Sunday, February 26, 2006

A vagina by any other name ...

What do you call it?

Is it a whoo hoo? A hee hee? Your special place? My friends and I gave it the name "Jarvis" in high school.

My husband and I have always used anatomically correct language with our kids when it comes to their bodies. We did this, first, because ... well, that's what those parts are called! Secondly, we don't want to shy away from the subject of sex, or how our bodies work. If we shy away from it, their friends sure won't. We have an open-door policy on any question they might ever have (if they haven't been asking questions, we just bring it up!). Amazingly enough, it's not strange or awkward. It is a natural part of life, and we discuss it as such.

In our house, you learn, "This is your ear. This is your elbow. This is your penis. This is your foot." etc. Granted, our youngest currently uses the pronunciation "buh-jie-nuh," but she gets the point.

We also talk openly about reproduction, child birth, and breastfeeding. We've pulled out a ruler to see the miracle of how God can send a cervix from zero to ten centimeters just so a baby can come into the world. My kids love watching "A Baby Story" - except for my son, who really only cares about one thing, "Is it gonna' make it out of her vagina, or will they have to cut her open?"

So, WHY, you're asking ... is Christine talking about whoo hoo's and what not's? You thought you finally had a break from all the breast talk (my brother is rolling his eyes right now!).

Well, we learned something very interesting in some of our foster care training. By using anatomically correct names for body parts, you greatly increase your child's chances of avoiding sexual abuse. Sounds weird, I know. But think about it for a minute ... most predators make it a very secretive thing. Children understand that, because it tends to be something that Mommy and Daddy get really quiet and goofy about at home. They will approach children with silly, special names for those parts that sound cutsie. If your child knows the correct terms, the chances that they question that approach is much higher ("Mommy, why did Mr. So-and-So call my penis a ding dong?").

I guess I decided to post on this just because the norm for most homes is the hush-hush, goofy name approach. Not only does honesty and clarity open doors of communication with you and your children, but it also shuts doors on some things that you're not inviting in.

Outside of my "Jarvis" above, does anyone else have any really good names or stories from childhood? I do remember being in grade school and hearing a news story about women getting pregnant and taking "the pill." So, I went to school the next day and told all of my friends that I found out you take a pill to get pregnant!

This is all just food for thought.

14 comments:

Kellieandkids said...

I have always tried to be open in my home and called our privates by their correct names also. As the new baby came along, it became more and more something we talked about. I don't think formula is a bad thing, but I found it funny the one day my 13 year old found out his cousin was going to be formula fed and he said, "that's gross, babies should only drink breast milk" LOL! Yes, I corrected him that it wasn't always true, but I found it so cool that he was comfortable sharing that with me and that he sees breast feeding as something perfectly natural and normal!

Kellieandkids said...

By the way, we do consider breast to be best in our household and I have no problem NIP. Yes people I am talking about the ol' boobs!

Jenn said...

Amen!! I feel strongly about calling body parts by their real names and not goofy made-up nicknames.

I've heard/read the same things about it helping to prevent child abuse and anything that helps in that arena gets my vote!

kdubs said...

LOL. We do that too. I'm actually expecting my second baby. My mom bought this book that talks about the new baby and what my body is doing. When it came to uterous you would have thought it talked about oral sex LOL--she was bright red. My son is 3 1/2 and I tried to tell her it was fine. When it got to the nursing section, my son said, "Oh so the baby will drink from your breast?" My mom was red again, she could not believe I told him I had breasts. I said, "Well he asked me what they were, what was I suppose to do?"
It's actually a very tasteful, funny book. The pictures are VERY basic and don't really show anything--just hints at the body.

I agree with the foster education and that's one reason we do it with our kiddo!

Kdubs

Bar Bar A said...

Hey, I'm on the same page with ya! I taught my son the correct terms when he was a kid. Now that he's a teen I don't think it's "cool" to refer to it as a penis in casual conversation.

I think my mother referred to the vagina as "down there" and never had a name for it and we called my brother's penis a weenie.

Also, I breastfed till the day before my son turned 3. My family was not supportive but I didn't give a rip, it felt right for me and those were special times.

What you learned about the possible prevention of sexual abuse makes sense...the more we educate our kids the better. Now that you can look up sexual predators on-line I discovered that my son's former Sunday School teacher AND one of our neighbors are listed on Megan's Law (the CA website for sexual offenders).

Great post!!!

Becky said...

