“Billy, what are you doing?” She says this to her son as he gets dressed in the morning. His four-year-old body is naked, but instead of putting on the clothes right next to him on the couch, he is instead enthralled with that extra-special body part that it seems all little boys are enthralled with – his penis.
Again she asks, “Billy, what are you doing?” She’s trying to be patient, but this is a daily occurrence, and she’s getting tired of it. She’s trying to bring it to his attention instead of saying something directly to him. “Billy!” He finally lifts his head, looking at her with a questioning, and frankly annoyed, expression. “Yes, mama?”
“What are you doing? Didn’t we talk about only touching your penis when you are alone, in your room? Don’t you remember that your penis is private?” Silence. “Well, do you remember?”
Billy gives a long sigh. “Yes, I remember.” He turns and begins to put on his clothes in his particular way, inspecting each item to make sure the sizes are correct (only 4 or 4T) and the tags are in the back. As he works, he speaks: “But when I’m in my room, I can touch my penis, right mama? I can do it then, right mama?”
“Yes, Billy. Now please finish getting dressed.” She tells his three-year-old sister, Bonnie, who has been dressed for hours, to sit on the potty. As Bonnie does so, she joins in the chorus. “Billy can touch his penis in his room, right mama? And mama? I have a vagina like you, right mama? And I can touch my vagina in my room, right? Mama? MAMA!”
She starts to feel a little dizzy in all this talk of penises and vaginas. She knows it was a good idea to teach them the real names of their parts, to not make the words or their actions negative or taboo, to supplement that talk with the notion of privacy, to let them know that no one was to touch their private parts but themselves, mommy and daddy, and the doctor, and even then, only with permission. But she can’t shake…
“Come on in here and let me see. I’m your auntie, just like your mother. You can show me.” She didn’t want to show Aunt Mo. She didn’t want to show Aunt Mo the breasts that were just beginning to appear, she didn’t understand why she had to. Her auntie made her take off the blouse she was wearing, the training bra too, and her auntie touched her chest, feeling the new growths. Her hand traveled downward. For the second time in her young life, she felt like not just her body was naked, but her soul too.
“Yes, children, you can touch your private parts, your penis and your vagina, when you are in your rooms, by yourselves. But remember, no one else is to touch your penis or your vagina, you understand? Not mommy or daddy or anyone, unless you say it’s okay. And no one should even be asking to touch you unless mommy or daddy is there, like when we go to the doctor, you understand? And if someone does, you yell and say NO as loud as you can, you hear me? And you come and tell mommy or daddy, okay?”
What kind of talks do you have with your children about their penises and vaginas?