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What we teach our children and how we teach our children
gives us a window into ourselves—how we were taught, our hang-ups, and our
baggage. And before any of you gets
indignant, let's just acknowledge that we all have baggage. I grew up Irish Catholic, so let me tell you,
I know baggage.
That baggage extends to our genitalia and what we teach our
kids to call it. My blogging persona is
Mary Tyler Mom, and I took an informal poll about just that question, asking my
readers, "What do your little ones (ages 1 to 5) call
their 'private parts,' you know, their penis and vagina?" Well, 312 comments later, I got a full
spectrum of names that had me laughing, giggling, and scratching my head:
What's less funny is a kid talking about franks and beans, but not
knowing the words penis and testicles. My husband and I seem to take a "middle of the road" kind of parenting
approach. Nothing too extreme, leaving
lots of room for folks on either side. We trust our guts and try not to get too worked up about this and
Our 3-year-old son refers to his penis as just that, "my
penis." His testicles are, wait for it,
his "testicles." No surprises. More of a surprise is that we taught our
toddler daughter to call her vulva her "cooch." What on earth is that about? I
don't know, but in typing those letters, I feel some shame. Why "penis" and not "vulva" or the more common,
though less accurate, "vagina?" Can't
tell you, as we're both still wondering. I can tell you that should we raise
another daughter, she will know the words "vulva" and "vagina."
Our genitals are nothing to be ashamed of, folks. They are not naughty or dirty "bits." They are parts of our body, no different than
our ears, toes or belly buttons. The
world will not end if your 3-year-old uses the word "penis" around his
And on a more serious note, should your child ever be in the
unthinkable situation of having an adult compromise them in any way—inappropriate touching or contact—you want them to be able to tell an adult
in a manner that is clearly understood. When only cutesy slang terms are used, a young child's ability to
communicate danger has been diminished. Can you imagine a young girl trying to explain that a stranger had
"smelled her flower?" Who would ever
lift an eyebrow at that? Prepare your
kids well. Lose the shame, and keep the
silly at home.