Oh heck yeah. We go by the actual (aka "clinical") terms in our house too.

When I was growing up, I had "privates" which I used to make wee wee and gah gah. My brother had a pee pee for making wee wee. So sophisticated sounding, no? My poor brother. I'll never forget the moment he found out that calling poop "gah gah" in public would be one of those seminal memories of the first time the neighborhood kids made you feel 2 inches tall and teased you unmercifully for years afterward.

The boy next door tried to play a prank on my baby brother by trying to convince him that the rabbit poop (little round brown balls, by the way) was actually chocolate candy. My brother's response? "No way! That's gah gah!"

Yeah. Ouch. Thanks Mom. ;-)

Harmonia said...

who-who. Yup.


o/t - I replied to your comment on my blog in comments. Great to see you again!

Stacey said...

I didn't know that about preventing sexual abuse, but definitely good to know. I was planning on being as open as possible - I had to be with my younger sister because my stepmom threatened that if I didn't tell her what "blue balls" were, some skeezy guy would! (Sorry for the term, she really did ask about them.)

I do have a funny story. My mom and a friend were having a conversation about telling children proper names for body parts just as my mom was changing me, and my mom looked at me and said "This is your vagina!" I got this look of glee, grabbed myself, and yelled "GEEENA!"

And this was last week! Ba-dum-chhh!

Tickneen said...

Wow, great blog! So honest! Talking openly about your body is so important, but I never realized the connection with sexual abuse! If its taboo to talk about in the house, then they will not be inclined to talk about it if something bad did happen. Thanks for that angle! I have 3 kids 11, 7, 5. Love'm oh so dearly. God bless

Leann said...

Ok, once I got past the *SHOCK* and then utter laughter attack at the title I really appreciated this post!!! You never fail to bring something important... (((BIG HUG & Thanks)))

brainhell said...

No funny names when I was a kid. No funny names with our kids either. Once a kid at school told me that his parents had given him a book explanining reproduction. He understood it. But he said that sometimes, in special circumstances, the woman can get pregnant without that mechanism we know so well. Yes, that's right, his parents gave him a theologically-influenced book.

Christine Brannan said...

Nothing funny here... just wanted to give kuddos! Ive always been open, too. The philosophy is that they need to know what is right in order to know what is wrong. Not even from just adults, but also those other kids in school... you know who Im talking about... lol.

You go Christine!

Dark Daughta said...

"Well, we learned something very interesting in some of our foster care training. By using anatomically correct names for body parts, you greatly increase your child's chances of avoiding sexual abuse. Sounds weird, I know. But think about it for a minute ... most predators make it a very secretive thing. Children understand that, because it tends to be something that Mommy and Daddy get really quiet and goofy about at home. They will approach children with silly, special names for those parts that sound cutsie. If your child knows the correct terms, the chances that they question that approach is much higher ("Mommy, why did Mr. So-and-So call my penis a ding dong?")."

If I knew you, I'd hug you. You're the only mama I've encountered who has actually put these two things together in a way that would cause her to really consider the amount of information it is necessary to offer a child in order to safe guard them.

My four year old daughter knows about uteruses, labour, umbilical cords, adult games that are done with penises and vaginas that would hurt her vagina and cross her boundaries, conception, menstruation, pads, tampons. She asks a lot of questions and we just try to give her the information in words she can understand.

I've also explained to all family in her vicinity that children do remember past instances of abuse. It may take them some time to figure out how and what to speak about, but the memories are there. I told friends and family that if any of them does behave inappropriately, I might not discover it right away, but that I would eventually.

I also told my daughter that boundary crossing doesn't just happen with strangers, but also with family and friends and that the same kick them in the head, shout, scream and more kicking in the head rule applies for family as well as for strangers.

Laura said...

hey Christine
I found you via Becky.
I am in your corner on this one. I have used proper names since before child #1 was bon nearly 20 years ago....I overheard my MIL explain to her grown daughter after I was evaluated at 7 mos for preterm labor that I had a "cranky po-po"....irritable uterus is what my doc called it.
I do believe that beginning with the proper names does indeed empower our children and sets the stage for our sex education with our children....contrary to what most parents do, se ed starts from the beginning, not in junior high when the hormones are raging.
This has paid off, my older kids are indeed empowered in their own sexuality making the right decisions now and for their future thanks to ongoing discussions we have had over the years.
Great blog.
I will be back
Laura
www.adventuresinjuggling.blogspot.com