Sometimes I’m slow on the uptake or maybe it was the lack of sleep a new baby brings. Puzzled, I asked, “Missing something? What is she missing?”
That’s when he leaned in close to me, cupped his tiny hand to my ear and whispered, “She is missing her wiener, mom.”
I knew this conversation was coming the day the ultrasound technician let us know our second child was a girl. Actually, I knew it when I learned Anders was a boy and really it’s a conversation all parents must have with their child at some time in their lives.
You know, the one about the differences between girls and boys. I’m not sure I was prepared to have the talk with my two year old and in that moment, I panicked. Did I teach him the correct name or opt for a nickname? (Clearly I had already taught him wiener in place of penis.) That depended as I would inevitably hear this word coming out of his mouth, possibly to complete strangers in the grocery aisle, did I want him telling the nice old lady his baby sister had an [insert made up word here] or a vagina?
Would it be wrong to spare myself future embarrassment and give that the name of an ordinary household object? For instance, we could call it a lamp. (My thought process was limited to items in my line of sight at the time.) I thought of my son in conversation telling someone “My baby sister is a girl. I know that because she has a lamp.” That seemed like fodder for future therapy sessions. I bit the bullet and I explained to my two year old son that he had a penis and his baby sister had a vagina.
Since that day, I have had many open and honest conversation with both of my children about their anatomy and my own. When Danica, my daughter, became old enough to sit up in the bath tub we began to bathe them together, which only brought more of these conversations and sometimes awkward but natural lines of questioning.
At two and a half and almost five we continue to give them baths together nightly. It’s easier on me as a full time working mother, it saves time, and they have fun serving me bubble tea together and splashing each other more than I’d like as the person who has to launder all the towels it takes to clean up the water that sloshes over the side of the tub.
Still, as my big kid approaches kindergarten I’ve begun to wonder, when should we start bathing them separately? Should I wait for his cue that he would like more privacy and while we’re talking this out, when does it become “weird” if ever to allow your child, particularly of the opposite sex, to see you naked?
I’d love to hear the thoughts of other parents.