When raising children, there are all sorts of difficult topics we'll have to explore with them. The question is, how long should we wait before we share certain information with them? How in-depth should we go?
One mother thought she knew her stance on these questions when she began to explain menstruation to her two young children. That is, until her husband panicked, and she began to wonder if she had been too hasty.
She shared this experience on the "Am I the A**hole?" subReddit, wondering what others thought on the matter.
The OP (Original Poster) "Th3FakeFatSunny" asked the sub:
"AITA (Am I the A**hole) for teaching my (28[female]) young son (6[male]) about female anatomy [and a] woman's menstrual cycle?"
Prior to meeting her husband, the OP made all reasons for raising her children on her own.
"A little context: I was a single mom of two (6[male] and 4[female] now) before I met my husband."
"Before I met my husband, I was always open and honest with my kids about my menstrual cycle, what it was, why it happens, and that it's a normal and healthy bodily function. I kept it in simple but clinical terms and didn't expect them to fully grasp the concept; I just wanted them to be normalized to the it."
Since getting married, the OP and her husband have mostly seen eye-to-eye.
"My husband is a good man. He doesn't say 'ew' when I talk about my period, doesn't freak out when I change a tampon, and even buys them for me sometimes. We both agree that when the time is right, all the kids (we have a baby girl together, now) will be taught male and female anatomy and sex ed. It was never a question in our minds that they should know this."
After a recent conversation, however, the OP's husband is a little more doubtful.
"However, one day when I was on my mensies, I was explaining to 6m why Mommy was so tired today. I told him, as I've done before, about my period, what it means, etc."
"I asked if he had any questions afterwards and he asks 'Why does Spiderman make webs?'"
"It was such a cute and innocent question, I shared it with my husband later."
"He got very mad. He said I shouldn't have shared that information with him, that he wasn't old enough to understand it and it would ruin his innocence or make him grow up too fast."
"I pointed out that we both agreed to teach all the kids about [male-female] sex ed, and he said, 'yeah, but not till they're older!'"
"Overall, I disagreed with his whole outlook on it; I think teaching kids from an early age about reproductive health will lead to them being more open and honest with us later when we have the 'real talk,' and go to us with questions and problems regarding the opposite sex. And again, while I used clinical terms, it wasn't like I was teaching him sex positions or anything but the general gist of what a woman's body is like."
The OP does admit that there could have been another way, though.
"Why I think I may be the a**hole: because, to be fair, his parents didn't introduce sexual topics until he hit puberty, and he's still a more-than-well-adjusted man. Like I said, he's very compassionate, understanding, and non-squeemish when I get my period. But I still don't think it's going to harm 6m's psyche to learn about this stuff from an early age."
After receiving many comments, the OP added a few notes about her relationship with her husband.
"While you've made some good points, I'd like to clarify a few things."
"Those of you saying 'he's not a good man just because he doesn't say 'ew' at your period,' you'd be right if that were the simple truth to it. My previous post wasn't entirely clear about it, but he does do more, in my opinion, than 'the bare minimum' as far as my periods go."
"We hang out together while the other is pooping (sorry TMI) and he's watched me change my tampon without groaning, and used the toilet after I have. He's grabbed the trashcan when I forget to so that I can throw it away. He's changed that trash can for me, helped me wash stained sheets and clothes and even the toilet without complaint. Even when I tell him I'm embarrassed, he says there's nothing to be embarrassed about because it's a healthy, natural bodily function."
"He'll pick up extra chores the first few days of my cycle because he knows that's when my cramps are the worst. He's bought and brought me tampons when I forget. He's not afraid to be intimate with me during my period and is extra careful to make sure he's not hurting me during. I don't need him to change my tampon for me to consider him a good man regarding my period."
"I'm sorry I wasn't clearer on that earlier, but I didn't realize Reddit would have such high standards on what is considered 'a good man' regarding periods."
The OP also specified that her husband has grown significantly since they met.
"He didn't learn about women's reproductive health until he was 12, which is why the TIMING is what he argues was inappropriate. Not the language I used. Not the fact that it was done, because as I mentioned, we both whole heartedly agreed our boy and girls would learn men AND women reproductive health."
"His argument was that he didn't learn until he was 12 and is still arguably a compassionate and understanding man regarding his periods."
"You know what else he is? Human. He's just a person. He makes mistakes and has his own perspective and logic and way that he grew up."
