My Daughter Can Call Her Vagina Whatever She Darn Well Pleases

little girl covering her eyes

When I found out I'd given birth to a little girl, my first thought was that my husband would be thrilled to get "his girl." My second was one of relief: someone whose "parts" I get! I can do this!

Indeed, it made those first few diaper changes easier. It's bound to make conversations about tampons and bras easier too (all in good time). But there's one area where I've struggled. What is my daughter supposed to call the female body parts that we share?

I know the technical terms. Vagina. Vulva. And despite early hesitance to do so, I've taught them to my now 9-year-old daughter over the years.

But at 9, she doesn't refer to her vagina or her vulva. Sometimes she says "crotch." Sometimes "cha cha." 

Go ahead. Laugh. But it's her body. Is it so wrong for her to use silly euphemisms to describe parts of it?

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Sex educators warn that parents need to teach kids the "right" words for their anatomy lest we make kids feel ashamed of certain parts of their body. I wholeheartedly agree.

It's why my 9-year-old owns Is It Normal, a pretty frank book about the body and the reproductive system. It's why I've told her that babies come out of a mom's vagina (most of the time, anyway!), given her a basic talk on menstruation to prepare her for the inevitable, and why she will get the full talk on birth control in a few years (she's only 9, so no, we haven't covered the IUD yet, y'all).

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I'm pretty sure that what we've told her has had an impact. Just a few months ago, a little boy showed her his penis, and she marched immediately to us -- her parents -- with a horrified look on her face and cried, "C showed me his penis!" She used the correct term, and she was not afraid to speak up. Stressful as the situation was, I was heartened to know she'd listened to my many speeches about boy private parts and girl private parts, about privacy and saying "no."

We aren't hiding anything from our daughter. We aren't destining her to teenage pregnancy or an STD by not arming her with the realities she'll need to survive as a female.

Still, she doesn't use the word "vagina" when describing her own body. Still, we hear euphemisms.

Still, I'm unperturbed.

Because the idea of teaching our kids about their bodies is to make them knowledgeable and comfortable. And from my observation she's COMFORTABLE using euphemisms about her private parts, as comfortable as she is calling her underwear "unders," poop "brown stuff," and flatulence "farts." To her, those words are normal. They don't make her feel that her female body is shameful. If she did, I doubt she'd be so willing to march stark naked around our house on a daily basis.

I suppose I could force her to be more technical, but I confess that even as I'm comforted by the idea that she's comfortable with her body, I'm also a little confused by the insistence of late that our kids must use medical terminology in order to be comfortable with who they are.

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The argument I hear most often is that kids don't have "silly names" for the elbow, so why have them for the private parts?

Fair enough, only ... Americans have plenty of "silly names" for body parts. Ever said "butt," "tummy," or "tootsie"? Do you say your ulnar nerve and humerus hit when you bang your arm or do you say you hurt your funny bone? And when was the last time you told a teenage boy to pull up his pants as his "gluteal cleft" was showing?

Face it -- we all use silly words. So long as we know the "right" ones to use at the "right" times, we all do OK.

What words do your kids use to refer to their private parts? Do they know the "real" terms?

 

Image via © iStock.com/emholk

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