Care and Feeding

Should I Tell My Husband That Our Daughter Got Her Period?

I’ve never lied to him about our kids before, but she wants it to be private.

Photo illustration of a shy girl covering her face in front of abstract colorful  torn paper.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by MoreISO/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My 11-year-old just got her period for the first time. This is early, but not outrageously so, according to her pediatrician. My daughter is embarrassed and doesn’t want to tell her father. This would be the first time I’ve ever kept a secret from my husband regarding my children, and I’m really torn.

—Are You There, Dad? It’s Me, Margaret

Dear Margaret’s Mom,

This is your daughter’s own personal vaginal business. It’s only your business because she told you. There is no need to tell your husband this. I would feel very differently if there was a medical issue or a cause for concern. I am generally a “make sure your kids know that telling Mom is also telling Dad” parent, but there are exceptions. I think that the fact that harmless bodily fluids are emerging from a young person’s body is private, or at least private to the extent that young person wants it to be so. Not because it’s shameful, but because it’s hers.

You can encourage her to tell him, but I wouldn’t push it. She likely feels a little weird about being an “early bloomer,” and it’s common enough not to want to broadcast this information to your dad.

My aunt’s girlfriend left a very long singing voicemail for me on our FAMILY ANSWERING MACHINE when I first got my period, which went Nic-OLE is a WO-man now (repeated numerous times, with a djembe to match the beat), so my dad was … fully informed. This did me no permanent harm, but I would like to spare your daughter this experience until she wants to have it.

Keep it to yourself. Unless you discover this kicks off her latent telekinetic abilities, in which case you may want to get some backup.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My daughter, who just started high school this year, wants to try out for cheerleading. I don’t want her to: I think it’s weirdly sexualized, and I don’t like the idea of her belonging to something that’s mainly about cheering for boys. My wife (yes, I am the dad here) thinks I’m being ridiculous. Thoughts?

—Don’t Bring It On

Dear DBIO,

I don’t think you’re being ridiculous, but I do think you need to talk to your daughter about why she wants to try out. Are her friends trying out? Is she looking to make friends at a new school? Is cheerleading at her school merely flailing pom-poms, or is it a serious gymnastics-esque practice that qualifies as a sport in and of itself? (If that’s the case, I would be more worried about injuries than skirt length.)

I don’t want your memories of high school or your pop culture notions of high school to play an outsize role in your daughter’s interest in exploring an activity. Pro tip: She can quit if she gets a spot and hates it.

This is an opportunity to get closer to your daughter by talking about her interests, not to come out of the gate looking like a fuddy-duddy. Maybe you’ll wind up cheering for her.

• If you missed Sunday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My 15-year-old son is dating a black girl in his grade at school. She’s great, they’ve been dating for a year, we spend lots of time with her, and she makes him very happy.

Here’s where it gets complicated: This year, Thanksgiving is at his mother’s parents’ home. They are racist as heck. Do we invite her to come with, as we certainly would if she were white? No one wants scenes at family holidays, but obviously we also wouldn’t want our son (or ourselves!) to sit by quietly if his grandparents said insulting, racist things to his girlfriend.

—Guess Who May Not Be Coming to Dinner

Dear GWMNBCtD,

I wouldn’t subject a 15-year-old girl to this. She’s not here to be a Teaching Experience for old people. If you feel confident that someone will say something racist to her, tell your son that his grandparents will be jackholes to this young woman.

But the answer isn’t to attend Thanksgiving at those jackholes’ house, with your son, without her. He can spend Thanksgiving, with his girlfriend’s family, if asked, or you can celebrate Thanksgiving with her in your own home, and explain to your wife’s parents that your son is dating a young black woman and you don’t feel comfortable bringing her to their home because of their previous racist comments.

They may swear up and down that they won’t put a foot out of line. I still wouldn’t run that risk. Being racist has consequences, and they are going to experience one of those consequences this year: not spending Thanksgiving with their grandson. That’s a great Teaching Experience in and of itself—one that doesn’t put the burden of doing the work on a young black woman.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My sister spotted our daughter (a 17-year-old) texting while driving our car on the freeway. We have grounded her for a month and indefinitely taken away her access to the family car. She thinks we’re the World’s Worst Parents and Everyone Does It, which we’re pretty sure is nonsense, but we would like a little backup here.

—Did We Overreact

Dear DWO,

You did not. Hold the line. Don’t let anyone tell you that reacting appropriately to someone using your car in a manner that could kill them, a passenger, or a car full of innocent strangers makes you the bad guys.

There are things to let slide. This ain’t it.

—Nicole

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