My almost 21-month-old has started saying some really cute things. (Of course I think everything she does is cute, but this is SUPER cute.) She lays her chicken toy on its side and says “night night chicken,” then picks it up and says “awake!” She’s become obsessed with her teddy bear, which, in a fit of wishing we were bilingual and trying to use our pidgin Hebrew around the house, my husband and I named Dubi Bear. (Dov is bear in Hebrew. Dubi is like saying little bear. In Hebrew, that is. In English? Well, I’m just hoping she doesn’t go to her friends houses asking for “doobie” any time soon. And if you don’t get my reference, try this.)
All of this has made me think a lot about the words we use and the way that we name things in our world. I was brought up with proper names for everything, including (ahem) penis, vagina, bowel movement, and urinate. (Supposedly there’s a story about how 3-year-old me was at a friends house saying “I have to ner-nate” and the mom had to call my mom to figure out what the heck I was talking about. Come on–what 3-year-old can pronounce urinate?) Though I’ve chosen not to use urinate and bowel movement (maybe I was scarred as a kid–who knows?), I do believe it’s important to teach your kids the right words for penis and vagina. Why? Because even though they’re funny-sounding words, if we instead choose to start our children off using euphemisms for these body parts, we’re sending a hidden message that we shouldn’t be talking about our bodies. And I believe that we should be comfortable talking about our bodies, living in our bodies, and being ourselves. I think it’s one of the most important lessons I can teach.
I know that someday my daughter will grow up and find this blog post and be totally embarrassed that not only did I teach her the words penis and vagina, but I also wrote about it online. Ew! But I hope that someday after that, when she’s a mom, she’ll find it again and think about how the words she uses reflect what kind of parent she’s going to be. Maybe she’ll be a little bit proud of her mom.
Or maybe she’ll still be grossed out. Sorry sweetie!