It’s Not All Mary Poppins

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.

Oooooh, lovely.

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.

November 15, 2012 Posted by | Grace, Mischief, parenting, Peeve me, sex, the things they say! | 12 Comments

Mother-Daughter Bonding

Over cars!


I am not a car girl. I appreciate a comfortable car. I will notice a pretty one on the street. But makes, models and specs? No idea, and no inclination to become more informed. Cars just don’t feature much in my world. I don’t even own one.

Both my girls, though, have gone through a phase in which they were quite taken by Volkswagon Beetles. Don’t ask me why. When she was sixteen or seventeen, Haley was very determined to have a whole fleet of them one day, in a rainbow of colours. Me, the non-car girl, could not see the point of that. I don’t even do that with teeny accessories, never mind something that would require extra acreage around my home. But, mostly, I just laughed fondly. It was never going to happen, and it made her happy to imagine it. No harm there. (These days, she owns one car. Not new. Not a Beetle.)

And now Emma is interested in Beetles. She likes Fiats, too, but Beetles, she declared yesterday, look much nicer than they used to. Have I seen them?

“Um… aren’t they sort of flatter than they used to be? The roof isn’t as rounded? Or is that the Bug?” And even as I spoke, I wondered if the Bug is really the same thing as the Beetle, just a different name? (Because I am Informed and Aware about cars. I know this stuff.)

She taps away at her iPhone, then shows me a few pictures. Oh, yeah. Much sleeker than the bulbous little fellas I remember.

And a decent amount of storage space, too! Ah, that German design.

Suddenly, Emma snorts and taps her screen again. “Hey, look at THIS!”

My snort is probably louder than hers. “Holy Hannah!” With advertising like that, no wonder my girls are Beetle fans. Going after the women’s market, are we, Volkswagon?

I put on cheesy car-salesman voice. “Just slide yerself onto that, little lady.”

“And then,” Emma adds, a wicked glint in her eyes, “shift it into drive!” Our laughter is distinctly un-ladylike.

My attention moves past the phallic-ly obvious to the hand brake.

“Oh my! And look at that! Ha! It just gets better and better.”

Emma looks at me, blankly.


Well, now. Her loving mother has sussed out a gap in her knowledge of Important Girl Stuff. I think we need to make a trip to Venus Envy, or at least visit the website. She’ll be thrilled, I know. That Mother-Daughter bonding? It just never ends.

May 30, 2012 Posted by | Mischief, my kids, Ottawa, sex | , , , , | 2 Comments

She’s her mother’s daughter

Emma is reading The Hare and the Tortoise to the children. We own a version illustrated by Brian Wildsmith, and it’s quite lovely.

She reads slowly, and lets the children chatter about each page. It’s a British imprint, which becomes obvious at the start of the race.

“What’s a ‘cock’, Emma?”

Showing remarkable aplomb for an almost-eighteen-year-old, Emma answers the question simply. Nary a snicker to be heard.

“It’s the rooster, sweetie. In some places, they call a rooster a ‘cock’. See him standing there? The rooster is going to start the race.”

She continues with the story. A line later, she stops.

“You know, it’s pretty hard to read this and not hear something entirely different.”

I haven’t been paying attention. “Read what?”

Emma clears her throat and repeats the line with Import and Drama.

“The cockswelled upready… to give the signal.”

Not nearly as aplombish as my daughter, I snicker. May even have sniggered like a nine-year-old schoolboy.

“You, young lady, have a filthy mind.”

Aplomb gone to the wind, she snickers right back.

“Uh-huh. And where did I get that from?”


June 7, 2011 Posted by | books, my kids, sex | | 2 Comments

A senior moment?

Until about 7:15 this morning, it was Saturday.

I got up (having ‘slept in’ until 5:38!!), pulled on a pair of jeans under my nightshirt, and took the puppy out for her first pee of the day. No need to get fully dressed, as I would on a weekday, because who’s going to be outside at 5:39 on a Saturday morning?

Oddly enough, my neighbours to the west were out, just getting into their car. And dressed rather nicely for a Saturday morning. Maybe they had a wedding to attend, or something?

I come back in. My husband wanders through the living room, a little early for a Saturday, but Saturday is one of his running days, so maybe he’s just going to get an early start on what promises to be a beautiful day.

I putz about on Farmville for… a while… while I sip my first cup of tea of the day. (For such a low-key game, it sure can eat up a lot of minutes. I make no apologies. As vices go, it’s pretty mild.)

I go outside with the puppy again.

I wander into the kitchen and scratched a line through yesterday’s dinner menu, and checked tonight’s entree. (Yes, it has the days of the week written on it…) Took the ground turkey out of the freezer.

And still, it was Saturday. Saturday at 7:12. My first child arrives at 7:45.

And I’m still in my jammies.

