Recently, my toddler found out that Mama has a uterus, but Daddy doesn't. She seemed a little concerned for him, like, "Good gracious, Daddy, where did your uterus go?"
The conversation between her and Daddy went like this:
Sweet Pea: Lifts up Daddy's shirt, inspects his very flat stomach. "Daddy, baby?"
Daddy: No, Daddy doesn't have a baby.
Sweet Pea: Mama baby?
(Side note: Yes, readers, I'm pregnant. So you can totally blame all weird mood shifts on this blog on that phenomenon.)
Daddy: Yes, Mama has a baby in her uterus.
(Side note: We generally do not believe in the phrase, "Mama has a baby in her tummy." Food goes in your tummy, babies don't. Babies belong in uteruses, and there is simply no reason not to give accurate information just because the audience isn't even toilet trained yet. In spite of the fact that we emphasize this, my daughter did recently pat my stomach and ask me whether I had eaten the baby. Ah, well, we'll get there.)
Sweet Pea: Seems to consider. Mama, ute-us.
Daddy: Yes, Mama has a uterus.
Sweet Pea: Daddy, no ute-us.
Now see how age-appropriate and informative that was?
Consider it another step toward our quest to raise a child who knows the anatomical names for all her body parts. Since I'm on the topic, let me go ahead and say that my baby also knows the word vagina. (She says 'gina. It's adorable, actually.)
The fact that my 2-year-old says "vagina" tends to bring out two responses: Nervous giggling or shocked silence. In fact, right now, I bet there are family members reading this who are going to bring this up as a topic of concern in our next phone conversation.
I think the general concern is: "What if she uses that word in an inappropriate context?" (ie. What if your kid embarrasses you? Apparently it's so embarrassing for adults to hear the word 'vagina,' that they'll actually ban representatives from the state house floor for saying it. This coming from a nation where just yesterday, I drove by a billboard that just read, in humongous letters, "SEX," complete with scantily-clad women draped all over some furniture. Apparently references to sex or sexual organs are only okay if a woman is somehow being objectified in the mention.)
Anyway, I am not concerned about my child using the word 'gina in public. I am not even worried that she'll embarrass me. Here's why:
1. I am more concerned that my daughter would need to use that word in an appropriate context, and couldn't because she literally didn't have the language. How can she tell me about a possible health problem if she doesn't have the word "vagina" to describe what hurts? Will she be able to communicate about a UTI? More terrifyingly, how could she tell me about abuse that was happening to her if she was unable to describe why she felt uncomfortable with the way someone touched her? (I shudder to think these thoughts, but hello. In this day and age, we have to arm our children before the fact. And that means, most definitely, giving them the language to communicate their experiences.)
2. If your main concern is not being embarrassed in public, um, have you ever met children? Because even when you're not their parent, and they're not talking about vaginas, they have an incredible skill for embarrassing you. Kids have no problem pointing out your pimples to strangers. Also, they will tell your in-laws about how you and Daddy fought in the car on the way over. They will tell your friends how much money you make. Also, they will tell you you're getting fat. They don't even care. If you don't want to ever be embarrassed in public, you probably shouldn't have children.
3. It's way, way weirder to use "substitute" words with your child. I mean, in choosing between saying, "Let Mama wipe your vagina," and "Let Mama wipe your cookie," I have to say I'm not sure I could even get the latter out of my mouth. I'd feel like such an idiot. Do you really want your toddler to think her vagina is called "cookie"? And wouldn't you feel weird every time your 2-year-old said, "Mama, I want a cookie?" Not to mention how confusing this would be for a child.
4. It isn't shameful for my daughter to have a vagina--but refusing to talk about a body part when she points to it (she's TWO, and curious) communicates that it is shameful for her to have one. Which is equivalent to saying it's shameful for her to be female. Uh-uh. We're not doing that. That kid is fearfully and wonderfully made.
And so, I look forward to many years of public 'gina references that will be teaching opportunities for me. Also hilarious stories later.