“Head, Shoulders, Knees and Penis”
“Mommy! ‘Gina!” Skye squealed, pointing at my vagina.
It was bath time tonight and, in the interest of saving myself precious time, I’d suggested to my two-year-old daughter that we take a bath together. We haven’t bathed together since Skye was a baby, way back when Tiger Woods was a great golf player and people thought Charlie Sheen was cool. So I knew that doing so now that she’s an observant, inquisitive toddler would prompt comments about my anatomy. I was right.
“Yes. Mommy has a vagina.”
“No. Daddy has a penis. Boys have a penis. Girls have a vagina.”
“Yes. Drew has a penis.”
Having covered the family genitalia, we return to filling up the empty Starbucks cups with water. (Don’t be jealous of our fancy bath toys.) Then, unable to resist, she points to something else:
“Yes. Mommy has boobies.”
“Drew hung-ee! Drew hung-ee!”
“That’s right. Drew drinks milk from Mommy’s boobies when he’s hungry.”
Yes, I repeated “boobies,” too. It’s a fun word to say.
Our daughter is no stranger to hearing about anatomy, thanks to Mr. Candy, whose mother taught him and his two brothers songs like “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Penis [Knees and Penis].” While I am the type of parent who rolls with any questions or observations our daughter has, but doesn’t proactively raise the topic, Mr. Candy actually makes a point of having the conversation with her — whether it’s telling her to clean her vagina at bath time or letting her know he’s “peeing with [his] penis” when she curiously opens the bathroom door on him. All of which was fine by me until one day…
“HORSE PENIS! HORSE PENIS!”
This, yelled at the top of Skye’s lungs out in our shared courtyard. I later confronted Mr. Candy.
“When we were at Griffith Park, did you tell Skye that horse was peeing with its penis?”
“Uh… I might have. Why?”
“Because she’s going around yelling ‘HORSE PENIS!’ now.
“She was probably saying that all day at preschool, too.”
“Did she ask you about the penis?
“Could you see it?”
“Then why did you even mention it?”
“I don’t know.”
“I blame your mom.”
I now realize there are four different kinds of parents when it comes to anatomy talk with the kids: 1) The Genitalia Evaders, who avoid the topic at all costs, either out of embarrassment or perhaps the belief that teaching their kids about their private parts is inappropriate (both the kids and the parents are in for a long ride; 2) The Wee-Wee’ers, such as my mom, who taught her kids cutesy names for their genitalia, such as — you guessed it — “wee wee.” This is why my brother, when asked to read out loud from a sex education book in Health class, pronounced “penis” wrong. (Saying “pen” like the writing implement.) He was 13 years old. He remains in hiding out of shame to this day. 3) The Rollers, such as myself, who matter-of-factly roll with any questions or comments from the kids, but do not go out of their way to mention vaginas; and 4) The “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Penis” Peeps, like my “penis”-happy mother-in-law. (*Ahem*)
In an ideal world, I believe, we would strike a happy medium between my Roller approach and Mr. Candy’s “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Penis” ways. But for now, I’ll settle for a world where we can all make fun of Skye’s uncle for saying “wee-wee” into his teenage years.
How do you handle The Penis and Vagina Dialogues in your house?