by any other name?
Right then … I’ve been struggling with a dilemma for months now … well, 10 to be precise … almost 11 …
and today in the Telegraph someone else has raised the issue http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/9705046/Parenting-dilemma-from-willy-to-ootie-patootie-what-should-we-teach-children-to-call-their-private-parts.html
Little girl’s parts and what to call them.
I’ve been conducting an international survey that has given me answers (all from people I respect and admire, one a rock musician, one a top business exec in America, a few Dads, lots of mothers, my own mother and a senior consultant in pediatrics).
If I’d had a son I don’t think it would be such an issue … winkie, willy, penis … seem fine to me and one is a bit of a ‘cute’ word, one is widely used and one is the ‘proper’ name … I know there are many others but if I’d had a boy then I’d probably have used willy and penis …
however … girls parts (outside and front) …
much harder … I asked my mother initially and she said very matter of factly, “everything below the waist is the bottom” (that maybe explains why I’ve never been sure!!!), then I asked my oldest friend, “vagina” she said, “no”, I answered, “that’s the inside bit”, “oh,” she replied, “bottom” … at least it wasn’t just me … this got me wondering which is where my ‘survey’ started:
So far I have been told that people use the following words with their daughters (or themselves),
Pom Pom (2)
Frou Frou (1)
Front Bottom (14)
Front Hind (6)
Fanny (in America this would be confusing as fanny really is what we Brits refer to as a bottom) (11)
Nether regions (bless an elderly friend) (1)
and one person said Vulva (which is technically correct) and someone else said “Oh you mean the pendulum”
My reaction to Pom Pom, Frou Frou and Fluffer was REALLY, you have got to be KIDDING ME (although that might have been slightly more inward than the “Ohhhhh” that I articulated), the hospital consultant suggested ‘fanny’ and American friends suggested ‘front’ and ‘forehind’ … so …
I’m still none the wiser, we just use the words bits and parts for the front, and bottom for the back … I guess as she gets older we’ll get more formal, I will certainly teach her the correct words and maybe one day she’ll coin a ‘pet name’ herself (apparently that is how my friend’s daughter’s parts became known as her Pom Pom).
I shall continue questioning people and let you know if anything else appears to be widely used for children … so far ‘bits’ ‘fanny’ and ‘front bottom’ seem to be the clear leaders… obviously the important thing is that children grow up respecting their and other children’s bodies and not feeling shy or awkward and that their parents do too, they need to grow up understanding the special nature of their bodies, and their ‘private parts’ and that they are to be protected but that they are not embarrassing or something to be coy about at the same time… art and sculpture is a great way to get them used to nudity I reckon. I wonder so often about the long term effect of all the things I do with Hope from day to day as she grows and this is yet another conundrum I’ve added to the list of things to wonder about. When we were in California, the 7 year old son of a friend helped me change Hope’s nappy / diaper one day (he has a younger brother and no sisters), when I took Hope’s nappy off he stood up and looked at me horrified and said, “She’s got no penis” … that made me smile although I did call his mother in later to explain after my attempt, “girls and boys are different” seemed to leave him perplexed. She came up with something similar and he looked even more confused and replied to her, “but yours is hairy” and so the endless explanations continued!!!
I’m not especially keen on euphemisms and I don’t like pet names but this particular dilemma has had me wondering. I also don’t like prudishness and think correct English is the best way to go, but the word ‘vulva’ somehow seems not quite right … That’s why a friend (with a son) forwarded me the Torygraph link earlier (I asked her way back in the summer and she said something about being glad she’d had a boy as I recall)! I hasten to say with all this I am considering the parenting dilemma regarding what to refer to with very young children and not what grown men and women may refer to that region as, that is a whole different area and not one I want to consider here.