Go ask your mother.

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. “Soโ€ฆare 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.


46 thoughts on “Go ask your mother.

  1. Oh how I don’t look forward to those sorts of questions. I’ve already received the “hey daddy, what’s that?” question about certain body parts while changing clothes.

  2. I’ve been hoping for years that you would start a blog! You have a lot of funny and interesting things to say and I’m just elated! ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. I’m just chuckling when I think of some young kid in some supermarket out there asking their parent in a very loud voice “WHAT IS A TAMPON?!” Hush, what? Where did you get that word from? “The Christmas ornaments there.”

    The circle of life.

  4. My mom had said she needed to get tampons while we were at the store. I realized she had forgotten them, so six year old me yelled to tell her (from a pretty good distance away) “don’t forget your tampons!” She didn’t hide her discomfort face very well.

  5. Love the stories! All moms have these stories, it is great to hear them from other people. Hope you are able to make it to the JoCo Cruise this year. I have my googly eyes and I am ready to #vandal eyes. Great blog can’t wait to read more!

  6. When I was 15 or 16 I had decided to switch from those God awful pads to tampons. My mom and I were grocery shopping and I quietly asked her to help me choose the right kind. She started to laugh and YELLED in the middle of the aisle, “do you really want to stick those up your hole?!” I was mortified and fled from the store. I’m now almost 40 and to this day I hide my face behind sunglasses when I have to buy them. I can still hear her yelling and laughing every time.

  7. Haha! Loved this so much I had to share with my own mom…and as a mom of a 4 yr old boy myself, I’m already preparing for such “what is this” type of questions! Love your blog, Anne!

  8. Yay! Blog time!

    I’m looking forward to more of your “mother of boys” post. Having a 4 year old boy and a not-yet-determined life form cooking, I’m especially appreciative of these stories. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. This is great! Now I feel the need to ask my Mom if my brother ever pulled anything like this when he was a kid. I would love to know how she explained it, though I can’t see my mother being able to hide her “discomfort face”. I’d say your boys are pretty darn lucky!

  10. My sister uses coconut oil and olive oil for just about everything. She has 3 boys, one day the middle son found olive oil on her night stand, and when he asked what it was for she panicked and answered “oh, I use that for my feet, to keep them from getting really dry”. The next day she found all three boys on the bathroom floor coating their feet with oil… she said it was quite a mess to clean up!

  11. Great post, a real hoot, but what we are missing is a response from your two boys regarding this. (Considering how happy Ryan was with the “t-shirt” cannon thing)


  12. I remember buying sanitary napkins when I was a pre-teen/teenager & turning beet red with embarrassment when I had to checkout with a male cashier instead of a woman. Didn’t bother me when I got older, but I was mortified that a man knew I was having my period back then. Seems so silly now.

  13. I completely understand. Mom of four boys, I’ve had some uncomfortable talks with two of the them (the 8 yo and 9 yo are safe… for now). But, as a medical assistant, I went the clinical route. Yesterday, the 17 yo offered gas money for me to drive him to a friends house. He whipped a wad of cash. Me – Where’d you get that? (trying not to sound too accusatory) Him – I charge kids at school for sex advice and girls for PMS advice.

    I think that means I explained things well?

  14. Sometimes you don’t have time to even remember to mask your discomfort face. I was in the bathroom one morning (31 years ago), brushing my teeth with my brain in first-thing-in-the-morning total neutral mode when my then 5 year old daughter bounced in and asked in an innocent voice, “Where do babies come from?” Choking on toothpaste provides a discomfort face all on its own!

  15. I’m really glad you decided to hit the “publish” button! What a great blog. I worked with children and their families prior to an early retirement so I’m especially pleased that you put today’s posting up. It’s really really wonderful. I can’t wait to read more. Thanx!

  16. Yep, there is nothing like having your son come running at you in a panic, “Mom!!! are you okay?!? Are you bleeding??” After seeing a discarded tampon applicator/wrapper in the trash and having to explain that everything is fine. Oh, Mother Nature.

  17. My parents were exceptional at hiding their “discomfort face” when my brother and I were kids. Mom and dad had me just out of high school (weren’t they surprised) and my brother a few years later. As a result, they were young, no-nonsense parents who determined that their kids should know whatever they were old enough to ask about. I always knew waaaaay more about sex/puberty/etc. than my friends, who asked me about everything, and my parents both breathed sighs of relief when my brother and I made it to college without any kids tagging along!

