Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Boys and Girls

Warning: This post has BODY PART NAMES in it and OPINIONS.
Yep. Pretty explicit.

Grey and Micah are obsessed with the differences in bodies. They're interested in hair color, eye color (interestingly enough, they've never asked me a question about someone's different skin color), they're interested in how tall or fat people are.
But the biggest and most interesting differences to them, are the differences between men and women. Everyone warns that boys are MUCH more interested in talking about body parts (ie penises) than girls, and at our house- that has definitely been the case.

Because they are interested (and probably will be for the rest of their lives) in the differences between men and women, we want to always be really honest, clear, and open with them.
We try really hard to teach the boys to use the proper names for body parts, because we don't want them to feel uncomfortable about their bodies or lack the words to communicate.
But that means that my highly loquacious children sometimes use words like "vagina" or "breasts" in somewhat embarrassing situations.

Recently, a friend was nursing her twins at my house.
My kids, who are totally used to seeing one baby nurse, but not two (somewhat ironically) watched interestedly for a moment. Then Micah turned to me and said, "Mom, she has a crazy bra on." And Grey said matter-of-factly, "Hmm. You have little breasts."
I was a little embarrassed, but mostly I was proud that nursing and breasts were no big deal at my house.

A few months ago, when Micah asked why I didn't have a penis, he learned the word vagina.
Since then, he has occasionally asked, "You have a vagina and no penis?"
But lately, he has started requesting, "Mom, I want to see your vagina."
No is always the answer.
After he realized that I would not show him my vagina, he started trying to surprise me into showing him.
He regularly bursts into the bathroom while I am in there and shouts, "SHOW ME YOUR VAGINA," or "LET ME SEE YOUR PEE COME OUT."

No, man. NO.

So we talk about privacy and try to explain why we don't show each other our genitals.
And sometimes I get frustrated, and regret teaching them the word vagina. Sometimes they ask, "Why do you have a vagina and no penis?" And I just snap, "Because! I do! For once in your life, leave me alone while I pee!"

But recently, Grey asked me (unprompted), "Mom, why do you have a vagina?"
I kind of rolled my eyes, and said "Because, Grey. Heavenly Father made my body. He gave me a vagina because I am a girl."
And I am so grateful that those were my words, because we continued to have one of our longest and best conversations to date.
It started out like this:

Grey: Why are you made a girl?
Me: So that I could grow up and be your mommy.
Grey: Hmm. Heavenly Father made my body?
Me: Yep! He made you a boy, so you can do all the fun things that boys can do, and when you grow up, you can be a daddy- just like your daddy.
Grey: Tell me about Elanor is a girl.
Me: Heavenly Father made Elanor a little girl, with a special girl-body, and when she grows up she can be a mommy, too.
Grey: She can be one of my Mommies?
Me: Nope, you already have a mom and it's me.
Grey: No. I mean... She could be my wife?

I mean.
And it just got sweeter.
Grey asked about every member of our family and many friends, "Tell about August is a boy," and "Tell me about Heavenly Father made Daddy."

And I just repeated the same things.
"Heavenly Father gave August a tiny little boy body, and he will grow up into a big boy like you and then a man like your Daddy. He is so lucky to be a boy."
"Elizabeth is a woman, because Heavenly Father made her to be a woman. She was a little girl like Elanor, and now that she's grown up, she gets to be a mommy. She even has a baby in her belly! She's so lucky that she is a woman."

I know there's a lot of controversy about gender right now, and there is always controversy about sex and religion.
So doubtless many people will disagree with what I told my boys, with how we approach understanding bodies, with our opinions on the importance of gender.

But I think it's okay to believe that your body is special. That differences are important. That you were fearfully and wonderfully made with a purpose in mind.
I don't believe that one gender is better than another, but I do think that women can (and should!) be grateful and happy to be women and that men can (and should!) be happy to be men.
I don't think that I am a woman because a jumble of genes and chromosomes randomly determined it as though it were the lottery, and likewise- I don't think I can just decide to be a man instead. I was and am meant to be a woman and a mother.

I want my sons (and daughters if I ever am lucky enough to have them) to love and appreciate their bodies and the bodies of the people around them.
I want them to know that they are strong, beautiful, and can do and be anything- regardless of their gender, but to also appreciate the differences and opportunities unique to them because they are boys or girls.

I bet you didn't know that's where this post was headed when you started reading all that vagina stuff at the top.
Well, I didn't know that's where it was headed when I began writing! It was almost as surprising as having a three year old burst into the bathroom while you're peeing and shout, "Let me see your pee come out!"

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Jocelyn said...

The part about Micah trying to burst into the bathroom to catch you going pee made me laugh. We've been having to explain to our (almost) three-year old lately about privacy and how we need privacy in the bathroom (and why she can't watch Daddy shower, lol). One thing we do that's slightly different (we have girls) is that we use the word vulva, as opposed to calling it a vagina. The reason we use that instead is that a penis encompasses multiple systems - urinary, reproductive - and a vulva does as well, whereas a vagina just covers the reproductive system. So that's why we do that. Anyway, great post!

Lana said...

Hooray for Elizabeth! Happy Day for her!

Jesse Petersen said...

Oh my goodness! I read this at work and it made me laugh out loud. I sometimes think I can't wait til our lil Ruby can talk, but I am also enjoying her 1 year old stage too. This post just made me think of all the funny things that will prob come our way when she does start talking, ha!

Party of Three Heads said...

This is great!! lol I've had many alike converstaions with my 4 year old. (at the time he was 3) but yes. Nothing like mommy having a vagina! ;)

Unknown said...

I feel like you're hinting at transgender people not being grateful or happy in the bodies you believe God gave them. Which really bothers me. Everything I know about you makes me believe you are a thoughtful and compassionate person, so I hope you can think about this more and realize that it is not a whim, or choice or anything of that sort. People who are transgender ARE female or male, even though their bodies do not match. The same way you or I feel like women - we feel fulfilled as mothers and thankful for our lot in life. I would still feel that way if my body was male. I am a woman, I am lucky to be. I like typically feminine things, I think and feel in typically female ways. You say you were "meant" to be a woman and mother - and please know that that is EXACTLY how transgendered people feel, it is simply a sad fact that their bodies do not match that feeling. I can't imagine how heartbreaking it would be to not feel at home in my own body, but I think it is our job as decent human beings to not question those who are dealing with such a heartbreaking thing, just to love and support them unconditionally.

Unknown said...

I like this post! I've been struggling with whether or not to call baby brother's "pee pee" or a "penis" or something else...kids just want all the details and its so embarrassing in public. But you have given me confidence to teach them the correct names! And also in regard to the above comment...toddlers do not need to be confused with teaching about transgender situations. Way too young for that.