When a kid gets their period for the first time, it can be an emotional (read: horrifying) experience for both child and parent — especially if all relevant parties are unprepared for the onset of puberty. But one Texas dad demonstrated last week how to handle the changes like a pro in a Facebook post about his daughter’s first period. We spoke with said now-viral single dad, Maverick Austin, about the whole saga.
In a post titled “Diary of a Father and daughter,” Austin recounted the equal-parts scary, confusing, and comical story. Austin said he was on a conference call when his daughter phoned him to say she had pooped her pants at school and needed a change of clothes. A few hours later, Austin said he got yet another phone call saying, “it happened again.”
“I’m confused and very annoyed because I’m super busy. I yell, ‘Just wipe your butt better then stuff toilet paper in the back of your pants, and I’ll have to call you back in an hour!’ and I hang up,” Austin wrote.
Then it dawned on him: She hadn’t pooped at all. His daughter started her period and needed his help, stat. (He even said he felt like he’d “left her to die on the battlefield.” Poor dad!) He ditched his work call, sped to the school, and reunited with his daughter in the office where she let him know that, yes, Aunt Flo had come a-knockin’.
After all the excitement, Austin said he transformed into the “Period Fairy” and bought his daughter some sweet treats, a card, and a bouquet.
Austin tells SheKnows that while the internet frenzy took his family by surprise, his daughter “isn’t fazed by any of it.” It’s also urged him to reflect on how single parents are treated societally.
“Although [going viral] wasn’t something we planned, the most important part of the conversation to me that this post stirred up is the fact that so many people are surprised that fathers can raise children and do their best to learn how to raise a daughter alone, just as millions of moms singlehandedly raise young men and don’t get enough credit,” he tells SheKnows. “Parenting is the hardest job on the planet, and we should start being more encouraging and supportive of other parents, rather than be highly judgmental or negative about people’s decision-making.”
All of this was so sweet. Being a single parent can be a challenging and sometimes thankless job, and Austin went out of his way to make sure that his daughter felt supported and loved. The fact that his daughter felt comfortable calling him and talking through her first period/”poop” experience demonstrates that he’s created a safe environment for her — mad props to him.
But this viral story highlighted a broader societal issue: Our sex education programs in the United States are failing kids.
Why are we putting kids in a position where they don’t recognize if something coming out of their vagina is poop or blood? Most kids start their periods between the ages of 8 and 15 (the average age is 12), and they’ll menstruate for approximately 40 years. You’d think that bleeding for decades would be a big enough topic for sex educators to cover it thoroughly in schools, and yet, two popular Google searches are “What does your first period look like” and “What does your first period look like pictures.”
If kids aren’t taught how to identify the signs of puberty or what their first periods might actually look like, imagine how they’re feeling, physically and emotionally, as they navigate these significant bodily changes. It’s not enough to explain to kids that “something” will “happen” to them. We need to also walk them through what these experiences will look and feel like, from the different kinds of period blood to healthy ways they can cope with period pain. Additionally, sex educators, parents, and teachers should advocate for schools to make period products accessible for all students who might need them. Not every kid has a parent like Austin who can or will drop everything to help — let alone one who has the financial means to do so.
Normalizing conversations about menstruation will help eliminate period stigma and better prepare kids for when they start menstruating. Hopefully, it’ll also encourage more parents to feel comfortable supporting their kids when the time comes — whether they offer a few words of encouragement or follow Austin’s lead and transform into the Period Fairy.