My daughter is very close to my husband and I can’t grudge her that. He’s the fun parent after all…. funnier and more playful. Whereas I’m the bad cop of the parenting world.
So, when she ‘chooses’ me to confide about some of her stuff, you can imagine my happiness. It’s nothing short of a badge of honour. What makes her pick one parent over the other has failed me and frankly so long as I am the chosen one, I’ve never bothered to find out either.
All was well in our world till we started talking about growing up, puberty and the inevitable period talk. Coincidentally in her school too they started having those sessions and they have done a great job except that they planned separate sessions for girls and boys. The girls were assigned a female teacher and the boys had a male one. It had irked me a bit but then when I saw how she would come home brimming with information that she was willing to share, I trashed that thought away.
Sadly, my hunch was proven right, when I realised that her voice would drop down to a whisper or she would just go quiet, the moment her Baba would walk into the room. She would shuffle and squirm in her place with a ‘guilty’ expression plastered on her face. When it happened once too often, I sat her down and asked why she was quiet around Baba when it came to period talk. Colour rising in her cheeks, she admitted she was embarrassed.
Though the school had done a great job in terms of biological awareness, it had unwittingly contributed to strengthening the social bias by keeping the two genders separate. Now this looked like a job for Superman…err…Supermom. It bugged me, that despite sharing a very sweet and open relationship with her father, my daughter was not comfortable about discussing an important aspect of her life.
Over the next few days, as she would buzz me in with the details from her school sessions, I’d gently ask her,
“Did you mention this to Baba?”
Every time her head would shake in the negative till finally tired of my incessant query, she asked me,
“Why do you so badly want me to talk to Baba when you know I don’t want to?”
To this my answer was,
“I don’t want periods, which are a natural phenomenon, to come in between the wonderful equation the two of you share. Besides if you are conscious around Baba today, you’d be even more conscious around your male classmates. That’s totally unacceptable to me.”
I could see that she had lapsed into one of her thoughtful silences that I know so well. My job of putting the germ of an idea was done, as I mentally rubbed my hands in glee. Two days later the girl walks in after school with a gleam in the eyes that begs to be asked,
And my little girl bursts into an excited,
“You know what, Mumma? I spoke to Baba today about the sessions in school as he walked me to the bus stop.”
“And it was cool. He said the same things as you did. I am happy I talked to him. I am feeling lighter.”
I nodded in approval not sure who was happier. In the evening, Baba comes home with an identical gleam in his eyes. All’s well in the Shinde household, I sigh with relief.
You may ask, why the fuss? Why was it so important for me and why it should be important for all of us? In my defence, I have a few questions
- Parenting is a job assigned to two people so why should Daddy’s involvement be any less when it comes to menstruation?
- Ain’t we contradicting ourselves when we say, menstruation isn’t a dirty word and then shut up the moment a boy walks in?
- If we say we should have period talk with our sons then why not with the Daddies?
- We are trying to raise a gender equal society; how do we expect to achieve that if we don’t involve the other half of parents?
- Daddies usually bring a different perspective to the table. Wouldn’t it be nice, if we knew what they had to say?
- For those who would suffer the cramps hiding in their rooms in childhood, wouldn’t it be nice if daddy gave you a warm water bag and that loving look?
I leave you with these questions to munch on and maybe you’ll have the answer you’re looking for.
I am Dr. Shivani Salil, an MBBS with an MD in Clinical Microbiology who till recently was working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology at Seth GSMC & KEM Hospital, Mumbai.
I would describe myself as a proponent of gender equality in the true sense who believes feminism is an attitude that both the genders need to have if they want to make this world a better place. I value truth and honesty above all else and chases sunsets for the sheer joy of it!
I’m a voracious reader in love with words, both written and spoken. As a child I harboured two dreams- to become a doctor and to pursue literature so I could become a writer. I have loved and lived my first dream and am greedy enough to try living the second one too. My foray into writing began in 2017 and blogging was my first step towards it. A geographical move in 2018 seemed heaven sent as I am now making full use of this sabbatical to explore where my words take me.
Writing has brought me peace, wisdom and a heightened sense of self awareness. I write on a broad spectrum of issues, from parenting to health and relationships to philosophy in both fiction and non-fiction format, across various platforms like Momspresso, Women’s Web, Mumbai Psychiatry Clinic and SheThePeople to name a few. This has also fetched me awards and recognition. I also have a weekly space on the online portal, The Wonder Women World, called Saturdays With Shivani. I try to connect with my day-to-day observations, experiences and musings hoping that they find their way to the readers, in a style that is simple but not simplistic.
To paraphrase Margaret Laurence, when I now say work I only mean writing. Everything else before this was just odd jobs.
The article was first published here