The V-Word Post

The V-Word Post

After the P-word post the other day, many asked me where my V-word post is. I shrugged it off a little bit and said with boys it was always about their anatomy. Not that they were obsessed or anything, just a healthy curiosity about their own bodies. But really, I do have a V-word story to share.

I guess at a certain age it occurred to the boys that Ima was built differently from them. Now, I have always been modest in front of the boys. They have no need to see me prancing around naked or in underwear – I always cover up. Maybe not as much as I would in front of non-related people, but enough so that we are all comfortable.

I also firmly believe in answering the children’s questions at their level, and not offering extra information that they were not asking for.

One day – a few years ago – one of them said to me:

-Ima, I am so sad for you.

-Why is that?

-You don’t have a penis, you only have a hole.

My son seemed very put out by my lack of a penis, and told me that his friend in school told him mommies don’t have penises (See, that’s all boys talk about at school. Unreal) and that ladies pee through a hole. (Technically men do too, but I digress).

So here I am stuck with a quandary.  I want to explain to my son that it isn’t that I suffer a lack of something, rather that I am blessed with a vagina instead. However, he attended an all-boys school where a year or two prior his brother was sent home for saying penis. How well would it be received were my son to tell everyone in his class that his Ima has a vagina?

But, older brothers being what they are, one of them overheard this conversation – and told his younger brother that Ima has a special place where babies come out of, and there is no way babies can come out of penises. He did not use the V-word, but he did open up a can of worms that I was not yet interested in discussing with this kid.

We sat down and I told him that yes, Ima has a vagina and that yes, babies are born through the vagina. I had had a Cesarean for one of the boys, so he got a little confused, having heard that I had my stomach cut open to give birth. So we had to explain about that.

I did however tell him that it isn’t really acceptable to use these words at school, because they are words for private places and there is a time and a place for people to use such words. I had to head off another potential suspension.

Deaf ears.

The next evening my phone rang five times. The gist of most of the conversations was “My Shloime told me that your son told him about the V word and what it is. Who do you think you are telling your son these horrible things?”

After the first call I realized that trying to explain myself to these mothers (no, it wasn’t the fathers that called me) was useless. Instead of using their son’s conversation for a teachable moment they reinforced the whole issue of body parts being dirty and shameful. I have an open relationship with my kids – no subject is taboo. They might bring up uncomfortable topics, but they have a right to knowledge at their level.

It’s not as if I went into the yeshiva and gave the second graders a sex education class! My son asked me a question, and I did the right parental thing and answered it.

In fact, when it was just the five of us, my boys’ favorite time of the week was Friday night. We’d put the little one to bed, and it was “ask Ima anything” time. Some of the questions made my hair curl – but to this day I am so thankful that they feel they can talk to me about everything and not feel judged or belittled for asking.

It is just so sad that in this day and age kids are still being taught that various parts of their body are shameful and dirty. The human body is a miracle – we need to teach our children to respect their bodies in every way.

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31 Comments

  1. Benji Lovitt says:

    -You don’t have a penis, you only have a hole.

    HAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Wait, where does the stork fit into all this?

  2. Shoshanna says:

    You’re a good mom- their mom’s are going to lead them straight to playboy and dirty shameful secrets they must hide because they are dirty. I hate people.

  3. Shoshanna says:

    omg forgive that runaway apostrophe!

  4. rubyv says:

    Well done! You know I agree with your honesty policy. If my child can ask the question, I answer.

  5. SingleDad says:

    I am sooooo confused. How does this all fit together?

    • HaDassah says:

      seeing as your handle is Single DAD I am going to go out on a limb here and assume you already figured out the puzzle :)

  6. NoraM says:

    I love your honesty policy. And parents who refuse to use correct terminology annoy the bejeezus out of me. My 18 month old knows the right words. She doesn’t say them correctly yet but she damn sure knows what they’re called. Don’t set your kids up for a lifetime of body shame and secrets. There’s nothing vulgar about anatomy and physiology. And penis and vagina are certainly better than 99% of the euphemisms out there.

  7. Echo says:

    My daughters (5 and 7) on the way to a mall yesterday, decided to ask how my tummy got cut open ( it didn’t) to have them. I explained SOME babies are born that way but not all. They asked how other babies are born. I told them some babies are born out of their mommy’s private parts. My 5 year old says ‘ you mean their butt or their bagina ‘. I told her. My husband was 9 shades of red through this and said ‘ they aren’t old enough for this!!’. I told him IMO if they are old enough to ask they are old enough for simple answers. If they ask more from those simple answers, they are old enough for a slightly less simple answer. They both accepted that answer, giggles about where they came from and that was the end of it. ( I told them it wasn’t their place to tell anyone else about it, we’ll see if they listened but I’m jot holding my breath that they did)

    • HaDassah says:

      Poor husband!! If you had boys, he’d have to have similar discussions with them, or would he hand that over to you?

      • Echo says:

        Haha, I think he would take an active role… if not, I’d try.

        And surprise of all surprises, Not a thing came up in school.

