A few weeks ago I took a terribly informal poll on my Facebook. I asked you to share with me either in the comments or in a message the year you were born and how old you were when you started you period. I didn’t have a hypothesis or a goal; I was just curious. I got more than 50 answers!! You guys are awesome! As a token of my appreciation I made a graph…
As I was looking through the responses I was struck by a few things.
First, there are a lot of white chicks on my Facebook.
Second, any where from age 9 to age 17 seems to be an acceptable time to become fertile according to the bodies of these 50 women. 9 years old? It seems like a tough blow for you ladies! Kudos to you early bleeders; you’re tough. Conversely, a 17 year-old is ready for the responsibility! I mean, in some cases that 17 year-old was only a few years away from having her own babies on purpose.
Third, looks like that theory that girls were starting earlier and earlier in the 1900’s isn’t true.
Which got me thinking about age vs. maturity of girls starting their period. As soon as a girl starts to bleed she enters a new world. A world where we silently do period math every time we get invited to a pool party. A world of sneaking to the bathroom with a pad or tampon up our sleeve. A world where we are suddenly capable of procreation even thought we’re decidedly NOT ready for it. How much should she know about what exactly her cycle is and her own fertility before she enters this world?
Which brings to me to the point: how much information should a little girl have about fertility and her period if she starts as young as 9?
I believe it is time to demystify and educate our girls (AND BOYS) about their bodies and the responsibilities from a much younger age than before. Because kids are sexual active younger? Because they’re maturing younger? Because they’re exposed to sex younger? All of that, but even more importantly, because veiling the facts of bodies creates shame and secrecy which MUST STOP in order for us to be empowered. Knowledge normalizes bodies and sex so we can teach respect and love for others and self from the start.
If I had a daughter I would be totally casual with her about fertility, periods, sex, and babies. I would equip my girls (and boys) about the facts of life very young. When she started her period I would level with her about the whole process from start to finish and give her everything she needs to start learning about her body and how it works. I would be open about my own periods so that she knows it’s ok to talk about without shame or secrecy. My mom was totally candid with me at an early age and I’m quite thankful for that because I was aware of what was happening in my body which made the whole thing much less scary.
I think I would talk to her the same way I talk to all of you about bodies and babies and lady parts. I would encourage her to get scientific with her body as soon as she was fertile; tracking, observing, recording. Can you image if you were already well practiced at tracking your signs of fertility BEFORE you actually needed them to avoid or achieve pregnancy?! That would be so helpful! On the other hand, you can’t really MAKE a teenage girl do a lot of things. I refused even to track the days of my period because I just didn’t really care. Mom tried. She really did.
(Side note: Can I acknowledge how a daughter of mine would hate everything about fertility just because her mom talks about it all the time. My kid will probably want to just go on the pill and never think about her period out of sheer rebellion.)
Obviously, a little girl shouldn’t have to be solely responsible for managing her fertility and the decisions that come with it all by herself until she’s old enough. That’s where moms and sisters and aunts and grandmas come in ideally. But if her body has entered the world of womanhood she is entitled to the knowledge about what her body is capable of. If she’s 9 and starts her period, sure she might be young, but she should still get to know what is happening inside of her.
We are beyond the era of ignoring the very thing that makes us women. It’s time to stop treating periods with shame. If she’s asking you questions then she’s thinking about it. Which means you should give her a truthful answer. Because if we don’t who will, and what will they tell her?
You know that book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, that I talk about a lot? Well, the author wrote a book for teenage girls called, Cycle Savvy. I haven’t gotten to read it, but I am so interested! The description says,
If you’re a teenage girl, you’ve probably asked yourself these questions and many more. Now Cycle Savvy has the answers that will help you understand what is really happening with your body on a day-to-day basis. It’s the first book specifically designed to teach young women about the practical benefits of charting their cycles. Explore the fascinating world of ovulation, fertility, and why you even have periods at all! And learn all about the body signals, mood changes, and other signs that accompany your cycle. With charming illustrations, fun brainteasers, confidence builders, sample charts, and first-person tales of experiences that every girl can relate to, Cycle Savvy takes the mystery out of your amazing body.”
I might buy this for my nieces. One is 10 and the other is 1 month old. That’s appropriate, right? 😉
I’m curious if how many of you with daughters are openly talking about periods!? I WANT TO KNOW! Leave me a comment!!