  18. We were on a crowded ferry in Sydney Harbour when I tiredly rubbed my forehead. My husband asked If I had a headache and before I could reply one of my four year old twins asked loudly ‘do you have your period?’. The teens behind us fell about laughing and I explained that some things were private and I would explain at home. Discomfort face I’m afraid!

  19. I asked my then 10 year old “Are you REALLY sure he want to know?” what “girl stuff” was on the grocery list. He said very flippantly, yes. So, I told him what tampons were.
    It’s amazing, even at now 21, if I say “Are REALLY sure you want to know?” he gets a funny look on his face!!!

  20. I was very lucky to be raised by a nurse and policeman. I was taught the proper terms for everything, and when my time came to talk to my son about such things (at WAY too young an age*), it was very easy to keep the “NOT YET” face to nothing.

    Kiddo started asking about sex/male/female differences around 3 or 4 years of age. Took about a year, but he asked everything. If he asked “Where do babies come from?” I’d answer simply “From a woman’s womb”. He’d be satisfied for a few weeks, then come back with another question. Which is why it took over a year.

    NOW, Most things we talk about openly, if he doesn’t understand something he just asks “Do I WANT to know?” Usually the answer is NO! hehehe

  21. If these are the types of posts we have to look forward to I’m more than excited to keep reading. I’ve always wanted to know more about the Wheaton family!

  22. I have an older sister. I had no questions that I ever needed to ask my parents. But I bet my brothers pulled some similar stunts. Ah, kids. Good times. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  23. I love this story and am so glad you started a blog! I love Wil’s blog and the two of you are my absolute favorites to follow on Twitter! Thank you for sharing!

  24. My cousin Judy was snooping through my purse and found my tampons. When she asked what they were I told her to ask her mother. So Judy got the official talk. She wasn’t buying any of it. Her response was “periods only come at the end of a sentence “.

  25. A man and I were headed to the same line with our purchases, of which I only had tampons. He looked at the contents of my hand, and very politely (and probably somewhat afraid) let me go first.

  26. Such a great story Anne, it actually had me laughing out loud at work! It reminded me of when I needed some feminine products and my poor Father was mortified at the though of even having to drive me to the store! Great stuff!

  27. When I was about 5 and my brother was a year old, I liked to pretend I was a dog. One day at the grocery store I yelled to Mom: “Don’t forget the dog food for me and Mike!” Nowadays someone would have called Children’s Services. Back then, Mom just got out of the store as fast as she coukd. Good thing we didn’t have a dog!

  28. I also promised myself I would answer their questions honestly and try to hide my discomfort. Last year, my 8 year old daughter asked me flat out how babies are made. Now we have had the basic period talk, but never touched on why women have their period and sex, etc. I just don’t think she is ready yet for the full detail.
    So when she asked me, I started to squirm! Finally, after a pause, I turned to her and said, “you know, I just don’t think you are old enough to have this discussion yet. When you are a bit older, I promise we will talk all about it.” Surprisingly she accepted that! LOL

  29. Love the blog!

    My brother is 10 years younger than me and I was in the room on the hilarious day when he asked my dad what sex is – he was 6 or 7. My dad got a sneaky look on his face and said sex is just the difference between boys and girls. That you are either of the male sex or the female sex. I wish he had gone the diagram route!!

  30. As a mother of two young boys, I totally relate. We have not had to have the talk about tampons/pads (yet), but because I’m the only female in the house, there have been a few discussions about why mommy doesn’t have a penis like everyone else. Like you, it’s been very low-key…only informational stuff. “Because mommy’s a girl.” That sort of thing. I’m kind of dreading when they’re a little older, but since my husband’s an OB/Gyn, maybe I’ll leave the stories of where babies come from to him. ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. I remember when I was about Ryan’s age in this story asking my mom why she needed to buy diapers if she was an adult. Turns out she was buying pads and not diapers, I just didn’t know. My mom was good about explaining it and it wasn’t embarrasing for me to understand. I’m glad she told me straight and didn’t try to make anything up.

  32. @tardisgal01 LOL, I remember my brother screaming for worms at the top of his lungs in the middle of the grocery store and my mother being mortified. Worms was his name for Chef Boy R Dee mac and cheese in a can. : )

  33. Different type of uncomfortable feeling: When your older brother (who is in high school) asks you what a tampon is when you’re in public. He was completely serious and I didn’t know how he went that many years without figuring it out.

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