While Lily was lying on the changing table recently, she lightly patted herself “down there” and said, “That’s my poopie.”
And, well, you know. I’m an educated woman who’s seen “The Vagina Monologues” and everything. So I said, after a short, unthinking pause, “No, that’s your vagina.”
“Jine-ah?” Lily asked, and I repeated the word for her, swallowing back my own residual discomfort with the lexicon of female genitalia. Years and years of feeling ashamed, or just plain unaware, of the ins and outs (so to speak) of your own body don’t simply vanish by way of experiencing feminist plays and essays, after all.
As if to hit this point home even more, I realized after-the-fact that what Lily had been patting, of course, was in fact her labia, not her vagina (patting an internal cavity would indeed be difficult). So despite my intentions to be frank and unashamed about female anatomy from the start with Lily, our first-ever exchange on the topic was a humbling lesson in my own reflexive ignorance.
I’ve vowed to do better, both for Lily and for me. I’ve promised myself to have the words, the accurate, shame-free words, to equip her to know the geography of her own body in a healthy way. Yes, she may, as she grows into an adult, use the silly nicknames like “coochie” and “va-jay-jay,” but as long as she knows the real terms, and feels comfortable with her physical self, I’ll have done my job well – or adequately, I guess.
Yes, I’m disappointed that I kind of botched this inaugural test with Lily. But I’m proud that I at least spoke up, thus working against years and years of repression. It was a positive first step – even if I didn’t get the words quite right.
If only Lily could read my blog. I’m always so much better on “paper,” virtual or otherwise.
Jenn- That was a fun concept to introduce to our twin girls. I find that it helped to really look at things from the child’s point of view. They are totally at ease wtih their bodies. They’re not embarassed at all. So if the’re not, then why should we be? All they want is general information. Skip the details and complications. They don’t need it yet, and they’re not necessairily looking for it yet. A vagina is a vagina. Every girl has one. A penis is a penis. Every boy has one. No big deal. That’s just the way it is.
When our bunny was mounted by another bunny and we HAD to address the topic of sex, we simply told them that this was the way that bunnies make babies, and that they need to reproduce a lot in order to survive. They were good with that. Then as we saw other animals ‘doing it’ we could explain the behavior in the same terms as the bunnies (Birds do it, bees do it, bunnies do it.)
We haven’t had much more than the basic talk about human reproduction yet, but hopefully the open and unashamed conversations we’ve had about other animals will help them understand. At least that’s the game plan….