by my children, threw me for through a loop.  A loop lined with poisonous barbs and crackling with fire.

I looked at my wife, “Why did she ask me?”

My wife could barely look at me.  Her eyes were tearing up as she held back her laughter.  She shrugged her shoulders and told me, “I don’t know, but they asked you. You had better answer them.”  Sometimes I think that woman likes to see me squirm.

I did my best to answer the first question, “…why don’t boys get periods” but ended up more like Rick Perry during a GOP debate.  I’m not sure the exact answer I gave but I know the word ‘penis’ was used more times than I really felt comfortable with.  For the second question, “…what’s a period” I used the word uterus more times than I really felt comfortable with.  I tried to stay anatomically correct as my brain raced back to my junior year in high school when I learned about all of this.   My wife’s nod of surprise when I was finished told me I did pretty well.

At the end of each answer, I got responses from each kid.  Hannah, the 9 year old: “Boys are lucky.”  Emma, the 6 year old:  “That’s gross.”

That was it.  Like kids have the propensity to often do and satisfied (if not somewhat put off) with my answer, were on to something else. Their questions lingered with me though.  Actually not so much their questions, that part of it (awkward, fumbling…) had faded, it was more of a question of why me?

It wasn’t as though my answer opened some sort of doorway to enlightenment. I answered from what I learned about this topic from Health teacher, Mrs. Wolf, 17 years ago.  Now, as a credit to her teaching, I was able to extract the major points from her lessons but why wouldn’t they ask their mother?  The woman has years of experience dealing with this.  I’ve merely been a bystander.

But the more I thought about it, I realized, my kids have never shied away from asking awkward, embarrassing, or tough questions. Maybe because I have always tried to answer those questions honestly (yet tactfully) and to the best of my knowledge.  Sure they have thrown some fastballs at me (case in point, menstruation) but I have been always willing to answer.  Even if I’ve had to compose myself before answering.

I have talked to my kids about things as simple as why eating crayons, though not fatal, isn’t a great idea to understanding why their Grandfather is never coming back to what will happen to the dog when she dies (Heaven was the consensus in my house).  I’ve talked to them about the dangers of running blindly into the street, why we don’t talk to strangers and what we do if a stranger talks to “us”.  They know what a DUI is thanks to Mitchell Musso and what salvia is thanks to Miley Cyrus.  I have had to explain to them what happened on September 11th, 2001.  They know drugs hurt you and there are bad people in this world. They know bad things can happen, even if they don’t think about it much more than a passing thought during the day.  And all after they have asked me (except for the crayons, I thought that was important just to know).

So I eventually came to this conclusion about why they would ask me about periods.  Because I want them to ask me. The last thing I need to happen is for them to come home from school with information Sally shared with the class at recess about menstruation.  Because if I ever expect my kids to be honest with me then I need to be honest with them.  Because when they have asked, I have answered. Because as parents, we need to be ready, even though we never can be, for any question posed by our kids. Because they’re my kids and because I’m their dad. That’s why.

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20 responses to “That’s Why

  1. Good post! I hope my daughter will be as inquisitive when she grows up. And that I’ll always try to answer as accurately as I can!

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  2. Still cracks me up, even after talking about it the other day. If my sisters had asked our dad, we would all be dead. Because he would have swerved the car off of the road and into the nearest ravine just to wash the sound of someone saying “PERIOD” in that context in his presence. Seriously, he got super-pissed at me one night for talking about a bidet with women in the room. So..yeah, you get some “stellar poppa” points.

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  3. Absolutely love your take on this one and grateful to have read it BEFORE my child gets to that stage of “How in the world should I answer this one?” You’ve also made me even more thankful to have been blessed with a son. In the words of your daughter, “Boys are lucky.”

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  4. Now I have to study for when my 4 y.o. springs that one on me! great post!

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  5. Oh wow! You are such a good dad! I have a wonderful father and we have a great relationship, BUT I could never have asked him that question..I am a woman and I am dreading this conversation with my 7 year old daughter, so good for you! Hannah is absolutely correct, boys are lucky! Love your blog..

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    • Thanks. I’m just glad they feel comfortable enough to ask me those things and hopefully they always ask because no matter how awkward it is or how embarrassing I think it might be, they will always know I will answer them honestly and will never steer them wrong. I appreciate it and good luck with your daughter! 😉

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  6. Awesome! As long as they are asking you they aren’t asking someone else! Now, just wait until they ask if monkeys ejaculate as the waiter is at your table ready to take your order 🙂 My #2 was going through his Life class in 5th grade, he had LOTS of questions…and he enjoyed watching me squirm 🙂 I love your posts!!

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  7. My daughter is 9, this bro’ got some bra talk with her recently. Her curiosity wondered when she’ll need one. I think it fantastic she felt comfortable coming to me with this. If I can keep the open talks going into the teen years, it’ll ease doubt on both sides knowing we can cover the spectrum without squirming.

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  8. Very well written!! I absolutely LOVE that you didn’t ‘pass the buck’ to your wife. It is a HUGE blessing that your children feel comfortable asking you questions of this magnitude. You are to be commended on your devotion as a Dad to your children.

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    • Thank you. My hope is that when they get older, they still feel comfortable talking to me about uncomfortable things. I appreciate the nice compliment. Thanks for reading!

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  9. How great to have been able to write the phrase: “I know the word ‘penis’ was used more times than I really felt comfortable with..”

    As the father of a son, I will not pretend to feel your pain. But beware, the “what is sex” talk looms in your future.
    As you have discovered, the car is a good place because it provides a good reason to break eye contact when necessary.

    He and I both felt more comfortable with him the back seat and me in the front keeping my eyes on the road while I provided the anatomical answer. You know. For safety.
    Great post. Keep up the great work.

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    • Thanks Evan. I’m counting down the hours until the ‘what is sex’ talk. I’m already working on the speech (if you fail to plan you plan to fail).
      Maybe its a good idea to follow your lead and talk about it in the car…or make them ask their mother? 😉

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  10. VERY funny piece. Love your site.

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