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V is for Vagina

Photograph by AFP/Getty Images

There once was a little boy who became famous for doing what kids do so well—telling it like it is. He stole the movie "Kindergarten Cop" with one small line: “Boys have a penis; girls have a vagina.”

It’s a simple and true statement, is it not?

That is how small children look at the world. They think literally. Hold nothing back. Have no filter.

This can often be funny. Sometimes, it can be frustrating. And then there are the times when it gets them in to trouble.

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Last year in voluntary pre-kindergarten, my daughter was running around at recess and collided with a classmate on the playground. She fell in such a way that her foot bruised her lady bits. She pulled one of her teachers aside—because I have explained using the word vagina in public freaks out some people—and told her it hurt.

She did not say it in front of her classmates. Yet the teacher was mortified she used that word. And made sure I knew all about it at pickup. I replied I would be mortified if my daughter didn't use that word. I told the teacher, "She's a girl; she has a vagina. I'm not exactly clear what else you would expect her to call it."

They are simply words. And, they are the correct ones.

I wasn’t trying to be obstinate; I just don’t get it. What is wrong with children having a basic understanding of human anatomy?

In our home, we don’t use code words or nicknames for private parts. We call them what they are. We discuss them with our young daughter, when she asks, in a simple, factual, age-appropriate manner.

We do that because it is what feels most natural to us. No, my child does not run around screaming, “Penis, vagina, penis, vagina!” She hardly ever uses the words. But she knows them, what they mean and uses them accordingly.

I often get the feeling some adults would be more comfortable with a 4-year-old dropping an f-bomb than using anatomically correct nomenclature.

They are simply words. And, they are the correct ones.

Boys have a penis. Girls have a vagina. Let’s call a spade a spade, shall we?

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Because if we give children reason to feel there is something wrong with saying “penis” or “vagina,” they may start to believe there is something wrong with having one.

And that is just not OK.

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