SOME COMMOM SCENES IN THE HOUSEHOLDS
6 years boy, 3 years old girl
Kid- “What is this called? “(Pointing between the legs)
Mom – “Sshhhh!! Its called pee pee/wee wee. Don’t say it loudly. Don’t touch it and don’t point towards it!!”
Mom overhears the young siblings taking a bath together in the bathroom
Girl – “What is this pipe do you have?”
Boy – “I pee from this. Why don’t you have one?”
Boy – “Mom!!! Why doesn’t she have a pipe, how does she pee?”
Girl – “Mom!!Why don’t I have a pipe and where does my pee come from?”
Reaction 1 – Horrified mom violently pulls them apart. Doesn’t answer any of the questions and prohibits them from taking bath together ever again.
Reaction 2 – Horrified mom doesn’t say anything to the kids. Quietly brings them out of the bathroom. Doesn’t answer any of the questions and decides to give them bath separately.
Reaction 3 – Mom tells them that a boy has a pipe and a girl has a hole to pee and that’s how boys and girls are designed.
Reaction 4 – Mom tells them that boys have a pipe and girls have a hole to pee. She forbids them and to talk about it again ever and also instructs them to wear underpants the next time they take a bath together.
Reaction 5 – Mom makes them wear underpants since they could sit up and bathe, she thinks if they look at each other, it will make them curious. That will lead to questions but they might not understand the answers at their young age.
Irrespective of what mother was thinking/feeling, the kids perceive the distress their questions have caused in their mother and make following observations.
- I have done something bad
- I have asked something terrifying
- I have asked something that isn’t allowed
- I have something in my body that is embarrassing for my mother
- I have something in my body which cannot be seen by anyone
CUROSITY AND QUESTIONS ABOUT THEIR BODIES
A 3-year-old girl points at her mother’s breasts and asks, “Mumma what are these?”
Mother replies, “These are my breasts and when you grow up you will have them too.”
I had a similar experience with my daughter when I used to take bath with her. She used to be fascinated with my breasts and wanted to touch them which I allowed. She was also anxious if she would have them or not when she grows up and it took a lot of reassurance on my part to convince her so.
When my nine years old son asked me about periods, I explained, “A woman’s body undergoes hormonal changes once in a month and that phenomenon is called periods. Some women experience pain during those days and some don’t.”
At my response, my son got the message that it’s okay to ask these questions. It is alright to touch my mother and to know the reason for her not entering the kitchen, or her lying on the bed due to pain or exhaustion.
A young boy/girl playing with his/her penis/vagina.
Mom asks calmly , “Do you want to pee ?”. The son replies in negative.
Mom repeats the question to which her son replies in a matter of fact manner, “Mumma I don’t touch my pee pee only when I want to pee, I also touch it because I like to play with it.”
Mom asks with alarm and trepidation, “What are you doing? “
The son replies that it was just itching.
Mom never sees him doing it again.
Reaction 3 –A mom to her daughter,” Why are you touching that place ?
It’s a bad thing to do, never do it again. That’s adirty place, susu comes out of that place. Don’t touch yourself there again.”
What do you think the kids have understood from their mother’s response:
- I have a body part that is always dirty
- I have a body part that should not be touched when my mother /adults can see me
- I have a body part that when touched by me makes my mother angry/unhappy
A 12 years old boy, “ Amma amma , come here quickly”.
Mother rushes to the kid’s room.
The boy continues, “Amma look what is happening to my penis!! It is standing up.”
Mother watches his 12 years old son’s erect penis.
The boy asks with curiosity,” Why this is happening amma?
The mother replies, “Its normal. When you grow up, blood rushes to your penis sometimes and it becomes hard. There is nothing to worry about it. Tell your Dad also about it when he comes home.” The boy goes back to his sketching.
It’s needless to say which of the above reactions would lead a kid to think that
- I have a body and I know all the names of my body parts
- All my body parts fulfill various functions of the body, none of which are embarrassing
- A boy’s body is different from a girl’s body
- Adults have a different body to mine
- When I grow up my body will change too
- I am fine the way my body is, adults are fine the way their body is.
- I have the freedom to touch myself when I want
Let us revisit our childhood in the same context.
- Do you remember being admonished in early age for touching your genitals?
- Do you remember elders telling you to cover yourself up all the time and never to roam around naked?
- Do you remember your curiosity to look at naked or revealing bodies in magazines or movies ?
- Could you walk up to your parents and ask them about periods or erection or nightfall?
- Was it easy to ask questions about growing breasts or pubic hair to your parents?
Your answers to these questions largely dictate how you treat your body today and how you would deal with your kids when they ask similar questions.
The comfort with which we teach them about hands, legs, eyes and ears, the same comfort we need to develop with the words vagina and penis. For a child, none of the body parts are any different from the other. So why should we make them feel any different about their private parts? Kids associate with their body on a physical level which includes basic level of functionality. They have the ability to accept everything as it is, in its totality, with its differences, flaws and beauty. They do not attach emotions of pride, beauty, want or embarrassment with any of their body parts unless adults around tell them so.
We need to begin with normalizing our bodies first. To not make them feel weird when they look at an adult human body, be it male or female. Nudity, if not glorified needs not be ostracized either. A HUMAN BODY IS WHAT IT IS.
Now let us visit another not-so-hypothetical situation:
A 7 years old child who has been shushed about his /her private parts is touched inappropriately by a trusted adult. Another 7 years old, who knows the names and functions of body parts and has not been taught to be embarrassed about it, undergoes the same situation.
Who do you think will find it easier to report the incident to his/her parents easily and clearly?
When we make “our “bodies a topic of open discussion, we allow our kids to feel safe, confident and uninhibited in relation to “their “own bodies. In keeping the doors of dialogues open for our kids since their younger years, we can hope that they will reach out to us when in trouble. When they are bullied or body shamed by their peers, they will reach out to us for reassurance. When someone touches them inappropriately we will be the first to know immediately.
If we don’t shush them today there is a possibility that they will
- find it easier to talk to us during their puberty stages
- talk to us about the way they feel about their growing changing bodies
- trust us more
- still love us when they hate us.
All dear readers, I absolutely love your feedbacks which reach me through personal messages. Kindly leave them in the comments section here too. Share your thoughts, experiences and disagreements here.
If this is my first blog you are reading, you might want to read the previous ones too