You may remember James as the stay-at-home dad who wrote this hugely controversial post for Mamamia that sent many readers ballistic. He followed it up with this post and gave everyone whiplash. Today, he writes about something altogether different…..
by JAMES WILKINSON
I had better start from the beginning…
Our two year old daughter has always had baths and lately she wants to have showers, which stands to reason because that is what we all have around here.
She now loves the shower so much that she refuses to have a bath. Luckily Mum has been around to do the showering but lately we have had to change plans.
I mean, I can’t really say, “Sorry honey you can’t have a shower because of daddy’s penis” can I?
She has seen me in the shower at times but I usually leave my undies on when she is around and while she knows boys and girls, she has never seen a penis as far as I know.
She has seen mum naked and knows that she has the same bits. We call it her “corker” which is a direct translation from a European language for the female anatomy. She does not know about what dad has and we haven’t had to explain it yet. She is only two.
If I leave my underpants on in the shower and sit down while she stands up I can probably get away with it without any awkward questions.
As we are toilet training and thus have an open door policy in the bathroom, I usually sit down to pee so as to show her what to do. So far that has enabled us to avoid any explanations as to what’s between my legs and why it is different to her and mum’s.
I have recently been caught on a couple of occasions trying to sneak a quick stand up pee when her curious little head would peep around the corner saying ” What are you doing daddy?”
“Daddy’s doing a wee wee”.
I can see her little brain ticking over going ” Wow how can he do that standing up?” and she creeps closer to try and get a better look at this amazing technique.
Well if you have ever tried to stop a pee you will know that it can be quite a difficult thing to do, especially under pressure. So I have to manouvere myself to block her view while I attempt to abort the mission. I’ve been lucky so far.
When and how do you explain physical gender differences to kids? If I try to explain the whole boy and girl anatomy thing to her at this age she is bound to demand a full inspection and what do you do then?
You can’t pull down your pants and say “Well this is a man’s penis and blah, blah…” so immediately you must say “No, you can’t look at my penis” and then make up something unconvincing about the why and begin to create a taboo around genitalia. What else can you do?
I can’t remember ever seeing my mum naked and my wife doesn’t remember ever seeing her dad naked either. We had both seen our same gender parent naked though. We then learned about the opposite sex through everyone else except our parents. Is this the normal thing?
So anyway, here we are in the shower and I am sitting down in my undies and she is standing up and everything is going fine. We have even managed to wash her hair which is a small miracle in itself.
As I stand up to turn of the water and grab her towel she turns around to face me. She is two years old and three feet tall and I’m 42 and almost six foot. You do the math.
She looks directly at my crotch and before I can react she points her finger and jabs it into the slight protrusion in my wet undies a few times and says “What’s that thing Daddy?
OMG! I freeze for a second, coming to terms with what has just happened.
“That’s daddy’s pee pee” I say, recovering slightly. She looks at me, looks at my undies and back up at me with a grin. “That’s not daddy’s pee pee” she says, “That’s a corker!”
It sure is honey, it sure is … !
UPDATE: I’ve taken all your comments on board. I never really intended to leave the gender explanations this long but after listening to you all I decided that I really needed to get my undies off in the shower and do it soon in the name of body image and most importantly, preventative behaviour.
Now that the natural moment for gender revelation has passed (after our first shower) I can’t help feeling a little weird about premeditating this particular anatomy lesson. I didn’t think that I had too many hang ups but I must admit that for some reason I feel a bit nervous about this. Why is that? Is it because I went to a catholic school or something?
I have always walked to the shower naked (we are getting really personal now) but she is usually in bed by that stage and when she has seen me naked it has usually been from a respectable distance. This shower of ours is really small.
Anyhow, once the decision was made to get naked in the shower, good old Murphy came into play and conspired with my daughter to go back to having baths for a while. She must have known.
I even resorted to walking around the house naked for no reason at all but as that is not what I would normally do, it felt unnatural. All my daughter could say was “daddy needs a shirt”.
The best that I have managed to do this week is to make sure that she knows the proper names for the body parts in question which is an excellent start, don’t you think?
So here we are washing away in the bath and naming her body parts as we go as per normal. Arms fist, then shoulders and neck and so on until we get to her bum and her ‘corker’.
I explain to her that her bum has two names. The bum is the soft part that you sit on and the little part where the poo comes out is called the anus. So far so good. I then explain that the proper name for her ‘corker’ is ‘vagina’ and that all girls have a vagina.
“Bagina” she says, trying out the word.
“That’s right” I say,”vagina.”
She looks at me thoughtfully for a few seconds before asking,”Does mummy have a bagina?”
“Yes she does. Mummy is a girl and all girls have a vagina.”
“And I have a bagina?” she says.
“Yes honey you are a girl and girls have a vagina.”
“And daddy has a bagina?”
“No sweetheart, Daddy doesn’t have a vagina. Daddy has a penis instead of a vagina. All boys have a penis.”
“Oh,” she says.
We continue the bath for a little while longer and then she looks up at me.
“Can I have a penis daddy?”
“Umm no honey. You don’t get to choose. If you are a girl you have a vagina and if you are a boy you have a penis. That is the way we are made.”
“No no no!” she says. “I don’t want to have a bagina. I want a penis.”
“But you are a girl honey.”
“I don’t want to be a girl. I want a penis! I want a penis! I want a penis…!”
And on and on and on….
James Wilkinson is a stay home dad, the husband of a corporate wife, a writer and a musician. You can find his blog here.
Have you had trouble explaining genitals and the facts of life to your child? How did you maneuver it?