I have neglected talking about “private parts” with my girls. Actually, we’ve talked about all of the important stuff except….the anatomically correct names for their private parts. We’ve discussed that no one else should touch their private parts and that they should not bare their private parts in public (we’ve regressed in this department since moving to Cayman). Talking about “boobies” is no problem, but the word “vagina”, let’s face it, does not exactly roll off the tongue. I know that’s not just me, right?
Observation and classification became a little more precise once Thomas came along and got everyone’s attention with his constant golden shower show. Diapering time was a spectacle and the girls were intrigued, mortified, and of course amused at my terror and lack of control. It took just a quick look (before ducking) to know that the source was this odd piece of anatomy that neither of them had seen before. Well, to be honest, Nora Ruth’s first and last close encounter with male equipment was when she caught Clif coming out of the shower and declared, “Daddy! You have a tail!”. First and Last. She was two.
Have I ducked and dodged the question these last several years? Honestly, I haven’t because neither of the girls has nailed me down with any direct questions and my rule is: if its not said in a clearly interrogative tone, for God’s sake keep your mouth shut and don’t make eye contact. For example, “Thomas sure does have a [long, funny, wiggly, silly] bottom,” or “Mom, Thomas’ bottom is not like mine or Alliene’s.” Technically, there is no question to answer so I just count to ten and hope the moment rolls on by.
Prime example: While we were home in April, Alliene was standing beside me while I was diapering Thomas and she said, “Hey Eoin and Devon [friends, ages 3 and 1] both have one of those,”. My response was affirmative, “You’re right, Alliene, they do.” She comes back with, “Yeah! They all have tails!” One…Two…Three…Four…Not even to five before she skips out of the room. But the next day, Thomas wanders into the living room without a diaper and just as I am catching up to him, Alliene, who is sitting in Poppy’s lap on the sofa begins a taunting chant, “Thomas has a taaaa-iiill, just like Izzie and Vivvie [mom and dad’s dogs] do!”. I lock eyes with Dad and we silently agree to 1. refrain from laughing and 2. skip the lecture. See, I knew I wasn’t the only parent who avoids this conversation.
So the word around these parts for penis is “willy”, which is not too bad as words go but I hear it A LOT. Which means my girls probably hear it even more than I care to think about. Last night in the tub, Alliene was silly-tired and she asks in her this-side-of-crazy voice (with a very mischievous grin),”Is that thing on Thomas’ bottom called a willy?” I knew she had me but what the heck. One…Two…Three…Nora Ruth interrupted with, “Mom, did you hear what Allie said?”
I’ve managed to evade questions like this one for nearly 3 years but you didn’t think I’ve been preparing a brilliant answer in the meantime, did you? “Well, Alliene, some people call it a willy and the real name for it is penis.” Alliene, ever the trail-blazer says, “So I can call it a willy?” while Nora Ruth is mumbling “penis, penis penis” over and over. I am in a tailspin and what I want to say is, “Actually, Alliene, I’d prefer that you not call it anything at all and in fact, please don’t even THINK about it again for another 20 years,” but my mental power outage is brief and when the lights come back on I am in auto-pilot saying, “Remember, girls, we don’t need to talk about private parts with anyone except each other.” My red-headed middle child is determined to turn me prematurely grey with questions like this one, “But can I talk about my willy?” and for a second I thought about ending this 30-minutes-until-bedtime-insanity with, “Sure, knock yourself out talking about your willy, kid,” but duty prevailed. “Thomas’ private part is called a penis, but yours and Nora Ruth’s is called a vagina.”
Well, the child who caused all of this trouble couldn’t have cared less, but the eldest was enthralled with the new word. These kids have a sixth sense for detecting the limits of my comfort zone. Nora Ruth was downright delighted with herself when she reasoned aloud, “So all girls have a vurgina and all boys have penises.” I didn’t chance saying the word again to correct her, besides I was fretting about how excited she was with this new information and what it meant for the rest of the week’s carpooling arrangement with our neighbors. Guess I’ll be driving my own kids to and from school for the rest of the school year.
One…Two…Three…Four… ”Mommy, vurgina is a bee-you-tiful word. I just love it.” And if you know Nora Ruth, this was said with the exact tone and emotion that Cinderella uses when she finds herself suddenly spinning off to the ball in a beautiful new gown, breathy and melodramatic. So not only have I withheld the most beautiful word for the better part of her life, but I couldn’t bring myself to correct her. Not at 6:45, still in the bathtub, unbrushed teeth, and unread bedtime stories. Not while Alliene, through her teeth-gritting grin, was giggling, “Thomas, is that your willy? I see your willy, Thomas,” while I, also through gritted-teeth, was correcting her, “Alliene, we don’t joke about anyone’s willy.” Besides, vurgina is a beautiful word and vagina is decidedly not.