Joanna anton

A few months ago, when Toby, Anton and I stopped into our neighborhood café, I told them: “We can hang out for about 15 minutes because then I have to go home to change my tampon.”

They nodded, unfazed. Then they ordered hot chocolates.

Ever since the boys were born, they’ve seen tampons or a Diva cup on the bathroom counter, and they’ve heard me talk about period logistics. “Let’s run to the grocery store for bananas and pads.” “Can you please hand me my bag? My Diva cup is in there.” “We’ll leave for the park in a minute, I just have to grab a tampon.”

My goal while raising my kids is to prevent any weirdness or secrecy or stigma around periods (and bodies overall). Tampons and menstrual cups are the same as shampoo or toothpaste or toilet paper. No big deal.

Historically, dudes have not always been the most knowledgable or low-key when it comes to periods. Many years ago, I remember mentioning to an old boyfriend that I had my period. “Ew, gross,” he said with a laugh. He was half kidding, but it stuck with me, because it’s not gross! I don’t want to feel gross! A larger example: When physicist and astronaut Sally Ride headed into space for a seven-day mission, NASA’s male scientists asked her how many tampons they should pack for her: “Is 100 the right number?” A hundred tampons? For seven days? “That would not be the right number,” she told them. And these were scientists.

But things are getting better. Many girls these days seem to have zero self-consciousness about their periods. And do you remember the story of a teenage boy who helped a girl with her period emergency? Here’s the mom’s description:

“My daughter started her period on the bus ride home today, and a boy a year older than her, that she doesn’t really know, pulled her aside and whispered in her ear that she had a stain on the back of her pants and gave her his sweater to tie around her waist so she could walk home from the bus. She said she was kind of embarrassed and originally said it’s okay, but the boy insisted and told her, ‘I have sisters, it’s all good!’ If you are this boy’s mom, I want to say thank you and that you are raising him right!”

My hope/dream is that my sons will readily be there for people in this way. They will not be embarrassed when talking to friends about periods. They will not hesitate to buy tampons for loved ones. They will not say “ew gross” if someone mentions pads or cramps or menstrual cups. I’m not the most athletic parent; I can’t teach my boys to throw a ball or swim freestyle; and I regularly let them have too much dessert and stay up too late. But so help me god they will know what wings are.

Thrillingly, the approach seems to be working. This month, we were hanging out at my sister’s house and I was in the bathroom. I realized that my period had started and I didn’t have anything with me. “Toby?” I called through the door to my 11-year-old. “Can you please ask Auntie Lucy for a tampon?” I heard him find her and ask, and a minute later, he slipped a tampon under the door. I felt like bursting into tears in the best way. The nonchalance. The complete lack of embarrassment. The everydayness of it all. I couldn’t have been prouder.

P.S. Talking to kids about sex and consent.