Even though I was a young parent, I knew I wanted to be someone my children felt comfortable talking to. As much as every parent dreads the day their kid asks where babies come from or why boys have different parts than girls, I was determined to keep my discomfort face hidden when these questions came up, and just answer as informative as possible. Of course, a 5 year old doesn’t need ALL the details as say, a 13 year old could handle. But I knew I could add the filter when necessary and elaborate more as needed.
Wil and I moved in together when the kids were 7 and 5. The boys loved taking turns going someplace with just one of us, while the other stayed home. One afternoon, shortly after moving in together, I was heading to the grocery store to get some things for dinner when Ryan asked to go with me. He was very chatty on the drive there, and decided to touch just about everything he came across in the store.
Ryan and I cut down an aisle to get to the juice section in the back of the store. He was dragging his hands across the merchandise so I said “Ryan, please don’t do that. You’re going to knock things off the shelf.” He looked up at the shelves, then back to me, pointing to the items next to him and said “What are these things for?”
That was when I realized we had cut through the “feminine hygiene” aisle of the store. I tried to keep my discomfort face hidden. I knew this day would come eventually, but I really didn’t want to have this conversation with him in the middle of a grocery store where people could hear as they walked past. I calmly said “They’re called tampons and I’ll explain what they’re for when we get home. Now please stop touching everything.”
Thinking I was embarrassed by these tampons and being put in the position of not wanting to explain them in the store, Ryan proceeded to skip through the grocery store singing “tampons tampons tampons tampons” over and over. I decided to let him sing his little song so he would realize I am not embarrassed by them, but after the 4th person passed by giving me a weird look, I leaned over to Ryan and said “You know, you may not know what tampons are but the people around you do, so you may not want to sing your little song until you know exactly what they’re for.” The look of horror set in on his face, and he immediately stopped.
We went home and I went out to start the barbecue, while Ryan and Nolan played with Legos in their room. I was kind of hoping he’d forgotten about his earlier question and I wouldn’t have to have this conversation for at least a few more years. Ten minutes later, he joined me in the backyard. “So…are you going to tell me what tampons are for?” I felt the simplest way to explain it was to do a basic drawing of the female organs to show what it is, how it functions, and why a tampon is needed. He stood there in silence as I explained it, then looked up at me and yelled “GROSS!” and took off. I guess that answered his question. He never asked about them again.
About six months later, while at the grocery store with both kids, Nolan pointed to the tampon display and said “What are those?” Before I could say anything, Ryan cut in and said “Nolan, you do NOT want to know.” Nolan seemed to be satisfied with that answer, and it didn’t come up again until about a year later. I was in a pharmacy picking up a prescription with Nolan when he noticed a tampon display* and said “Ryan told me what those are. I don’t know what the big deal is but BOY was he freaked out by it.”
Over the years, my kids grew to be completely unphased by things I said to them. Either that, or they learned how to hide their discomfort face as well as I did because seriously, who wouldn’t be MORTIFIED that their 7 year old son was singing a tampon song while skipping through the grocery store?
*I swear I don’t live in the tampon aisle.