Most dads, I’d wager, don’t have an extensive experience with THINX. Most fellas, for that matter, probably don’t even know what they are. The America we live in, the world we live in, does not ask men to confront menstruation. Out of sight and out of mind. It’s a thing we know that happens, but never have to deal with in a meaningful way.
For the average father of a girl entering puberty, dealing with her period is something that falls to the child’s mother, or older sister, or grandmother.
But when you have an autistic child, as I do, “average” is not a word you utter very much. Every new development in her maturity is something that needs to be approached anew. And so helping my 14-year-old daughter through all of the nooks and crannies of puberty is something my wife and I share.
There’s a saying: If you meet one kid with autism, you’ve met one kid with autism. Every child is different — it’s not called the autistic spectrum disorder for nothing. My daughter is verbal, but not conversant. She can communicate basic needs, but she’ll never tell us how she feels. Angry, sad, happy, uncomfortable…it falls to her mother and I to read the signs.
Teaching her how to use a pad, or wear a liner, proved impossible. She hates the way they feel and no matter how often we’d remind her to “leave your pad alone,” if we’d leave her alone for a minute, the minute after would be a Maxi-Pad Hunt. She could shuck a pad from her underwear like an ear of corn and hide it somewhere in the house just as fast. Like Easter Sunday, but instead of eggs and candy, we’d be looking for wadded-up sanitary napkins.
And the way she learns is through repetition — she loves a routine, day in, day out. If she had to wear a pad every day of her life, she’d probably get used to it. I’d have to get a second job to afford the pallets of pads we’d have to buy, but she’d eventually get over the discomfort — the same way she got over having to eat vegetables.
But for only five days a month? No chance. And, also, no end in sight. We spoke to a doctor once, before she hit puberty, and he told us there was a drug that could be prescribed for children like mine that would all but eliminate menstruation. We considered it, but ultimately decided against that kind of hormonal manipulation. Who knows how it would affect her, physically and emotionally, especially at this tender stage where her systems are still trying to find an equilibrium?
There would be blood, no matter what we tried.
What might seem to be simply an alternative for most women proved to be a silver bullet for us. The THINX underwear are just that, underwear. And my daughter is fine with wearing underwear — heck, she does it every day. We don’t have to hover over her, like some hawk hoping to catch a scent in the air. We can let her be herself, with no fear.
THINX has changed our lives, in a very meaningful way. And changed hers, as well.