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Why I'm Talking to My Preschooler About Her Vagina

Photograph by Twenty20

I’m going to be honest, up to this point, I haven’t talked much to my 3-year-old daughter about her private parts. Not because it hasn’t seemed important to me, but more because I wasn’t really convinced my girl was at a place where she could understand the concept of private parts and saying “no.”

But then, a few weeks ago, I was sitting around the table with some close friends and the subject came up—mostly because my friends have kids who are a year or two older than my daughter, and so these conversations are happening more in their households.

As we were talking about how to approach the private parts conversation, we veered off onto the topic of why we have these conversations in the first place—to protect our kids from potential predators. And it was then that we began to share stories of kids we’ve known who were hurt when they were young—either by an adult or a peer.

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One friend told a story of a girl not much older than my daughter, and my stomach twisted in fear. I like to think no one could ever hurt her—that she’s always with me, and I always have control over the settings she’s in. But obviously, that’s not entirely true. She goes to daycare. She spends time with adults who aren’t me. And while I trust all of those people implicitly, the one common thread that came out of this conversation I was having with my friends was that all these kids we knew who had been hurt, had been hurt in places where their parents thought they were safe.

And I realized, whether I thought my daughter was ready or not—it was time to start having the private parts conversation with her.

It was time to start teaching her to say, “No!”

So that night, I sat my girl down for a talk.

Raising a daughter is a scary thing. Sometimes it feels like there are dangers awaiting her around every bend.

First, I asked her to point to her "gina" (which is what she calls her vagina, and yes, I know that's not technically correct but I'm OK with it), her "boobies", and her "booty" (I repeat… I don’t care about your technical terminology. This works for us.) She pointed to each, laughing maniacally when I said “booty” (because we are in a potty humor stage where she finds the mere mention hilarious.) Then I said, “Those are your private parts. Can you say ‘private parts’?”

She complied with a smile.

So I added, “Your private parts are only for you. No one but Mommy should ever touch them. Do you understand?”

She nodded and said, “Understand.”

Feeling pretty good about myself and this conversation, I asked, “So what should you say if someone tries to touch your private parts?”

She thought for a minute, and then said, “I like Cookie Monster!”

Hmmm… Not what I expected.

I decided to try again. “No, sweetheart. Pay attention. What do you say if someone tries to touch your private parts?”

She smiled, “Want a cookie?”

Great.

“No, baby.” I said. “If someone tries to touch your private parts, you say, ‘No! Don’t touch my private parts!’ Then you tell Mommy. Do you understand?”

She nodded once more and said, “Understand.”

I decided to follow up with one last question. “Good,” I said. “Now, are you allowed to touch anyone else’s private parts?”

She nodded emphatically now and said, “Yes!”

So… my kid doesn’t get it. Or at least, she certainly didn’t after that initial conversation. But I haven’t given up. We’ve been talking about private parts almost daily now, and practicing all the ways she should say “no.”

I’ve also been drilling in the fact that under no circumstances is she allowed to touch anyone else’s private parts.

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Has it sunk in? I’m honestly not sure. I still think she’s a bit too young to fully get it, which, yes, makes me nervous. But at this age, I’m pretty sure all I can do is keep trying… and keep maintaining as much control as I can over her surroundings.

Raising a daughter is a scary thing. Sometimes it feels like there are dangers awaiting her around every bend. And while, yes, I understand those same dangers are awaiting boys… it doesn’t feel like they’re as long lasting. Because even if I manage to get my girl safely through childhood without anyone ever violating her, she’ll have to spend the rest of her life aware of just how vulnerable her anatomy makes her.

And I hate that. I hate that this is just the beginning of the conversations I’ll have to have with my daughter about how to protect herself.

But that’s the world we live in. And those conversations have to start sometime.

So if you’ll excuse me, I have to go convince my daughter that not even Cookie Monster is allowed to touch her gina.

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