Bad Parent: A Private Matter. Sorry, sexperts. At my house, it's called a "cha-cha." Jeanne Sager defends family fighting, on Babble.comtoddler-times
My daughter stood up from the potty and reached down. I thought she was scratching. But then I realized she was trying to shake herself off – just like daddy!
I’d been dreading this moment, from the moment in the delivery room when my OB/GYN announced this was one less circumcision he’d have to perform – his way of telling us we had a new baby girl.
It was time to tell Jillian about girls and boys. The job was apparently firmly in my hands – by virtue of our common genitalia. My husband – who’d inadvertently caused all this, I should point out – was conveniently playing the gender card.
So I waded in.
“Honey, you don’t have to shake, you know,” I told her. “Girls just wipe.”
I earned an exasperated two-year-old eye roll.
“I wee’d,” she told me. “Have to get it off me. Daddy does it.”
Indeed he does. And to get the potty training ball rolling, we’d spent hours proving that Mommy and Daddy use the potty. Now that we’ve gotten her good and convinced – and she’s of the mind that she belongs in the bathroom even if the door is closed – we’re paying for it.
At least I am.
I sighed. “Yes, Daddy does it. Daddy’s a boy. You’re a girl like Mommy. You don’t have to shake.”
She shook her head. She stomped. What did I know? I’m the mom. She’s the expert.
“Noooo,” she said. “You’re not a girl. You’re Mommy.”
Talk about kicking an old broad when she’s down. I did my own eye roll and changed the subject. Man, that was a close one.
I’m not ready for this talk. It’s not the sexual connotations that creep me out – I prefer to think of my daughter as an asexual being not unlike her grandparents (who were blessed, by the way, with two miracles of Biblical proportions – me and my brother). It’s putting the words out there.
I don’t say vagina. I don’t even say breasts. Breastfeeding is acceptable because the emphasis is on the latter syllables. It starts out kind of gross and ends kind of nice. Otherwise, they’re cleavicles. Or cleavlage. Or breastesses.
Call me too immature to have given birth. But vaginas give me the willies. And penises make me giggle.
They’re not even sexy words. I can picture the teacher from Ferris Bueller standing at the front of a class saying, “Bueller? Anyone? Bueller?” then turning to the blackboard with his glasses perched on the end of his nose and announcing in that awful, grating voice, “Today we are going to learn about vaginas.”
See, not sexy. And not my kind of language.
I’m with Oprah. It’s a va-jay-jay. Or that chick from Scrubs, the one who always says “frick”? She called it a ba-jang-go. I liked that. It sounds like something I’d have on my body, a piece of the anatomy that belongs on the same person who has watermelon slices painted on her toenails.
Even when the pain of pushing got so intense that I didn’t care who walked into the delivery room (as long as they were there to get that thing out of there), I wasn’t ready to talk vaginas. While I muttered obscenities under my breath, I had one thought going round and round my head: “My cha-cha hurts.”
So, no, I’m not ready for this talk.
Because the experts tell you to be “direct and matter-of-fact” when you’re laying out the gender line for your kids. In fact, the psychologist over at babycenter.com says, “Follow the rule of thumb: ‘Is this how I would tell her about elbows or knees?’ Give her the anatomically correct name for the body part (‘vagina,’ ‘penis’).”
“Using funny or silly words,” she says, “will just confuse her and, if anything, makes the discussion a bigger deal.”
But we’re not talking about the elbows or the knees. Who has funny or silly words for their elbow? Who uses their elbow for . . . well, you know?
Okay, so I said it wasn’t about the sexual creepiness. But the “funny” words we all use had to come from somewhere. And since I haven’t met many people who admit to talking about “penises” in the bedroom (or “vaginas” for that matter), I’m going to go out on a limb and tell you the two connect.
I learned about sex the old-fashioned way – on the school bus. And no one dared give names to the “privates,” which were most often referred to as “down there,” by a big burly guy whose voice still cracked into a giggle while he was trying to guffaw.
I’m sure some of the other parents are scared of the sex talk with a two-year-old. But as an adult, not big on the diagrams in the gynecologist’s office – and not that big on the gyno’s office to begin with – I’m facing the fact that something I just don’t like to talk about will soon be a big topic of conversation.
And I’m scared. There. I’ve said it. Call me a bad mommy, but I can’t picture myself going the clinical route. I’m a talker. I’m an explainer. Short, sweet and direct is just not my way. I can’t imagine I’m alone. A Gallup Poll showed that sixty-seven percent of parents use actual names to refer to male and female body parts. So what about the other thirty-three percent of us?
Are we prudes? Apparently we’ve made it to parenthood, so I kind of doubt it.
Some might think they’re avoiding a very embarrassing conversation in the middle of the supermarket down the road. I don’t envy them the day their kids learn to sound out “T-r-o-j-a-n” at the pharmacy counter.
I’m sure some of the other parents are scared of the sex talk with a two-year-old. I know I would be.
But Jillian isn’t concerned about sex, and neither am I. I’m not even afraid of what she’ll say outside the house. She’s been told very honestly that after she “wees,” she needs to wipe lest she develop crotch rot. And she’s used the words “crotch” and “rot” together in public.
I’m just not a vagina kind of girl.
So when she gets around to asking, I’ll be honest – the way I know how. “You and Mommy have a cha-cha,” I’ll tell her. “Go ask Daddy what he has.”
Photo: Corryn Goldschmidt