After the P-word post the other day, many asked me where my V-word post is. I shrugged it off a little bit and said with boys it was always about their anatomy. Not that they were obsessed or anything, just a healthy curiosity about their own bodies. But really, I do have a V-word story to share.
I guess at a certain age it occurred to the boys that Ima was built differently from them. Now, I have always been modest in front of the boys. They have no need to see me prancing around naked or in underwear; I always cover up. Maybe not as much as I would in front of non-related people, but enough so that we are all comfortable.
I also firmly believe in answering the children’s questions at their level, and not offering extra information that they were not asking for.
One day -- a few years ago -- one of them said to me:
"Ima, I am so sad for you."
"Why is that?"
"You don’t have a penis, you only have a hole."
My son seemed very put out by my lack of a penis, and told me that his friend in school told him mommies don’t have penises (See, that’s all boys talk about at school. Unreal) and that ladies pee through a hole. (Technically men do too, but I digress.)
So here I am stuck with a quandary. I want to explain to my son that it isn’t that I suffer a lack of something, rather that I am blessed with a vagina instead. However, he attended an all-boys school where a year or two prior his brother was sent home for saying penis. How well would it be received were my son to tell everyone in his class that his Ima has a vagina?
But, older brothers being what they are, one of them overheard this conversation and told his younger brother that Ima has a special place where babies come out of, and there is no way babies can come out of penises. He did not use the V-word, but he did open up a can of worms that I was not yet interested in discussing with this kid.
We sat down and I told him that yes, Ima has a vagina and that yes, babies are born through the vagina. I had had a Cesarean for one of the boys, so he got a little confused, having heard that I had my stomach cut open to give birth. So we had to explain about that.
I did however tell him that it isn’t really acceptable to use these words at school, because they are words for private places and there is a time and a place for people to use such words. I had to head off another potential suspension.
The next evening my phone rang five times. The gist of most of the conversations was “My son told me that your son told him about the V-word and what it is. Who do you think you are telling your son these horrible things?”
After the first call I realized that trying to explain myself to these mothers (no, it wasn’t the fathers that called me) was useless. Instead of using their son’s conversation for a teachable moment, they reinforced the whole issue of body parts being dirty and shameful. I have an open relationship with my kids; no subject is taboo. They might bring up uncomfortable topics, but they have a right to knowledge at their level.
It’s not as if I went into the school and gave the second graders a sex education class! My son asked me a question, and I did the right parental thing and answered it.
In fact, when it was just the five of us, my boys’ favorite time of the week was Friday night. We’d put the little one to bed, and it was “ask Ima anything” time. Some of the questions made my hair curl -- but to this day I am so thankful that they feel they can talk to me about everything and not feel judged or belittled for asking.
It is just so sad that in this day and age kids are still being taught that various parts of their body are shameful and dirty. The human body is a miracle; we need to teach our children to respect their bodies in every way.
This post originally appeared on my blog In The Pink.