So I’m changing the baby’s toddler’s littlest terror’s diaper the other day, and of course as soon as the diaper is open he’s got his hand down there groping his bits. (What? You want a blog post on a Friday, this is what you get.)

He tells me as I finish wiping him down and wrapping things back up, “It’s MY ding-a-ling!” with a mischievous grin. I think of the various tactics I could take, including but not limited to launching a discussion on personal privacy, hygiene, social norms, or simply the fact that I made him and therefore by default everything that he is belongs to me, and instead decide to go for the linguistic angle. Because I do believe in kids calling things by their right names, even though I admit to nearly endless personal amusement at the various names for the male anatomy.

“Yes,” I reply in my most didactic tone. “That’s your penis.”

“No!” he laughs, practically braying in delight. “It’s my willy willy whacker!”

Oy. He is such a third child.

And the very next day on Twitter, I eavesdropped on a bit of a conversation that revolved around what a young girl might call her private parts. The term in question was “front bum,” one I admit to finding a little less than enlightened.

Is it really possible we’ve never mined the rich topic of the naming of private parts around here? Do tell me, bloggy peeps: how literal are you with your kids? Do they get the Gray’s (as opposed to Grey’s) Anatomy version, or are you more euphemistic in your descriptions?

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

18 thoughts on “Bits”

  1. i’m always a little intimidated to leave the first comment.

    do you remember the song “won’t you play with my ding-a-ling”? that’s going to go through my head for the rest of the afternoon.

    anyhoo, i digress. we are a literal family. penises and vaginas. i figure if there is something wrong, i want to hear “my penis hurts when i pee” rather than “i my willy whacker is owie when i wee-wee.” but then again we do say boobies, so that makes me a bit of a hyprocrite doesn’t it?

  2. I tell’s him how it is – but that said – Quinn is a first kid, so it’s easy to give him a name for things and that’s what sticks. What’s to be seen is how much else he picks up on his own, and how that’ll trickle (see what I did there?) down to Alex.

    I like being literal with my descriptions because, for some reason, it’s unorthodox and often gets a lark. Like calling sex “Penis in Vagina” – people HATE that.

    Of course I do still say things like “bum bum” or “poo poo” so when he toots it’s a “bum bum fart,” not entirely inaccurate but still quite cute. I don’t want to rob my kid of his youth after all!

  3. One of the most amusing discussions I ever read on the topic was on Becoming Sarah not too long ago(

    The topic hasn’t really come up yet at our house but one of my friends works at the Children’s Aid Society and she strongly recommends using accurate terminology with kids. For what it’s worth she says that terms like “the back of your bum” can become an issue in the event that something untoward happens to your child and it’s better for all if they start out with a correct vocabulary and not feeling like there’s something shameful about the words.

  4. I wonder if this just comes up sooner in girl households? We went with “vulva” (much more accurate than vagina) and “bum”. And “penis” for Papa. Oh, and we also use “boobies”. 🙂 I blogged about my struggle with which words to use almost three years ago. I had an aversion to the word “vulva” because it seemed so clinical. Now I read that post and I seem silly to myself. 🙂

    You might like this story, though.

  5. We are 50-50 on the literal terms here. I use penis and vagina, boys say “goodies” for their testicles and girl, well, she doesn’t say much these days. (9 year old who has discovered the need for privacy all of a sudden!) I used to correct all the time, when, one day, my then-3 yr old asked why my nibbles were bigger than his. Yes, he meant nipples, but I could not bear to correct that!! So cute!

  6. Right now we refer to them as her bits, but when she’s old enough to talk she will know all the appropriate terms for her body parts. I don’t know why parents think it’s dirty to teach your child their anatomy.

  7. We just call them parts around here. Mommy and J have the same parts and Daddy has boy parts. She is old enough that she knows the terms, but I kinda like “parts”

  8. I have always used the correct names for body parts. I do amit however that I enjoy the fun names, within reason.

  9. Pénis and vulve. And seins.

    And more or less exact answers to all questions concerning pretty much everything – details accordingly to age and real interest. Well, with the joker card always available: “I really don’t know how to answer that right now sweety, let me think about it for a day or two and ask me again”. I always ask for the context too, it can help avoid ambarassing moments.

  10. When DD was a baby we used to refer to her “nether regions” during diaper changes, mainly as a joke. Eventually this morphed into “The Netherlands” and eventually we started referring to it as “Holland”, as in: “Trouble in Holland! We’ve got a major flood on our hands, here!” That lasted a while till the joke got old.

    Nowadays we mostly refer to the kids’ privates by proper names: penis and vagina. But other terms, like “bits & pieces” also get used sometimes. DD came out with the term “front bum” a while back, which she didn’t hear from me, but I’m fine with it. They know the real terms, but I’m fine with them using other words, too.

    Oh yeah, the kids love the word “booty”. DS (who is 4) will yell “Look mom! I’m shaking my boooooooty!” then turn around, shake his bum at us, and then run off in gales of laughter. Such a serious child, he is.

  11. With our almost-three-year-old daughter we use the words penis and vagina (which she has shortened to just ‘gina). I do wish we’d gone with vulva though, but we hadn’t really thought about it when she asked Daddy one day and he responded “vagina” and it stuck.

    As an elementary school teacher (grade 2 for the past few years) “privates” or “private place” is the terminology I use most often in everyday situations, but I think I went with it because the students seemed to use it consistently (especially the boys) when the need arose (most often as in “Mrs. T, the soccer ball hit me in my private place”) and they’re comfortable with it. When it comes up in an educational context such as health lessons, I use the real words with them.

  12. Like Sara in Montréal, we also called those parts “pénis”, “vulve” and “seins”. I also believe in calling things by their right names. But the other day, when my almost 5 yrs old asked me what is the “petite boule dans sa vulve”, I was forced to tell her about her clitoris!

  13. We go with penis and vagina. Vulva might be more technically correct, but I think it’s much less commonly used. And let’s be honest, even penis is only one part of the genital picture, and there is such a thing as too much detail.

    But I must admit, I’d have a pretty hard time not taking willy willy whacker and running with it.

  14. Penises is heard loud and clear in this house. If it was my front-bum post making the rounds then I’m honoured. I swear that word still makes me twitch with irritation 🙂 I even have trouble writing it.

  15. I am 100% literal. I grew up calling privates anything but their proper name. I didn’t know what a vagina was when we started sex ed in grade four until my teacher said “sometimes people refer to it as X, Y, Z”.

    My son calls it his penis, just like I taught him but since he has started school (he is in SK). He tires sometimes to call it his “fire hose”, “snake”, “weed whacker” and the list goes on. I have a sense of humour. I really do. I just don’t know where all these other kids learn these other terms for it. I know, that he doesn’t have the mental capiticty to think like adults but it really bothers me when he calls it his “snake”. I have to try so hard not to laugh at him. *sigh* I do believe in using the proper terms. Although, this coming from the woman who still feels strange using the term “panties”.

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