12 September 2010


One of the earliest things with which parents have to grapple is what they are going to do about body parts.

Some people go with the nickname route - your pee pee or your hooha.

Some go with the pretending we don't have to talk about it route.

Some go with the ultra-scientific - urethra, etc.

I wouldn't venture to say any is particularly right or wrong (I mean, I obviously have my preferences), but....

I grew up knowing that what my little brother's particular genitalia are - I knew penis, scrotum and testicles. I didn't go around announcing them, but I knew what they were.

I think my mother's biggest motivation behind that was that there weren't really non-crude alternatives. She wasn't going to pretend like my little brothers didn't have testicles, but she certainly wasn't going to call them

*gasp* *whisper* balls.

I had trouble just typing that. Eww. Gross. Tacky. Not-raised-right...

But, anyway....

Interestingly, we didn't use the word vagina in everyday use. I knew it. I knew that's that what I had, but my mother didn't say that. I'm not going to tell you what she said, because it is extremely silly and she would be embarrassed. But it was the nickname type route.

[I had friends who made it to seventh grade life science and the forbidden Chapter 23 not actually knowing that their vaginas were called that. I wasn't one of those, but again, we didn't say it.]

When Paul was growing up someone told him that Babies are in their mother's stomachs. He really worried about that, so when I was pregnant with Eason and my precocious little 2 year old asked where exactly that baby was growing, we explained that people have different organs in their bodies - livers, spleens, stomachs, and that women have uteri (right? not uteruses?) and that it is this really cool organ in which babies can grow.

So, we've told Eas that his is a penis and Ada Brooks that hers is a vagina (which she, before her second birthday, not-so-attractively shortened to gina. Pronounced with a long i. I don't know how I feel about that, but I don't think there's any going back now).

Why have we told them that? Because they ask. Children say "What's zat?" pretty much before they say anything else. And you have to say something.

Tangential to what to call body parts, one must adopt a certain attitude toward them. I mean - some will say that a vagina is just another part - like an arm. But that's bull butter. When my little girl's best guy friend pats her on the arm, that will be a bit different than if he reaches over and pats her lady parts.

So, you want the kids to have an appropriate level of privacy without having fear or any sort of shame.

It's a private part. But it's not a gross part or something weird or odd or anything.

It's a hard, delicate balance. Sounds easy enough, but it's really not.

So, last night, I went back to the kids rooms to monitor the changing into pajamas. Eason had gotten down to his underwear. And when I walked in, he had his hands down his underwear studying something down there really intensely.

I said, "Hey Eas - get your hands out of your pants."

[Which is my standard response to little boy fooling with private parts moments. Which is a habit that begins when they are still in their diapers, hanging out in their cribs, unable to talk.... a habit which ends when they are again unable to talk... or what we like to call 'dead.']

But, since he wasn't just fooling with parts, but actually studying them, I decided that I should probably make sure nothing was wrong and so I then ventured to ask, "Everything okay down there?"

"Yes, Mama, I was just looking at that bumpy thing."

"What bumpy thing?" (Yes, I did worry for a moment there might be some growth or something.- wouldn't you?)

Eas proceeded to show me the bumpy thing. Which was his scrotum.

He said, "What is that anyway?"

I said, "That's your scrotum."

"What's a scrotum?"

And at this point, I have a responsibility to decide how far I'm going with this. And I was tired. And the Rebels were about to kick off.

So I said,
"A body part that boys have that girls don't."

Eason turned to his sister and said, "Ha! I have a scrotum."

And my daughter, who shows a remarkable amount of feminist pride, betrayed the universal penis envy that women have.

(Yes, I'm completely kidding about that second part. Absolutely completely.)

She said, hand on hip, "He may have a 'scrotum,' but girls have lots of things boys don't have.... like a uterus. Yeah- and that's how we can have babies- so yeah."

So...before you tell your children the scientific names of things....

just know...

that one day...

they may fight about which is cooler - having a scrotum or a uterus.
(Of course we all know which is cooler, but don't try to convince Eas....)


  1. I have a nephew who calls his marbles, because, well, he insists that is what they look like.

  2. Marbles! Or even better... Narbles! I love a good nickname as long as it's child-driven and as long as everyone knows it's a nickname...those two girls in my seventh grade class scarred me with having never heard the proper terminology... =)