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can't swing your eyeballs around the Internet these days without reading an
article about vaginas and penises. And no, I don't mean "Dear
Penthouse" kinds of articles (although those are out there too, no doubt).
I'm talking about parenting essays explaining how important it is to discuss
genitals with your children using proper medical terminology.
me, I'm all for this movement. As a society, we need to do everything we can to
eliminate the stigma and embarrassment associated with our sexual body parts;
they're private, not secret. If that means that I have to use the word
"testicles" in front of my kids, then so be it.
these days, telling your daughter she has a vulva has become the new frontier
in the mommy wars — many articles, Facebook posts and Internet comments have a
decidedly condescending tone, implying that only moms whose children can draw a
textbook-accurate diagram of their reproductive systems while blindfolded are
doing parenting right, while anyone who still uses an immature term like
"wee wee" is essentially everything that's wrong with humanity.
believe me? Check out some of the comments on a recent Jezebel article on the topic:
"I really, really LOATHE made-up,
cutesy words for children like pee-pee, weenie, poo-poo, potty, etc. and I want
to see them all die a fiery death."
"If you are not mature enough to
say the actual words for anatomical parts, you are not mature enough to be
having any kind of sex."
(It doesn't) make the ensuing conversation any less valid because she used a euphemism.
Even parents who are doing it "right" aren't doing it
"I actually hate when parents use 'vagina' to describe the whole region. It's better than calling it
your 'dinga-linga-wow-wow' or whatever made up silliness but if
you're going to try to use the right words than [sic] use the right words!"
are most nicknames for sex parts really stupid? YES! But "scrotum"
isn't exactly poetry, either. I understand the sentiment behind using the
proper terms — if my kids are experiencing discomfort or (I shudder to even
type the word) abuse, I want them to feel comfortable telling me and describing
precisely what's going on. I also want them to see me as a reliable source of
accurate information, even on subjects they might think are taboo. So, we've
definitely covered anatomy 101 at my house, boys and girls alike.
when my toddler comes running out of the bathroom to loudly announce she wiped
her "front buns" (the term she has deemed superior in both usability
and hilarity to the boring old Latin "vulva"), it doesn't mean I
don't know what she's taking about, nor does it make the ensuing conversation
any less valid because she used a euphemism. It doesn't mean she's embarrassed
about her body. She is not ashamed (clearly).
older kids often do use "proper" terms — but only because I've
been known to yell, "DOES ANYONE WANT TO DISCUSS THEIR VAGINA OR PENIS
TODAY?" when they come home from school. This is also incorrect, according
to the Internet McJudgersons; true, I don't yell "TINKLE" or
"WIENER," but I'm still not treating the subject with enough
off-handed stoicism and maturity, which will surely prevent my children from
ever taking the topic seriously.
We need to refocus our attention on the fact that, whatever words parents use, the most important thing is the discussion itself.
when my kids do have a question, we sometimes also use words like (gasp!)
"junk" or "privates" during our conversation. But
curiosities are satisfied, information is shared, we hug it out and I feel
pretty solid about the chances that they'll come to me again the next time they
have a question or issue. Isn't that the point?
it comes down to is this: The "right" way to parent is different in
every home. Yes, absolutely, teach your children to be proud and take ownership
of their bodies. Inform them in an age-appropriate way about their anatomy and
how it works. Instruct them about consent, about what is and isn't socially
acceptable. But whether you use silly words or a Power Point presentation is
immaterial, as long as you're doing it.
need to refocus our attention on the fact that, whatever words parents use, the
most important thing is the discussion itself — that your relaxed,
receptive demeanor promotes open communication, and that your kids are comfortable
talking to you, not whether or not you're using specific Latin medical terms.
If you're comfortable doing so, great! But I'd contend that a conversation
without the word "testicles" is better than none at all, and as with
any personal parenting decision, you shouldn't let some judgmental gluteus hole
on the Internet convince you otherwise.