By: Molly Luke, Early Intervention Specialized Instruction Teacher, Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, Norristown, PA
At age 29 I gave birth to a beautiful little boy. The first weeks were exhausting to say the least. My husband and I were sleep deprived, hungry, and it felt like we constantly had a revolving door with family in to visit the newest member of the family. And along with all of those initial parent experiences, my husband and I were making first time decisions as parents! When to feed the baby, how many baths a week to give the baby, who gets the baby next when he cries, should we start putting him in the crib…and then, what do we call his private parts? This makes me laugh, but triggers a larger discussion that I believe is important for all parents, whether first timers or season pros.
Everyone goes gaga for babies, but that doesn’t mean you need to talk that way to them. Baby talk can be a great way for newborns and infants to learn what words sound like (“Whooooo is that prettttttty baaaaabaaay?”) but when it comes time to get serious with our body parts, it is just as important to go straight to the real name for a penis or vagina just as it is to call your nose and toes by their proper names.
Maybe my parents were just not comfortable with themselves to discuss the body with me OR maybe their families raised them shy of these discussions as well. Regardless, this was my turn to hold the reigns and make decision for my growing family. Many pediatricians urge parents to use proper terms for body parts to children for a number of reasons but the big one is so that we all know exactly what a child is talking about should there be a problem with that certain area.
So my husband and I decided that we shouldn’t shy our son from his body and these words were not of a laughing matter. We would use REAL names from the beginning so that we got comfortable with saying these words aloud and hopefully this will make things more comfortable down the road when we need to speak about sex to our son.
Now our house was filled with dirty diapers, couch naps, cries and PENIS talk. At first we just laughed when describing the inch sized penis when changing his diaper, but now the word just rolls off our tongues in a professional parenting manner when potty training our son. The comfort has set in and the giggles fizzled away. My mother still has a hard time with this. When babysitting him in the beginning and now, she still talks “baby talk”. The nonsense words used to label food and body parts drive me up the wall. Not that I don’t spoil and act silly with my now 3 year old, but my husband and I just have an honest way when talking to him. No bribing, no nonsense terms (i.e. “wawa” for water)…and some family members still have a hard time accepting this and playing by the “rules”.
We all travel through these developmental stages. Some ideas are more stressed and pinpointed from certain theorists than others. Regardless, as we grow our minds and bodies grow as well. It’s up to us and our surroundings if we can accept and acknowledge what occurs, and how we adjust and mature. As a parent, I am trying to make this growth as “normal” to other every day routines. This way when my family is at an age and stage where support is needed, some of the stress from words and terms will be familiar and hopefully I can pass on as much comfort as he needs.
Choosy Kids has a bunch of songs about your body. To name a few, you can check out:
- This Is My Body
- I'm The Boss
- When I Move My Parts
Purchase the CDs at www.choosykids.com.