What is a red party? No, I’m not referring to a tailgate party for Utah fans. It is a celebration in honor of menarche, or the onset of a young woman’s period. You can read a little bit more about that in Lani’s post, Red and Powerful. One of our readers was willing to share with us how she prepared her daughter for coming of age and how they celebrated it together. She asked that I not share her name in honoring her daughter’s privacy. - Robyn
“I remember when I started my period. Luckily, it was during Christmas break. No embarrassing event at school marked by red thankfully. But I was still horrified. I thought I would start when I was 15, like my mother. But there it was, right before my thirteenth birthday. I told my mother who reacted so positively. She gave me a hug and asked me if I wanted to tell my dad or if she could tell him. I was so distraught I blurted out, “you better not tell dad and I’m not telling him either.” She helped me navigate the world of pads, tampons, and cramps. Looking back, I’m grateful I had a mother that I could go to and who was happy for me. In her own way she helped me embrace something I didn’t understand.
Fast forward many periods later. My daughter was trying to grow into her body. I could tell how uncomfortable it felt to her for it to change. I knew that within the next couple years she would likely begin her period. I wanted her to embrace this essence of her womanhood and not be horrified by it. I wanted her to feel how wonderful it is to be a woman. I ran across blog posts on the subject and determined to have a fancy little red party for her when the day came. Throughout those few years we talked about periods and how she would recognize it. I attended her maturation class at school with her. We talked more. We even discussed the symbolism of shedding blood, the Atonement, the Savior, and the gift of giving life. We talked about pads, cramps, and the realities of mensturation. We made sure she had a stash of supplies. I told her we would have her own red party someday. She was ready to go.
So when the time came, I was grateful that she felt comfortable enough to come to me. I hugged her like my mother did me. I was excited for her like my mother was for me. She didn’t act horrified but not exactly excited either. I was looking forward to inviting other significant women/girls to her red party. I was ready to plan a fantastic little red party. Only, I had forgotten one important factor, it was her party. She didn’t want some sort of big celebration or even a medium one. She wanted it her way without a lot of to do. I had envisioned decorating the house in red, making a red velvet cake with other decadent red treats and giving her a beautiful red dress all while surrounded by significant women in her life giving her their love, wisdom and support. As I talked over my plans with her she quickly stopped me, ‘no red dress mom!’ Of course, I should have known that. She was never a sparkly pink bedazzled kind of girl, of course a red dress and big froofy party would not be her thing. And most of our family lives far away so when her favorite aunt was visiting we opted for her favorite pizza place and carefully navigated the essential womanly topics related to puberty, sex, and boys. Instead of a red dress, I found her a red shirt with her favorite sports team. It was the perfect red party because it was perfect for her.”
I’m grateful that this mother would share this experience. I have four young daughters myself and know that I will soon be trying to help them navigate through the changes of womanhood. I think what I take away from the story above is that it really is about planning an event that is comfortable to your daughter. Here are a few more ideas you can suggest to your daughter when planning it together.
Who do you want to invite? Your daughter should only have people there she feels close and comfortable with discussing this passage. That likely means a smaller list of women in the family or close friendships.
Where do you want to celebrate? At home, at a favorite restaurant, at a park, grandma’s house? It is good to have privacy if you think she would be embarrassed by the theme of the party.
How do you want to celebrate it? Your event might be small and intimate like in the story above or a larger gathering of women. It can be informal or formal. It can be nice to assign a matriarch that she looks up to give a short talk about womanhood offering advice. Another idea would be for it to be like a mother blessing with each guest bringing a wish and bead for your daughter to be shared at the party. Lani’s post suggests wearing red to the party and making a quilt or red dress together. You can also present her with a special scrapbook, read poems, and even share scriptures. Maybe she would prefer a more fun approach with a game like pin the pad on the panties blindfolded. Even better, make it a mixture of both. What kinds of things does she like to do? How can you tie that in? One of my friends and her daughter enjoy letterboxing so they plan to make a letterbox stop with a special stamp as part of their celebration.
This is just the beginning. Hopefully, her red party is just one of the times in which you discuss this kind of stuff. The door opens at this rite of passage and should continue to be open as she comes to you with her ups and downs, hopes and dreams, and questions and answers.
I would love to hear how you or someone you know celebrated this rite of passage with their daughter. Please share in the comments below.