    • Talia says:

      A really good friend of mine has 5 little girls (12 to 3.5). When the older ones were little, this stuff started to come up. They always used the real names and adult words… and the older ones were in the room when she gave birth (and we are not going to debate that… they are very normal and very mature kids). Anyway, one day the parents were talking about when to talk about sex, etc. The mom heard on Oprah that you should answer their questions WHEN they ask them, i.e. not at a specific age. The mom went on to talk to the dad about this concept, etc. The dad only heard “We should tell them about sex.” So the very next day he had a very appropriate conversation with the oldest about sex… forgetting that she didn’t ASK! That opened a whole can of worms and some really odd questions (“What do sperm eat?”) but they told them not to talk about it to other kids… low and behold #1 and #2 told #3 about it who then proceeded to write the word Sex on a chalkboard at a friends house and talk about it… #3 was banished from that house.

      Oy. Raising kids is hard! Kol Hakavod to ALL moms who take an active role!

  8. Chupie says:

    I love being honest, my 2 kids are still little, but I strongly believe in not sugar coating by lying. I argue this point with many of my friends that have young children. My mom sat my sister and I down when we were 11-12 and told us to ask any questions and she was COMPLETELY honest with us. (I had been traumatized by my friend telling me the dr gives you a shot in you nipple when u have a baby in order to allow you to nurse) my mom was able set those myths straight.. I loved that and i’ll do the same for my kids.

  9. Hadass says:

    Hadassah, great job as usual! I’m surprised you only got 5 calls … thankfully we are now at the point where my daughter is discussing when she’s going to start getting her period (she’s 10, so I could reassure her it wasn’t likely to be next month as she seemed to think).

    I’m grateful to have, like you, teens who will talk to me (sometimes). It’s worth all the hair-curling discussions when they were younger! (Although really, the only hard part of those is keeping a straight face).

  10. Lily says:

    No wonder there are so many crazy posts on imanutter about how their husbands can’t figure it out! If the word vagina is bad, I can’t imagine how much could possibly be allowed!

    A few years back, I was working as a shadow for a 4 year old with behavioral issues. Another boy in the preschool class came up to me one day (I had been there a while, so most kids were comfortable with me but knew I was a grown-up who wasn’t a teacher) and decided to inform me of something. He said, completely seriously, “I know you are a girl because you don’t have a penis!”

    I kind of laughed and told him something like, yes, that is true, but that isn’t something we talk about in school, right? He nodded in agreement and went off playing.

    Well, he wasn’t wrong. :P

  11. Shorty says:

    I think the birds and the bees can be explained to kids (at their appropriate level) when they start to ask. It is better for the parent to explain it, in a respectful way, than for the kids to learn it from friends or the internet.

    I watched a documentary on how kids are learning relationships and sexuality from Porn (yes another P word) sites. Is that even close to healthy? of course not, but they are learning it that way because parents aren’t taking the time to talk to their kids openly.

    You’re a good Mama!

  12. Paula Hill says:

    I will never forget having a talk with my eldest(11 or 12 at the time) talking about puberty and such. The next day I get called to the office… Not for a suspension but a big laugh. I worked at the kids school and the assistant director was a friend. My child… my dear sweet boy… was going around talking about his “tenticles”. Not quite the correct term for the little guys down there. But it made for an awesome day… Im still shaking my head…

  13. arnie samlan says:

    I love the idea of an “ask anything” time and of using Friday night for it.

  14. B says:

    In most of society, kids are NOT being taught to be embarrassed of their bodies. You complaint should be directed at the haredi yeshiva system, maybe the MO too.

    “It is just so sad that in this day and age kids are still being taught that various parts of their body are shameful and dirty. The human body is a miracle – we need to teach our children to respect their bodies in every way.”

  15. B says:

    Of course the phenomenon seems to be embedded in frum society, if so many parent’s are calling you to complain for educating your child. WTF.

    btw young children do not know to be uncomfortable with nudity or the like until parents or society teach them.

  16. Hadassah, you make me laugh. I love your blog so much. I told you. I couldn’t get away with uterus so you wouldn’t be able to get away with vagina. I remember hearing a speech given by a frum therapist where she said it was important for kids age-appropriately to learn the scientific names of their body parts because all the cutesy names people come up with can cause problems later on with how the kids feel about their physical selves.

  17. Adina says:

    Honesty is the best policy and correct use of terms is important too. Just went to a class by Yocheved Debow who wrote a book Talking About Sexuality and Intimacy for the Orthodox Jewish Parent. Excellent and long overdue.

  18. Sara Hawkins says:

    Hadassah, seriously? These women called you because you taught your children the proper name for body parts? They should have been calling to thank you for making the conversation less weird. Except they made it more weird and their sons are probably not willing to be open with ‘em in the future because of their reaction.

    I hated growing up with all the euphemisms for body parts and functions. This is 2013 and if we don’t teach this stuff to our kids then someone else will. Good for you and your “ask anything” policy.

  19. S.A. says:

    I have never liked the word vagina. Maybe because my mother tried to make me use the correct terminology, and let’s face it, if you tell me to do something I’m not going to do it. Yes, I’m stubborn. You’ll get over it. Now, as for those mothers who called you, well, I don’t think.I can properly articulate what I think of them. Stupidity abounds and causes me to use profanity. I’m trying to avoid that. I want to be one of the “refined people.” ;)

  20. Riv says:

    Wow, can I send my kids to you for the talk? My upbringing was so stifled that I’m still uncomfortable talking to my own kids about these things, but I certainly don’t want them learning about it from friends and an encyclopedia like I did 30 years ago… And our Yeshivas are no help of course. But Hadassah, your attitude is fantastic and I hope to take some inspiration from your post!

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