A constant stream of information in and out of her phone and tablet every day but the one topic she and her pals are always talking about is about who has started their periods and if so, what is it like.
Aged 11 and a half, the transition towards womanhood has well and truly started, I recall the shock of her no longer being hair-free, then our first tentative trips to the supermarket to pick up some cropped vest tops, progressing on that first bra and now the next stage, periods.
As a dad of three, two of whom are girls I have been gently bracing myself for all of this for the past decade, knowing that eventually I would be thrust into a world of teenage hormones and all that it brings with it. I also knew that there were two distinct avenues, either pretend it isn’t happening, or embrace it fully, I was never in doubt, I was ready to get involved!
Already there has been a lot of chat about sex, the ‘how’, the ‘why’, even the ‘when’ (never as far as I’m concerned!) and I have been fully open and ready for discussion, trying to make it seem as normal as possible so as not to make it either mysterious or unpleasant whilst still stressing the need to wait and be ready. Talking naturally with your kids may seem embarrassing at first but not nearly as embarrassing as having them be more confident and knowledgeable than you, so it’s best to embrace your future and tackle the matter head on.
And so it is with our eldest’s current situation, the next step on the ladder and the beginning of years of periods. “Will it hurt? Will it be messy? Will other people be able to tell?”, I’ve fielded all sorts of questions and been ready with answers to reassure and bust myths! It’s brought us closer together and created an openness that will no doubt be increasingly important as she gets older. Knowing that she can talk to me will hopefully mean less bad decisions further down the line. A ripple of excitement shoots through the house as she hears from another friend - “Sarah has started!” - leaving her both envious and intrigued, it turns out that this is Sarah’s third month and she has only just told her mum (and subsequently her friends) as she was worried about her step-dad finding out and thinking it was strange. As it turns out, he was super supportive but further emphasises the need to be open.
This is how it goes, a buzz of news, and then normality, because let’s face it, it is normal and that’s how we are approaching it. Life brings lots of change, this is just another one and it will soon be as much as part of her routine as brushing her teeth or playing hockey on a Friday evening. If you take the mystery away, dealing confidently in facts, there is nothing to fear, either for you or your daughter.
We’re still waiting but it’s ok, we’re ready, and that’s a hugely important factor, there’s some towels in a drawer in the bathroom, there’s a new hot water bottle on standby to help with the cramps and pains, and crucially an open dialogue amongst us all.
Getting your first period should not be something to be shy about, it shouldn’t be seen as something horrible, or even unhygienic. As parents, you should be proud, your little girl is growing up, her body is working and she is changing, be excited for her, be knowledgeable and be ready.