Here’s where good karma comes in. I go upstairs to the attic to where my Wonderful Husband is watching sports highlights, a morning ritual for him. I go upstairs to the attic, intending, it being a Saturday and us having NOTHING on the agenda (which is how we prefer our weekends), to jump his yummy bones.

(TMI? Mary has a happy marriage.) πŸ™‚

Before I make my agenda clear, he says something about having a shower. “Before you take your run?” I say, somewhat surprised. See, my plan was to get him all sweaty before he took his run, knowing he’d be taking a shower after that. Aren’t I just so efficient??

“I’m not taking a run this morning.”

Now that’s just weird. My sweetie is a creature of habit. Run days are Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. I am thrown into further confusion when he asks whether I’ve taken the dogs for their morning walk. Well, no. He always takes Indie with him when he runs. I walk the puppy later.

“But I’m not running today. It’s Friday.”



I’m dressed, properly dressed, in less than three minutes. I’m drinking my second cup of tea in less than seven.

And I greet the first parent — fully clothed, face washed, teeth brushed — twenty-three minutes after that. Because it’s Friday, and I’m working.

Thank heavens for naughty intentions.

June 3, 2011 Posted by | quirks and quirkiness, sex, the dog | 8 Comments

It’s a bird, it’s a plane…

“That’s MY tower!” Tyler’s stack of duplo block is about waist-high. His waist. My knee.

“It’s a big one!” Big sister Emily is impressed (and kind.)

“Yes, it’s big. It’s the CN Tower!” Tyler declares, reflecting their recent trip to Toronto, no doubt.

“It’s the Eiffel Tower!!!” Emily smiles and sweeps her arms wide, letting Tyler know she’s talking about something HUGE!! (I’m impressed. They’ve been to Toronto, but never Paris. And yes, I know the CN Tower is taller, but apparently she doesn’t.)

Tyler is just bursting with pride in his edifice. It’s big! It’s the CN Tower!!! It’s the Eiffel Tower!!!!! It’s… it’s… it’s…

“It’s my PENIS!!!”

August 16, 2010 Posted by | Emily, sex, the things they say!, Tyler | , , , , , | 15 Comments

I’m blaming the pool

“Noah. WHAT have you dropped down there?”

It’s not something I haven’t seen before. I recall Arthur, who made a steady hobby of sneaking small toys home — in his pocket, in the hood of his coat, in a mitten, and yes, down the front of his Y-fronts.

Noah glances down. If he’s trying to be subtle, he’s failed miserably. We’ve spent the morning in the pool again, he’s wearing nothing but a pair of damp tightie-whities, and that bulge is way too big to be…

“It’s my penis.”

It’s his grin, a sheepish combination of embarrassment and utter pride, that convinces me. There really is nothing down there but the boy.

Well, now. The water in the pool is cold, and his damp briefs have to be cool. In my experience — not vast, but not… meager, either — cold has the opposite effect on those things. His hand reaches down, and —

“Hey, sweetie. Snacktime!” Snack time is not for another half an hour, but what I want at the moment is a Distraction.

It works. Though his grin doesn’t quite disappear, his hand falls back to his side. When we’ve finished eating, the … toy is gone. Phew. Okay, not gone gone, but subsided.

Later that evening, Emma returns from babysitting Tyler and Emily. One of the perks of having a mother who runs a daycare is after-hours babysitting work for my kids. Each of them has had their turn. These days, it’s Emma. Who is, unsurprisingly, a kick-ass babysitter.

“How did it go?”

“Fine. They played for an hour, then we read for a bit. Their mum had supper ready, so all I had to do was heat it up, and after they had a bath before — Oh! Mum!” Her eyes widen and she grins. “So, they have their bath together, right? And Tyler has obviously been taught to clean his genitals. He stands up, gets his hands all soapy and starts rubbing. Then he tells me, ‘I have to clean my penis.’ And I say, ‘Yup, you need to clean all of you, don’t you?’ And then he rinses it off… and then he cleans it again, because, hey! He’s SUPPOSED to, right?? It’s not because it, you know, feels good or anything like that. And then he soaps up again, and he’s all set to wash it ANOTHER time, and I say, ‘Okay, buddy. I think it’s clean now. You can stop.’ ”

She giggles. “He’s probably got the cleanest penis of any two-year-old in the city right now.”

Yeah. It’s that damned pool. What else could it be?

July 12, 2010 Posted by | health and safety, Mischief, sex | , | 3 Comments

Of course they do!

On considering yesterday’s post, I realize my thoughts have clarified further. It was an email conversation with a friend, with the further addition of Jen’s comment that brought it all together for me.

Here’s what I think:

Of course they know.

Sorta. See, it depends on who you mean by “they”. In my first post, I was conflating two sets of people. But that’s a misapprehension, and when you realize there are two distinct “they’s”, all becomes clear.

