There are no secrets
Three-year-olds are fascinated by genitalia.
What they have, what the other guy has. It comes up in conversation, casual conversation, all the time. I don’t get flustered, I just deal in facts. Well, facts and appropriate social boundaries. Truth be known, I actively enjoy these conversations. They’re funny and sweet, charming and utterly innocent.
The cutesy-prudery that is endemic in our society irritates the ever-loving crap out of me. We cringe at the thought of having “The Talk” with our kids. We wince when they mention their genitalia. We moan together about how embarrassed we are about our children’s perfectly normal (and perfectly innocent) curiosity about their own bodies.
“Oooooo!” some mommy-blogger writes, “My little boy asked how long it takes to make a baby!” (The child, elementary school age, I gather, had enough of the facts that he wasn’t asking about gestation, you understand. He wanted to know how long The Act took.) This mother dedicated a thousand words (some of them, I admit, kind of funny) to describing how she didn’t answer her son’s honest question, but did manage to convey a whole lot of embarrassment, unease, and shame.
Or the daddy-blogger who waxed lyrical (and, yes, he was funny, too) about how HIS precious angel is not going to be allowed to have a boyfriend until she’s 30, and that all prospective suitors will have to run the gauntlet of his protective manliness to achieve their virgin princess in a tower.
Irritates the SHIT out of me, people.
Because God forbid we produce children who grow up into ADULTS. Adults who have the information, attitudes and resources to have, among other things, a healthy adult sex life. They don’t get there because we had one squirming, cringing, stilted conversation, aka “The Talk”, or, worse, just had a leaflet thrown at them when they were thirteen or so.
Do we want kids who have confidence and self-respect? Teens who will see us as trustworthy resources, and come to us with questions and concerns? Adults who choose loving and nurturing partners? Then get over yourself and talk. to. your. kids. Talk sanely, calmly, sensibly, respectfully. Your children is much more likely to achieve healthy sexuality when their parents answer straight questions with age-appropriate information. When their parents are relaxed and matter-of-fact about this topic.
Our children stand a far better chance of getting to be healthy adults with healthy sexuality if we act like adults ourselves, instead of sniggering 9-year-old boys or simpering 9-year-old girls. Grow up, people!
So when the topic of genitalia comes up here, and it does, routinely, we use medically accurate terms. No “pee-pees” in this house. “Down there” means “on the floor”, not a body part.
Boys have a penis and testicles. Girls have a vulva and a vagina. Those are the words we use. We use them quite a bit these days, because there are two three-year-olds in the house.
Jazz and Grace stand over Josh, who is being changed.
“He has a penis,” Grace observes.
“Yes, and tessacles,” Jazz adds. They nod, sagely pleased with their observations.
When Poppy is being changed,
“Her vulva gots poo on it.”
“Yes, Jazz, it does. I’m cleaning it now.”
“And you gots to be careful and not get poo in her vagina,” Grace adds.
“Smart girl! You’re absolutely right. I have to make sure her vagina stays clean.”
See how easy it is?
I have done my best to put this exciting vocabulary in the appropriate social context. These are private areas of the body, and so we don’t talk about them just anywhere. I’ve explained that it’s okay to talk about these things with me and with mummy and daddy, but not just anyone.
This morning I had some wiring replaced in my basement. The electrician is also a friend, so he stopped to chat with the tots. Being a sensible man, he admired Grace’s dress.
“Yes, I have a pretty dress, and Mary has a skirt!”
“So she does,” he nods.
“Mary has a skirt and she has a shirt and she has a sweater and she has tights and she has unnerwears, and”
Uh-oh. “Unnerwears” was already too much information, and my electrician friend is snorting into his beard. He thinks that’s the punch line. He thinks the joke is over, but I know better. I can see the trajectory here, and it’s not heading in a G-rated direction. I don’t interject quickly enough, however.
“… unnerwears and she has a VULVA!” Grace stops, pleased to have gotten the Topic of the Month into conversation.
Yeah. Oh, yeah. Only a three-year-old could put you in the position of encouraging your electrician to consider your nether regions. (Is it better or worse that he’s a friend, I wonder?) So much for “private things talked about in private”, huh? Except, from the perspective of a three-year-old, we’re IN THE HOUSE, and he IS A FRIEND, so we’re discussing private things in private, amongst friends. What could possibly be wrong with that??
What’s a little genital consideration amongst friends, anyway? We do it ALL THE TIME around here!! Hee.
Thankfully, my friend the electrician is, like me, a grown-up about these matters. He also has children of his own (children old enough to be producing grandchildren, but still, children). He’s been here. He barely blinks. Well, unless you count the wink he threw my way.
“Medically accurate, huh? Good job!” He raises two thumbs as he heads out the front door.
Me and my vulva, we go make lunch for the children.