I can’t imagine what kinds of new hits my blog is going to get thanks to that title. And perhaps I should have warned you that today’s post is not necessarily fit to read at work.
Yet still, there is it. The hottest topic in Owen’s world right now. Penises and vaginas.
I was so misinformed. I thought I had at least a few years before the penis talk set in. I thought it was the 4 or 5 year olds who shout “I HAVE A PENIS” and “MOMMY HAS A VAGINA” from the rooftops. Apparently they’re starting younger and younger these days. At a little over 2, Owen is consumed by talking about his penis and my vagina and the penises and vaginas of pretty much everyone (including dogs, cats and even some stuffed animals) we encounter.
A few months ago we were singing the hokey pokey and when it was Owen’s turn to pick what goes in the circle, he shouted, “DOGGIE PENIS!”. Through fits of laughter we sang “You put your doggie penis in, you put your doggie penis out…”. I honestly had no idea the under 2 set could make penis jokes that would rival teenage boys. Hilarious.
As a feminist who was brought up in a linguistically conservative home (vaginas were called “bottoms” and butts were called “bottoms”… you know, “front bottom” and “back bottom”, because the words vagina and butt were just not ladylike — even “shut up” was a bad word around our house), I made a decision long ago that I would call a spade a spade. Vaginas would be called vaginas. Not hoo-has or private parts or bottoms or vajayjays or other silly terms that essentially furthered the notion that our female bodies are something to be ashamed of and hidden and renamed because they are not fit to speak about.
Still, it made me squirm to say to my two year old, when he asked, “Boys have penises and girls have vaginas”. Penis was somehow far easier for me to overcome and say out loud, but even that felt a little strange.
Last week Owen came home from daycare and announced proudly that one of his friends from school has 2 penises. Benjamin and I laughed and asked him some questions to see what he was talking about. According to Owen, one of his friends really has two penises. And he’s seen them. So later that week, in the bath, Owen looked down at his own penis and pointed. “Two penises!”. He was looking at his penis and his balls. While stifling my giggles, I attempted to tell him that those were his balls. No sooner had that come out of my mouth, then Benjamin interjects, “You can’t call them balls! He plays with balls all day! That’s too confusing.”. And that, ladies and gents, is how my 2 year old learned the word testicles.
For several months now, Owen has been very interested in his body parts, and naming his body parts, and looking at our body parts and comparing them to his body parts, and finding similar body parts on the dog and his stuffed animals… the list goes on. I get it. It’s all very interesting and there are so many nuances. And every body is different. I’ve done my best to answer his questions factually, without putting unneeded vagueness or secrecy around “private parts” in an effort to plant the seed that bodies are something to be proud of, not embarrassed of.
An ear is an ear, a toe is a toe, a vagina is a vagina. Simple as that.
As a modern, liberated woman, I am proud of the fact that I haven’t introduced shame-inducing words like wee wee and girly parts. But at the same time, the ladylike side of me kicks in and wonders if my two year old is going to be the only one on the playground talking about testicles. For instance, in the grocery store Owen thinks nothing of asking the checkout guy, “You have a penis?”. My openness about talking about this stuff at home is a serious liability in public.
What do you call penises and vaginas at your house? Is this a phase that will pass once I give him the information he wants to know, or is this the beginning of a lifelong love affair with talking about his penis? How many of you have experienced having your child talk about YOUR vagina in public?