Monday, August 4, 2008

Telling It Like It Is: Being Honest About Body Parts

A few days ago, while sitting with a group of mothers at the beach, we were all captivated by one of the babies. He was naked, tumbling around in the sand. He was dancing, rolling, laughing, and then, he grabbed his penis. He was just so at home with his nakedness. He knew nothing of shame, and he did not know that some of the other mothers looked away when he grabbed his penis. He was not embarrassed. Another little boy pointed and said to his mama, “Wee-wee.” I absolutely loved it when the first little baby’s mama said out loud “OH, you are grabbing your penis!” It was a joyful statement. It was an honest statement.

I am a strong believer in calling body parts by their proper names. My 4 year old daughter knows she has a vulva, a vagina, breasts. We have openly and honestly called her body parts by their proper names since the day she was born. She has always been an asker, and I have been an answerer. She has seen me menstruate and she has asked. I have always answered her questions about her body and about my body. She once asked for a mirror to look at her vulva. I handed her a mirror and answered her questions.

I want my daughter to OWN her body. I feel she can best own her body when she has words to name her body parts. If something hurts, she needs to know the proper names to tell me or her doctor what is hurting. If there was ever an abusive situation I want her to have words to use to explain what happened. I want her to be empowered. I feel that giving her the proper names to her body parts empowers her.

World Breastfeeding weeks brings the word ‘breasts' to mind. I don’t often hear women and mothers using the word 'breasts.' I hear a lot about 'boobs.' I remember when I learned that a boob was an ignorant and foolish person. My breasts are not foolish, nor are they ignorant. They are beautiful, very intelligent, life sustaining breasts. I no longer call my breasts 'boobs.' I want my daughter to have a healthy relationship with the word 'breast.' I want her to love and respect her breasts so that one day her breasts will be life sustaining as well.

As for the second little boy at the beach who called a penis a "wee-wee”: why not teach him the word penis? He is still at the age where he is one with his body. I like to see honesty. I want my son to know he has a penis and a scrotum. I feel that what is not said becomes a secret. Secrets often lead to shame. Babies and kids have no shame with their bodies. But they are like sponges and they can easily soak up ours. We as parents should be proud of our bodies, our kids are learning from us. I want both my daughter and my son to be proud of their bodies.


Sara said...

Well said!! I totally agree, so it makes me think about why I use the word boob so often, too. Time for me to change!

rachel said...

well said! i will work on not saying "boob".

The Slind family said...

great blog....I too believe in calling body parts by their names and I feel the same about our kids feeling shame-they shouldn't about their own bodies.

BeanyMama said...

I love this, Kristin! Great post.

smockmomma said...

during my training for counseling families in crisis, one of the first things we learned is how important it is for young people to know the proper names of their body parts. preditors who inappropriately touch children will BACK OFF in a flash if the child correctly labels the area being molested(e.g., that's my penis and you are not allowed to touch me there. or, you are not allowed to touch my breasts.) the preditors do not want children who can voice ownership over their bodies or who can correctly and specifically identify the abuse to police or other adults.

and, here's an important tidbit about peer pressure that is related in a round about way to this issue. when my oldest son was only three, he corrected a friend (who was the same age) who called his own penis a "pee pee." my son said, "that is a penis. pee pee is what it does." the child then went home and acused his mother of lying to him. she promptly called me to tell me what happened. she said she wasn't upset about the correction -- far from it -- but that she was upset by the fact that her son believed his peer over his parents at the tender age of three.