Somewhere there is a room filled with designer-types armed with computers, terrific graphic programs… and a wicked sense of humour. THEY know.

Somewhere else, there is an office filled with the marketers hired to promote the product. THEY don’t.

But think about any creative types you know. Do you think, for one second, that Mr or Ms Designer doesn’t know damned well what it looked like? Course they do! Not only do they see exactly what that thing is, they left it in the design because the fun of having zillions of those things… erected… by oblivious parents in back yards across the nation was just too good to pass up.

And zillions of parents are oblivious. The rest of us are just entertained. πŸ™‚

July 10, 2010 Posted by | random and odd, sex | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

They know not what they do

I think.

It has been hot this week. How and unspeakably humid, which is how we do hot in Southern and Eastern Ontario. An air temperature of 28 – 34C, but with the humidity factored in, feels like 40 – 44.

That is HOT.

We’d sought air conditioning daily — Starbucks, Tim Horton’s, Dairy Queen — but I was beginning to feel that the walk to and from negated any benefit of being cool for half an hour. So one evening I took myself down to Zellers in pursuit of a wading pool, where I found two styles of inflatable pool. Zellers being Zellers, they were of course emblazoned with licensed figures.

So our choices were bubblegum pink Disney Princess, and baby blue Action Heroes. Because, you know, it’s important to start your gender stereotyping early.

Now, Disney Princesses make me gag, and since the “Action Heroes” were the far more innocuous Buzz Lightyear and Woody, I opted for them. Even though it’s a “boy” pool.

And when I got it home and inflated it?

Boy, it is a BOY pool. Just take a gander at this:

Holy Hannah. Can you say “phallic”, boys and girls?

And just picture Mary, blowing up the pool — which Emma and I did by mouth, given that our foot pump has gone AWOL — blowing up the pool and having THAT thing arise from the depths.

Wow. Don’t know my own strength.

And what, you ask, IS that thing? Apart from the, ahem, obvious? (The very, very obvious?) I wondered the same thing, but an investigation of the remainder of the contents of the box proved that it’s a MAST.

But of course!!! See the sail ? And a very masterful mast it is, all manly and upright.

The manly mast got me thinking about the other pool, the vulvabubblegum-pink Disney Princess one. Which had, not a phallus mast, but a canopy. A canopy, which not only shields the children from the sun, but makes a sort of a … cave. A nice, wet, pink cave.

People, people, people. This borders on OBSCENE. And you have to wonder… do the makers of these things know what they’re creating? Is this some sort of insidious, subliminal marketing ploy? Or is it simply an inadvertent expression of the designer’s subconscious?

But really. How could they not?

It is possible?

July 9, 2010 Posted by | Mischief, sex | , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Just another day

Noah lies face-down on the couch, twitching slightly.

“Noah. Leave your penis alone. You don’t touch it in the living room. Your penis is private. You can touch it in your bed, or in the bathroom, but not in rooms with other people. Understand?”

Noah removes his hands from his boy bits and sits up.

“Okay. We sing Old MacDonald now?”

From masturbation to Old MacDonald in less than a breath. It’s a funny old world I work in, but I like it.


January 25, 2010 Posted by | Developmental stuff, health and safety, Noah, sex | 4 Comments

Redressing the imbalance, one diaper at a time

balance_scaleGender inequity. It starts when they’re in diapers, you know. In fact, the fundamentals of the inequity are IN their diapers. And lots of (most!) parents encourage it, every day. Hold onto the outrage here. It’s subtle.

And it goes like this:

Big brother peers at his baby sister on the change table, asks the obvious question. And his loving parent gives him the facts: “No, she doesn’t have a penis, because she is a girl.” That’s it. A simple question, a simple, factual answer. No harm in that, huh?

But what is the little boy hearing?

“She doesn’t have…” Girls miss out. Girls lack something.

No wonder men think their bits are so all-fired superior. No wonder so many women are ambivalent about their own.

Most of us probably don’t think much about it. Facts is facts, after all. But me, I’ve been having this conversation for the better part of two decades. After a while, the unspoken assumption began to really grate, and I determined that I would put a stop to it. At least in my own little arena of influence.

So, at Mary’s house, when the obvious question is asked?

“Yes, you have a penis and testicles, because you are a boy. She has a vulva and a vagina, because she is a girl.”

See? Everyone has something good down there. Easy.

If he’s been insufferably and intractibly smug about his sticky-out bits and her lack thereof, I will add another sentence: “You don’t have a vagina, because you are a boy.” Which will be uttered in tones of some wistful regret. Poor you, who doesn’t have The Good Stuff.

Chalk one up for genital equity.

November 28, 2008 Posted by | health and safety, Mischief, sex, socializing | , , | 10 Comments