"I've seen him make great strides towards being more progressively minded like myself."
"He asks my gay sister about her new girlfriend, and about her sexuality trying to be more informed. He corrects himself when he uses the wrong pronouns by accident while talking about trans people he knows, and has ended a potential friendship because they used a derogatory word to describe trans people."
"He corrected his grandpa, his favorite person growing up, when his grandpa made a pointed comment about my son playing with a Barbie doll. I grew up having gay friends and another gay sister (total 2), so most of this is familiar to me and I still make mistakes in this area. He grew up in a straight, white household."
"His reaction to teaching the kids about gay marriage and mommy's period is, yes, small minded and I've told him this. But he's not homophobic because of that one small aspect of a larger part of the man, himself."
The OP also answered a question that many Redditors were hilariously wondering about.
"Yes, I answered my son's questions about Spiderman!"
Fellow Redditors wrote in anonymously, rating the OP's decision on the following scale:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You're the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
The issue for some Redditors was the husband's implications of childhood innocence.
"I would dispute that this is a homophobia or female-body taboo issue, from the information in the post at least."
"My understanding is not that he is objecting to educate his kids on any of the topics mentioned - his objection is to the timing of this. I disagree with him (and firmly believe kids should just be told the truth in a way appropriate to their age whenever they ask, not at a specific age)."
"He does not seem to have an issue with the topics (good), but might feel that 6 years is to young (disagree with him, but entitled to his opinion). You're NTA, and I would say your husband is TA for getting mad about this instead of having an adult conversation." - linden_84
"The problem isn't the timing, it's the reasoning he gives for objecting to the timing, if that makes sense."
"He says that knowing about homosexuality and menstruation will 'ruin his innocence'. The glaring implication here is that homosexuality and menstruation aren't innocent. That there is something shameful, something not for little ears about a normal bodily function and something guilty and world-shaking about two people loving each other if they happen to be the same gender."
"He isn't performing homophobia or menstrual shaming at this point in his life, but he clearly hasn't fully rooted out the little internalized voices that say homophobic and shaming things." - demon_fae
"It's also a stupid assertion because the opposite is what happens, in my experience. My aunts have been a part of my life since before I can remember. I was so fortunate to grow up in a small super liberal town where people were gay, straight, bi, trans, whatever, and nobody blinked. Nobody thought it was weird when my mom started dating a woman."
"I honestly though 'homophobia' was a thing that only happened in the US on TV until I went to university at seventeen. I really thought homophobia was a thing that didn't exist. That was a bit of a shock. But being exposed to so many different types of relationships preserved my innocence." - twisted_memories
Others agreed and suggested using the husband's discomfort to encourage him to teach their kids sooner.
"You might try pointing out that his discomfort with these topics is probably due to the fact that they were 'taboo' in society for a long time, not because they're actually harmful."
"By talking to your kids about them, without attaching stigma, you're actually preventing the kind of discomfort your husband feels when it comes to this stuff. Point out how hard it is for him to get past some of the preconceived notions he has (while giving him credit for the work he is doing) and tell him you don't want your kids to have to deal with that." - Freckled_daywalker
"Kids have questions. A lot. 400 a day. Topics about the body and asking about gay couples are going to come up. Nonchalantly or clinically explaining these thing when they want to know or need to understand is great. They get used to these things early on and don't harm the child at all in any way."
"It's not like you're teaching a class to them right now and demanding they learn it all. You're not forcing the subject. Just tell your husband you answer their questions, whatever they are, in a way they can understand. If they immediately ask about Spider-Man after, I'm pretty sure they're not traumatized. Go you!" - SummerOfMayhem
"You've said that not learning about women's bodies, periods etc until relatively late didn't do him any harm, but his actions don't support that. Knowing what periods are (and that LGBT people exist!) doesn't ruin a child's innocence."
"By imposing this stigma he's teaching your child that periods are some weird gross dirty thing. Does he flip out when your child asks questions about pooping? If no, then he's a bit of a hypocrite and should spend some time examining his biases." - Darcy-Pennell
Though it can be difficult to decide exactly when to have these conversations, the subReddit appears in agreement that the conversation needed to happen.
However, another conversation that needs to happen is one between the OP and her husband, to ensure they have all of this sorted out before their next heavy conversation.
With two children under the age of 10, this is far from the last important talk they'll have.