As parents we have asked ourselves many unexpected questions. Is it okay if Annabelle eats nappy cream? What if Annabelle thinks she’s a dog? Can a baby sleep too much? You get the idea. I’m sure if you are a parent you could fill a page with the bizarre things you’ve Googled.
Then there are questions you do expect. Questions you know you will ask and questions you know you will be asked by your child. We thought we would be waiting for Annabelle to grow up a bit more before answering some questions including ‘what do we call our private parts?’
That sounds like a strange question to consider when your child is not yet two. However, with potty training on the horizon we needed to make a decision on what name we would use. There were a number of things to consider:
- The name other children be using so the name Annabelle used wouldn’t make her stand out.
- A name Annabelle would be able to use – nothing that sounds too similar to a word she already knows that could get confusing.
- What term would we be comfortable using in public?
It seems strange that we wouldn’t just go with the names we used, but we realised when discussing this that we both use ‘cutesy’ names, as our parents did growing up. We also noticed that growing up our friends had many different names they used so there was no ‘one name’. It meant there was no obvious choice.
Then we took to Instagram to ask opinions and things got interesting. There were plenty of new names to throw into the mix; sussy, tuppence, twinkle, minnie, foof, fufu and a lot of responses said to use the term ‘vagina’. We also had a number of people share that we should call it the proper name.
Here’s where things get tricky.
A number of the comments saying ‘you should use the correct name, call it a vagina’. We both grew up thinking that vagina was the ‘correct term’ and yet Google it now and you will find websites, papers and all other advice pages saying that the correct term is actually vulva.
To get technical, the vagina is the internal tube connecting the uterus to the vulva. The vulva is correct term for the external organs. This article here by the Huff Post goes into further detail.
There is also a sad, but really important benefit to teaching the anatomical body parts instead of a cutesy name or a name that could be something else. Should a child ever need to report to someone about sexual abuse it is better if they use the correct terms to avoid confusion, and to ultimately possibly help get a conviction. We had multiple replies from teachers and childminders about the importance of this.
We were also told about the NSPCC pants campaign. For more details click here. The campaign aims to bring awareness to how you can talk to your children about sexual abuse.
They also have this amazing (and catchy!) video:
We feel that it’s a good idea to use the anatomical parts and talk about them like any other body part, to help normalise it for our kids and help change the ‘shame’ culture around genitals, especially female genitalia. Both of us (as confident women in our 30s) are actually quite uncomfortable referring to our own private parts by their correct names, which says a lot about the issue at hand, really. Laura remembers feeling embarrassed to use the word ‘bra’ as an early teen! So there’s no better time to change this and start confidently referring to our vulvas! You know, when it’s relevant, not at dinner parties.
And so there you have it. We have decided to go with vulva for Annabelle, and a boy’s private parts will be their penis. Hopefully with the level of education now available and this being a topic that is being discussed more and more, Annabelle will join other children confidently able to identify her vulva.